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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Retro Review: The Blob (1958)

There's been so much said here recently, and in other places, in praise of the excellent--and admittedly superior--1988 remake of The Blob, that I thought it was high time someone showed some much-needed love to the original, Eisenhower-era drive-in classic. The Blob is a fine piece of pop horror entertainment, and deserves to be treated as the seminal sci-fi terror film that it is.

A young and very un-Steve-McQueen-like Steve McQueen makes his second official movie appearance starring as the one local boy who can help save his town from the menace of the all-consuming glob of red jelly from outer space. He's sort of a poor man's James Dean in this picture, which was clearly the intention of the filmmakers.

Because to my mind, The Blob is one of the first horror movies to overtly market itself to the teen demographic, something that is regularly done with horror movies today. You have a cast in which only the teenagers really know what's up, and the adults are ineffectual, lame authority figures. Sound familiar? Much time is given to the inter-character teen drama, and we even have a movie-within-a-movie, as the teen characters attend a horror movie marathon at their local cinema, an activity adolescent moviegoers of the day would've been very familiar with.

For some, the giant jello-like Blob may not be very scary, but this particular movie monster has always creeped me out. Once again, as with many horror flicks, it goes back to my childhood experience with the film. This was another one of those Sunday afternoon syndicated TV-aired movies in my area, and I will never forget viewing the Blob's initial appearance as a kid. When that poor old homeless drifter pokes around that smoldering meteorite, only to find himself elbow-deep in Blob--well that was the stuff of nightmares for me.

The aforementioned movie theater scene is an all-time classic of 1950s horror, and done quite well using the special effects of the day. The Blob of the remake may be more dynamic, animated and downright vicious, but there's something about that slow-moving morass of unthinking goo that sends shivers down the spine. I think it's the same element of classic zombie cinema that has always frightened me--the unrelenting, unthinking, amoral thing that will eventually get you no matter what.

Yes, there's a certain element of goofiness to this version, not least of which is the offbeat, yet hilarious theme song--co-written by a young Burt Bacharach, no less! But I think that it's all part of the charm of the original Blob. It's a perfect example of a "fun" horror movie, one that doesn't make you think too much, and you can just kick back and lose yourself in without really getting scared to the depths of your soul. I think sometimes we need horror like this to temper the rest of the ghastly stuff we enjoy so much.

I've always said that modern horror can sometimes take itself a bit too seriously, which is why I'll always have a soft-spot for the Golden and Silver Age classics, with their Forrest J. Ackerman-style sensibility and schlock factor. The 1950s seemed to be an era when this kind of quirky horror had its heyday, and The Blob, along with flicks like I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Z0mbies of Mora Tau and Invaders from Mars, is a perfect example. Enjoy it for what it is, and I assure you, a splendid time is guaranteed for all.

7 comments:

rvitelli said...

The movie worked best when the Blob was killing people off-screen. It's hard to be afraid of something that looks like strawberry Jell-o.

Tower Farm said...

I have always loved this movie. The absence of Kevin Dillon's hair alone makes the original better than the remake!

JM

John Sunseri said...

I'm a big fan of the Blob Song. Thanks for posting it here.

RayRay said...

Very nice retro review. And you hit the terror nail right on the head with your observation that the Blob is "the unrelenting, unthinking, amoral thing that will eventually get you no matter what."

This is the factor that drives nearly every horror movie made since then. While the classic monsters - Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman - were victims as much as monsters, the Blob, Alien, Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, etc., are the unstoppable forces that will always prevail.

And, I love this movie. A space monster, after all.

Anonymous said...

I'm an 80s child, but the 50s version is definitley better. I love the sense of fun that comes with viewing this movie. I wish I had been around in the 50s!

B-Sol said...

I feel much the same way. Love the remake, but it didn't top the fun of the original...

Reel Popcorn Junkie said...

Theme song suggests fun, but there's little humour in this movie. The scene with the old chap who is a firefighter and civil defense volunteer goes on and on and on. Pacing is not a strength of The Blob.

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