The Blob

 
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The Blob is one of the more unusual additions to The Criterion Collection's DVD catalog. There are many superior '50s sci-fi movies, such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing (From Another World), The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invaders From Mars, and many others. Even I Married a Monster From Outer Space and Roger Corman's Not of This Earth are arguably much superior. But in the world of schlocky, campy sci-fi, The Blob remains one of the most endearing movies. While I prefer Invasion of the Saucermen as the '50s premiere fusion of campy sci-fi and juvenile-delinquent drama, it's easy to see the allure of The Blob.

Most importantly, The Blob showcases Steve McQueen in his first starring role. He tries to capture some of James Dean's allure, but his dramatic intensity clashes with the movie's sit-com-ish sensibilities. This is Leave It to Beaver mixed with Rebel Without a Cause and a dash of X The Unknown. In addition, Steve McQueen must interact with a trio of tough guys who look like rejects from West Side Story. (It's not much of a stretch to imagine them singing "Gee, Officer Krupke!") And Aneta Corsaut is also on hand. Only a few years later she would play Andy's girlfriend Helen Crump on The Andy Griffith Show.

Bad acting is rampant in The Blob, including McQueen, but his charisma shows through nonetheless. He seems to think he's performing in a realistic movie, while most of the supporting characters seem to think they're performing in a comedy or a musical. Director Irwin S. Yeaworth Jr. must take much of the blame for the movie's inconsistent tone. He doesn't exert enough control over the proceedings and lets the movie drift in several directions at once. Not surprisingly, Yeaworth's career in feature films only lasted through three subsequent movies. (And afterwards, he made religious films.)

The Blob gets started when a meteor streaks to earth and lands in the woods. An old man finds the crater and watches as the pockmarked rock splits apart, revealing a gooey filling. When he pokes the goo with a stick, it leaps onto his hand, which sends him screaming in pain down the nearest highway. Steve Andrews (McQueen) almost runs him over as he returns from an aborted necking session with his girlfriend (Corsaut). They take the old man to the doctor. Later, after Steve sees the doctor attacked by a horrible shapeless mass, he tries to tell the police what he has seen. But, the police won't listen to him.

Steve then rallies the local teenagers to help prove his case. Meanwhile, the blob creeps through the local grocery store and into the movie theater. These two sequences are among the best in the movie--particularly the movie theater sequence, which features the blob oozing through the projection room and causing hysteria as the crowd runs for the exits (although even in this sequence, director Yeaworth can't get credible expressions on the faces of the crowd -- many are smiling as they run for their lives!). William Castle would film a similar sequence, to even better effect, for The Tingler (1959).

It's easy to pick faults in The Blob -- much too easy. And that's largely beside the point. Look no further than the song played over the opening credits for evidence of how to approach this movie: it's a bouncy, space-ace bachelor-pad ditty with lyrics such as "Beware of the blob! It creeps and leaps. And glides and slides across the floor, right through the door and all around the wall. A splotch, a blotch, be careful of the blob!" Written by Burt Bacharach and Mack David, this song is so absurd that nothing that follows can possibly be taken seriously.

The Criterion Collection gives The Blob a grade-A treatment, as if it were a great American treasure. You'll find not one but two audio commentaries, one by producer Jack H. Harris and film historian Bruce Eder and another by director Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr. and actor Robert Fields. You'll find a plethora of stills, posters, and other ephemera -- including a theatrical trailer and photos of the props. In addition, the DVD package contains a 14" x 20" poster. The movie itself is presented in a widescreen digital transfer (aspect ratio of 1.66:1).

 


The Blob is now available on DVD from The Criterion Collection. The disc features a new widescreen digital transfer (aspect ratio: 1.66:1) mastered from the original 35mm camera negative and the 35mm magnetic audio tracks. The transfer has been enhanced for 16x9 televisions. The disc contains two audio commentaries tracks, one by producer Jack H. Harris and film historian Bruce Eder; and the second by director Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr. and actor Robert Fields. Additional extras include a theatrical trailer; a collection of stills, posters, and other Blob ephemera; and a special collectible poster. Suggested retail price: $39.95. For more information, check out the Criterion Collection Web site.