The original “The Blob” shot right to my list of must see horror movies after I watched the 1988 version of “The Blob” and was totally blown away. If the version from the 80’s was this campy, how awesome would the version from the 50’s be? Well, much to my pleasure, the original held up to expectations put on it by it’s baby brother. I know this is usually the wrong way to review movies, watching the remake and then the original, but hey, nobody’s perfect. “The Blob” stays true to it’s story and plot progression through both iterations, just expanding in the remake to account for the differences in popular culture in the 80’s vs the 50’s. Both begin with a teenage couple seeing a shooting star, an old guygetting the blob on him and then dying from it. At first the authorities don’t believe the kids about the thing, but eventually they see it and realize what they’re up against. There’s a lot of runnig away, both contain the infamous movie theatre blob takeover, and eventually the main characters learn that cold is the only way to kill the Blob. The new version embellishes the story a bit with a town on the brink of financial collapse, a ton of Blob-food characters and a government agency to cover everything up. Both versions have their merits, and both hold their own in the grand scheme of horror cinema.
I’m sure “The Blob” was pretty terrifying in it’s day, but now it sits in the upper echelon of campy horror. Outdated visual effects and a concept that has been ripped to shreds over the past 50 years can do that to you. Fortunately, what remains is a fairly good picture into the culture of the late 1950’s. Unlike the characters in the 80’s remake, the people in this movie are all for calling in the authorities. The government is not the bad guy here, but a powerful force to protect the innocent civilians. The kids are even trying to get the help of the local police throughout the whole movie, even though the officers don’t like them. That brings us to another insight into the culture of the times, which is the relationship between the teenagers and the law. The teens are mischeivious and break the rules, but the policemen take this in stride. When Steve McQueen, sorry, Steven McQueen, is caught driving backwards of the wrong side of the road, he is given a lecture and let go. Nowadays this would have resulted in jailtime and other repercussions. It’s nice to be taken back to a time where adults were more laid back and tolerant of teenage foolishness… even if those adults are about to be swallowed up by a giant blob.
I think it’s important to note that the was Steve McQueen’s first starring role. It is easy to see from this performance how he would quickly become an icon that represented “cool” within the next decade. The movie opens with him smooth talking a girl while they watch the stars. He drives a fast car, is known by all the cool kids and even talks his way out of trouble with the cops. And that’s the first fifteen minutes. He continues by taking the situation into his own hands, alerting the whole town of danger and ultimately discovering how to kill the Blob. McQueen isn’t the only actor in the film, and thankfully his companions follow his lead by portraying likeable and believable characters. The other teenagers, while not having particularly unique personalities, show that the “cool” kids can be both intelligent and trustworthy, not just delinquents. Dave, the “good cop” is a refreshing character, one who puts his faith in a kid that no one else will believe. Bertie, the “bad cop”, is also played perfectly, being an enormous pain in the a** for most of the movie but pitching in when the town needed him. The other, lesser characters hold there own as well, characters like the doctor and the owner of the diner. All in all you really end up liking everyone in the town, and would be very disappointed if any of them fell victim to the Blob’s goopy ways.
I’ve mentioned previously that this film is a bit dated, that is to say it’s about 50 years behind the times. Special effects like the electrical lines and meteor falling really look like 1950’s effects, but you can’t fault it for this. What I was impressed by was the restoration of the film itself. I’m not sure how the original cuts looked, but this DVD version was really quite good. Colors came across bright and sharp and there was very little film grain. I watched the Criterion Collection version, so it ought to to be good, but it was still nice to watch a movie that old that looked that crisp. The other peice of the visual experience that stand out is the Blob itself. I couldn’t even begin to guess what the thing was made of, but it looked nasty! Which in horror terms means great. It slid and engulfed and pushed through small openings… All in all it looked very impressive, especially for something from half a century ago.
“The Blob” really is a classic. It may not be a Universal monster, but the title bad guy is as synonymous with horror as Freddy or the Mummy. Fortunately we can still watch this timeless piece of horror history on a nicely done DVD by Criterion. Whether you are a horror fan, a Steve McQueen fan, or just like to have fun, you will not be disappointed with the original, the indestructible, the undescribable, “The Blob”. Once the opening credits and the theme song roll, you know you are in for a good time. Here is a link to the theme song, which is great for some easy listening. Written by Burt Bacharach.