“It keeps getting bigger and bigger!”
Louise’s rating: Well it’s short, and it’s got a cracking ending.
Louise’s review: Welcome to Anytown USA, late ’50s. We’ve got a few bars, a few small businesses, some places outside of town ideal for necking and petting, a movie theatre that does late night spookfests, and a population of one doctor, one nosy woman, a few old people, couple of cops, and a load of pesky dangerous insolent criminal teenagers with quiffs and poodle skirts. Yup, blink and you’ll miss us. Except for one thing, one tiny detail…
Yes sirree, bob, what we’ve also got here in Anytown USA is an amorphous alien matter that creeps around our streets and through our ventilation systems and whenever it catches anyone moving particularly slowly, it gets on top of them (somehow) and swallows them up and assimilates their flesh! Oh, and looking into the future (before we get Blobbed ourselves) we’d just like to let you know that our alien menace is gonna hold the title of Best Song About An Alien Menace until a certain Mr William Smith (west Philadelphia, born and raised, by all accounts) writes a ditty about some Men in Black.
Sorry, gentle readers, but much as I enjoy pretending to be a mayor from 60 years ago in imminent danger of having my body dissolved by a sentient jelly chair, I can’t keep it up. With my normal voice now, The Blob is a B-feature with some good, bad and ugly, or should that be, some coolsome, some tiresome and some gruesome. For much of its short running time it’s not very exciting and has little to recommend it, but there are some nice little touches, and the last 20 minutes or so are tense, powerful, and amusing.
Steve McQueen stars as brash teenager Steve and Aneta Corsaut (Um, great name?) plays his primly passionate/passionately prim girlfriend Jane. Incidentally, they both look at least thirty and Jane in particular has a sorrowful Peyton Place maturity to her – she doesn’t trust that Steve likes her that much, but with a bittersweet humour she’s given him her loyalty. It’s a romantic dynamic entirely inappropriate to this sort of film. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Meanwhile, a meteor crashes in the woods bringing with it a tiny colourless jelly thing. An old man goes to investigate the jelly thing and it jumps up his hand! It is actually quite shocking and scary. When the teen couple meet the old man (in great pain and seemingly without the power of speech), they decide to cut short their date to take him to a doctor, and the story really begins.
The movie is quite dull and low-key. The Blob is forgotten about for long periods of time in favour of Steve and Jane interacting with other young people on some sort of Rebel Without A Cause group date (friends? bullies? the relationship is really hard to judge) and trying to convince the police and their parents that 1) they have seen something terrible, 2) people are dead, and 3) they may be young but they’re not vandals and hoodlums. it’s difficult because the pesky Blob likes to hide when authority figures are around and the dead people have genuine reasons to disappear and so their unfortunate demises go unnoticed or explained. Every so often, we see that the Blob has rolled its red gelatinous way towards someone and is about to attack them off camera. Unfortunately, the one character we do want to meet a wobbly end – Jane’s little brother Danny – lives to whine and make bad decisions long after the camera stops rolling.
There are a couple of high points. The slow dissolving of the Blob’s first victim is grisly and horrible – just what you want in a horror movie, yes? Admittedly, it subsequently looks like an inflatable, or an unbaked bread roll, or some sort of large dollop of glitter glue, but when it’s actually on a victim it’s nasty stuff. There’s a cool sequence where Steve is preparing to sneak out of his house, at the same time listening to his parents talking in bed about how worried they are about him. This strikes me as a classic teen-movie thing to do. In another scene, an elderly couple are awoken by various sirens and the man, a former fireman and air-raid-warden who has clearly been waiting for this moment since he retired, doesn’t know which uniform to put on. Rather funny, although again, quite inappropriate considering we don’t know these characters and we don’t see them again.
Despite the fact that we’ve little to do for the majority of the film but wonder whether Jane will suddenly have a complete breakdown and try to take her beloved but fickle Steve with her, the climax is actually good. We have that famous moment when the Blob suddenly breaks out of the doors of the movie theatre, and it’s huge. I would even say, heeoowwwge! It’s now a deep red colour and it’s got quicker and quicker at absorbing people. Then, for illogical but brilliant reasons, it suddenly throws itself over a diner and traps Steve, Jane, Danny (ugh!) and an innocent Italian down in a cellar. There’s fire! There’s panic! Steve, Jane and Danny are grouped together in the powerful man-woman-child character triangle, ticking all the trope boxes. Outside the parents are screaming, Lieutenant Dave (good cop) is trying to remain calm, and the principal is breaking into his own high school. “I don’t think it can be killed.” Guns don’t work. Electricity doesn’t work. What madness! I love it!
I won’t tell you how it ends. But you’ll like it.
Did I mention there was a remake?
- As long as the little dog’s okay, evil hasn’t won the day!
- Tell me, does anyone still go around referring to a doctor without exception as “the doc?”
- So, who does the Blob get? I count: old man, doctor, nurse, mechanic guy, sweeper guy, bar guys, projector guy, most of the cinema audience.
- Good cop, bad cop, chess-playing cop.
- Oh ma gawd! It comes under doors!
- In Grease, there’s a sequence set in a drive-in movie theatre. This is the trailer that’s showing, in particular the scene where the Blob oozes its way out of the movie theatre. Meta much?
- The bit where the Blob comes through the air conditioning is referenced visually in Ghostbusters II.
Elderly air raid warden: This has never happened before! What am I going to wear?
Teenagers: We came to warn you…
Drunk adult: Oh a warning, I didn’t know you cared. [To other drunk adults] Hey, I want you meet Paul Revere and his wife Mrs Revere. They’ve come to give us a warning, The British are coming!
Doctor [repeated line]: Take it easy, old timer.
Steve: Don’t bring fathers into this!
If you enjoyed this movie, try:
- Rebel Without A Cause
- The Thing From Another World