Monday, February 24, 2014

#1,288. The Blob (1958)

Directed By: Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.

Starring: Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Earl Rowe

Tag line: "Indescribable... Indestructible! Nothing Can Stop It!"

Trivia: Steve McQueen was offered $2,500 or 10% of the profits. He took the $2,500 because the film wasn't expected to make much. It ended up grossing over $4 million

I live in the same general area where 1958’s The Blob was filmed. Valley Forge is a stone’s throw from where I grew up (I spent a lot of time at the National Park there, and used to jog the 5-mile track that runs through a portion of it), and I occasionally drive past the Colonial Theater, which features prominently in the movie (Founded by Harry Brownback, the Colonial has been around since the very early days of the 20th century. Birth of a Nation played there in 1915, and two years later, Harry Houdini performed one of his patented death-defying escapes on the Colonial’s stage in front of an audience of 300 people). 

To see these places I recognize in a movie that’s well over 50 years old is... kinda awesome.  The fact it's a sci-fi classic that stars the great Steve McQueen makes it doubly so!

While smooching in the front seat of his car, teenager Steve Andrews (McQueen) and his girlfriend Jane Martin (Aneta Corsaunt) spot a meteor hurtling through the sky, which lands just over the next hill. Steve wants to check it out, but before he can get there, an elderly man (Olin Howard) stumbles upon the fragment of space debris and pokes it with a stick, releasing a gelatinous material that crawls up the stick and latches onto his arm. When Steve and Jane finally arrive, they find the old man in a panic, and agree to drive him to Doc Hallen's (Stephen Chase). 

After sticking around the Doc's office for a few minutes, Steve and Jane leave so they can investigate the meteor (sidetracked, temporarily, by a drag race with some of their pals). Meanwhile, the glob of goo on the old guy’s arm starts to envelop his entire body. What’s more, it also devours Doc Hallen’s nurse, Kate (Lee Payton), and eventually the doctor himself! Steve and Jane get back to Doc Hallen’s in time to witness his death, and rush off to inform the authorities. 

Naturally, when the two policemen (Earl Rowe and John Benson) arrive at Doc Hallen’s, neither the homicidal pile of goo nor its three victims are anywhere to be found. Chalking it up as a teenage prank, the cops take Steve and Jane to the precinct and call their parents to come pick them up. But with a deadly alien life form on the loose, the two young lovebirds remain determined to track it down, and enlist the help of their friends to continue the search for what can only be described as... “The Blob”!

For a 1958 low-budget picture, the effects in The Blob are decent, if not spectacular; the sequence at Doc Hallen’s office, when the blob strikes, is admittedly cheesy but in a cool way. The film also has its share of tense moments. Aside from the ending, which is batshit crazy, there’s a scene in which Steve and Jane encounter the Blob at a grocery store owned by Steve’s father. 

Of course, a lot of The Blob's appeal (for me, anyway) is seeing Steve McQueen in an early role, the last time in his career he would be billed as “Steven McQueen”. And while the movie itself does drag on occasion (despite the nail-biting climax, the film's first half is definitely more action-packed than the second), The Blob is, for the most part, an entertaining sci-fi / horror flick.

Every year since 2000, the nearby city of Phoenixville has hosted “Blobfest”, a weekend-long event in July the kicks off on Friday night with a screening of The Blob at the Colonial. This is immediately followed by a re-enactment of a key scene from the film, where audience members ran from the theater in a panic when the Blob attacked (I’ve yet to have the pleasure of attending Blobfest, but I know it’s something I’ll have to do at some point). 

In this small corner of Pennsylvania, The Blob isn’t just a motion picture. It’s a link to our past, and I can’t help but smile knowing its legacy will live on for years to come.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is one of my all-time favorites, and it's too cool that you know the theater! Yes, loved Steve McQueen in this, and also his girlfriend, who later played Helen in Andy Griffith! The remake didn't even come close! Sounds like the Blobfest is a must do! Thanks for a great post!