The Blob (1958): When Good Jell-O Goes Bad

the-blobIvan S. Yeaworth Jr. started his career in 1956 with a film called The Flaming Teen-Ape, a church backed morality tale about the evils of alcohol. Two years later he was back with a different kind of a lesson. One so beautiful in its eloquence it’s been overlooked as a divine truth. Simply put, don’t poke strange things with a stick. Just don’t. No good ever comes of it I tell you. If you think I’m kidding, then all you have to do is see it in action in Yeaworth’s 1958 horror/sci-fi classic TheBlob. All it takes it one curious guy with a stick, and BAM, your town is screwed.

blob-on-a-stickThe curious guy in question is played by Olin Howard, and though his character remains unnamed, his lack of restraint nearly seals everyone’s fate. After a meteor falls to Earth, he just can’t help but investigate, and when the space rock busts open to reveal a red ooze, well, it’s time to look for a good stick. For his trouble, the ooze darts up the stick and envelopes his arm. Thankfully, Steve McQueen, playing the cleverly named character Steve, is there to save the day. He and his girlfriend Jane (Anita Corsaut) rush the old man to the town doctor, but after the ooze devours the old man and attacks the doctor, Steve becomes convinced that the ever growing Blob will eat the whole town if given the chance. It takes some convincing get people to believe him. Everyone thinks Steve is crazy or playing some prank. No one believes they are in peril from a giant red ooze, but eventually, he does gain their trust. All they have to do is find some weakness that will halt the Blob’s ever growing size and hunger.

the_blob_010aaThe Blob was filmed before Steve McQueen starred in his breakthrough role, the TV western Wanted: Dead or Alive. McQueen did the film for a straight fee convinced that the tale of ravenous red ooze would be forgotten as soon as it was released. At first, he was right, but when McQueen’s TV star began to rise, the film was released to the drive-ins. It became a massive hit spawning a 1972 sequel, a 1988 remake, and talk of a new version from Rob Zombie. McQueen actually made The Blob under a contract with Fairview Productions, but the actor was so difficult on the set that he was not pursued to fulfill his three picture deal. If he was difficult on set, it sure didn’t appear on the screen where even in this early role the cool collected confidence and affable charm that McQueen would become known for were already on display.

blobMcQueen is not the only familiar face showing up for their first screen credit. Steve’s date, the young Anita Corsaut, would later become the woman to steal Sheriff Andy Taylor’s heart on the classic sitcom The Andy Griffith Show. For 66 episodes, she portrayed Helen Crump, and would go on to a long career in TV before ending up reunited with Andy Griffith for several episodes of Matlock. I hope to see those episodes when I get to be very, very old and the only TV I can tolerate will be Murder She Wrote, Matlock, and Empty Nest. Corsaut was quite the fetching young woman, and her earnestly white bread portrayal of Jane is both well acted and one of the more laughable aspects of the film nowadays.

the_blob_008aaI really don’t want to give you an impression that the acting was bad at all. If you take into account the director’s background, and his future work on religious films with Billy Graham, it makes sense that every kid you encounter from Steve and Jane to the hot rodding punks are good old all American kids when you get down to it. I wouldn’t want it any other way. It just adds layers and layers of fun onto this creature feature. The scene where Steve pulls his buddies out of a monster movie to tell them about The Blob has a great feel to it. As Steve earnestly pleads with them for help, they laugh and make bad jokes, but in the end they do what any red blooded American kid would do, they help their friend.

the_blob-4The real star of the film though is TheBlob. After all, the theme song by The Five Blobs (which was really Burt Bacharach, his brother Mack, and some studio musicians), was “Beware of the Blob“ not “Lookout Blob, Here Comes Steve“. The red ooze grows and slinks its way around town for the length of the picture. It’s hard to say what its best moment is, but my favorite has to be when it eats a projectionist and pushes it way through the windows of the projection booth. Dropping down on unsuspecting theatergoers that just wants to see reel two of 1955’s Daughter of Horror, The Blob sends the audience screaming out the front doors on what may be the film’s most iconic scene.

920921915_5f1fd21c3c_oNo matter what time of year, The Blob is a great film to revisit, but around Halloween I always like to throw in a couple of films to remind me that there are plenty of scares that don’t come from vampires, zombies, slashers, or ghosts. While those films might give us more easily identifiable villains whose motives become clear, who might be reasoned with or stopped, whose origins might lead back to a way to stop them, but a thing from space is a mystery. It hasn’t even intended to come here, but now that it’s arrived, it would be more than happy to eat us all. Well, folks. That’s all for today but until next we meet, remember, “it creeps and leaps/ and glides and slides/ Across the floor /Right through the door /And all around the wall /A splotch, a blotch/ POP /Be careful of The Blob.”