Blu-Ray Review – The Blob (1958)

The Blob is a classic piece of 50s B-Movie gold, and it was also the first film starring Steve McQueen. While it would later be remade in the late ’80s (and it’s also great), the classic 1958 film has had an enduring place in the public consciousness since it was first shown as the bottom half of a double bill with I Married a Monster from Outer Space (which John Cooper Clarke wrote a song about). The Blob also has a ridiculously catchy theme song, which was written by lounge/pop songwriter Burt Bacharach.

The set-up is pretty standard ’50s movie sci-fi/horror stuff: an alien blob comes out of a piece of space junk and starts raising havoc in the small American town of Phoenixville. Steve McQueen plays a young, rebellious teenager (despite being 27 at the time of filming) who tries to warn everyone about the extraterrestrial blob of jello. As was the case with many alien invaders films from the ’50s, it has also been taken for an allegory about the dangers of communism, but the screenwriter Rudy Nelson denied this interpretation.

Naturally, the film is dated as hell, but that’s half of its charm. The special effects are primitive at best, and in the film’s climactic scene in a diner, they actually used a cardboard model for the interior shots. Keep your eye out for the movie theatre scene: the film playing is Dementia aka. Daughter of Horror, the world’s first and only surrealist beatnik noir horror film. From all accounts, McQueen was a nightmare to work with on The Blob, but he is pretty convincing as a teenager despite the big age difference. The script is a bit on the hokey side, but it’s still one of the more tightly written B-Movies of its time, and runs at a non-stop pace for 83 minutes.

The Blob remains an early example of independent filmmaking. It cost around $100,000 but ended up making $4,000,000 and paved the way for the independent boom of the mid ’80s to ’90s. It eventually topped that double bill with I Married a Monster from Outer Space because the audience reaction was far greater for The Blob. It was even reissued in the cinema in the ’70s to capitalise on the success of Steve McQueen’s starring role in The Towering Inferno, but the ad campaign didn’t mention it was a sci-fi/monster film, trying instead to make it look like a disaster flick.

Overall, The Blob remains a gem of a bygone era of filmmaking, and despite some primitive effects still works nearly 60 years later and is shockingly rated 15 by the BBFC.

The package includes two audio commentaries: one by producer Jack H. Harris and film historian Bruce Eder, and the other by director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. and actor Robert Fields. There are lots of other extras, including the trailer, Blobabilia!, a gallery of collector Wes Shank’s rare trove of stills, poster, props and ephemera, including the Blob itself. There is the old dvd essay by Bruce Kawin and a new essay by critic Kim Newman included in this Blu-Ray package.

★★★★

Ian Schultz

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