Here’s an interesting piece of trivia for you: What do “The King of Cool” Steve McQueen and six-time grammy award winning songwriter Burt Bacharach have in common? Well, both of these special individuals got their starts in the 1958 sci-fi horror B movie, The Blob. McQueen played the hero of the picture, while Bacharach supplied the tongue-in-cheek title track to the movie “Beware the Blob.” They both do a great job with the silly material they have to work with, but how’s the movie itself? It certainly hasn’t aged well, but it’s surprisingly not bad.
Originally released as a double feature with another sci-fi horror B movie called I Married a Monster from Outer Space, The Blob is about two lovestruck teenagers named Steve Andrews (Steve McQueen) and Jane Martin (Aneta Corsaut) who find out that a red alien ooze from outer space has arrived to their town via meteorite and is discreetly creeping around and eating people, getting larger and redder as it does. The two teens try and convince people of the incoming strawberry jello calamity, but of course nobody believes them. It’s up to Jane and Steve to convince the townspeople they aren’t just crying Blob, and to find a way to stop this “Red Terror” (I think I just found the movie’s metaphor. Man, it hurts to be this smart sometimes).
The Blob certainly has all of the fittings required and expected for a 50’s B movie. It has some hokey below average acting, cheap effects and tons of awkwardly prolonged dialogue. What makes the movie work however, is its characters and its creativity. For a movie of this cheap caliber, the main cast of teenagers are surprisingly likable. Steve McQueen pours on the charisma, though he isn’t exactly the “King of Cool” yet. More like the “King of He Seems Like a Nice Guy I’d Like to Hang Out With Sometime.” His relationship with Coursaut’s Jane isn’t the most interesting one in the world, but they seem nice together, and they’re refreshingly proactive as they try to track the monster down and stop its all-you -can-eat rampage. They go to the police, investigate areas of interest, try to be logical in the face of danger and share notes. In a dumber movie, they would probably keep the existence of this alien to themselves and try to stop it alone. By the end of the movie, they get the whole town in on the loop to try and stop the Blob. It’s refreshing to see this level of competence in a movie like this.
Speaking of the monster, the Blob itself is an enjoyably cheap effect. It’s just a five gallon mixture of silicone and red dye that they constantly had to reuse. It’s not like they could get more of the stuff or get something that looked better. The budget of the movie was approximately $110,000. A meager amount even for a B movie in the late 1950’s. They didn’t have much to work with, so I give them some slack in the effects department. The filmmakers used models of the inside of buildings, tight shots and some matte paintings so they could make it the monster look bigger and more mobile than it actually was. It doesn’t look real, but its cleverly shot for the time. I’m mostly a fan of the concept of the Blob. This movie came from a decade that had a huge monster movie craze, and filmmakers were constantly throwing all kinds of monster movie ideas at audiences, like giant spiders, aliens, teenage werewolves and creatures from Black Lagoons. A Blob however, unlike the previously mentioned monsters, has no real form, voice or identity, and it’s an interesting and novel idea for a movie monster, at least at the time of its release. Future filmmakers certainly saw the potential in it, and kept The Blob alive via a sequel in 1972 called Beware! The Blob and a remake in 1988.
The Blob is the perfect microcosm of 50’s sci-fi horror. It’s colorful, corny, has dodgy effects, people in their late 20’s pretending to be teenagers and outdated 50’s dialogue. It’s got massive amounts of pseudo science exposition, stereotypical yet likable characters, some sparks of creativity and it has a premise that’s scarier in concept than it is in execution. I wouldn’t exactly say I was scared while watching The Blob, but if I saw a big red cherry infused blob outside on the street in real life swallowing people like a wave of molasses, I’d be pretty terrified, even if it did look fake. Or I’d try to eat it. Somebody has to figure what this thing tastes like, and I will gladly volunteer. For scientific purposes, of course.