“Fabulous Films of the ’50s” – THE BLOB, a mass of contradiction

I was sitting in my living room a few days ago with the screen door wide open.  It was a quiet, sunny day.  Quiet, that is, until the guys that cut the lawn showed up.  While I can handle the noise of the mowers without a problem, the moment they went on Kiki – my cat – ran to hide behind the commode where she stayed trembling long after the mower guys had left.  Worried, I went over to reassure her that everything was fine and when she didn’t budge I caught myself saying, “You’re a sitting duck for the blob down there, honey.”  Now, I can’t say whether it was mention of the blob or the fact that I called her a duck, but Kiki slowly emerged from her hiding place and all was good in my world.  Except that it got me thinking – why did the blob come to mind?

I don’t normally go around thinking and talking about the blob – particularly to a cat.  Nor do I recount these types of incidences when they occur, but it surprised me that the gooey star of Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr.’s 1958 movie, The Blob, still creeped in my mind more than a week after I’d seen the film.  It was at that point that the gist of this post occurred to me.  That is, that while the mention of The Blob usually evokes a smile or even laughter, in truth it is an effective movie featuring an effective monster.  In fact, The Blob is a mass of contradiction – often mentioned both among the campiest movies ever made and the best science fiction productions of its time.  No matter which way you look at it The Blob is a fabulous film of the 50s, one that crept into our collective conscience more than five decades ago and has remained there ever since.

posterblob

Naming The Blob

Part of what makes The Blob the butt of jokes is its title and it was intended to do so…

The working title of the movie during production was The Molten Meteor, from which writer, Kate Phillips spun the story.  The final title, The Blob was not ascribed to the movie until post-production when the film’s director sat with several members of the production crew for a week with the intent of finding a title that would find its way into popular culture by way of popular comedians.  They wanted “a title they couldn’t help but joke about” said Yeaworth, which proved a brilliant idea.  In an interview celebrating a The Blob anniversary some time back Yeaworth describes how Bob Hope joked about his movie’s monster during an Academy Awards ceremony – “If The Blob wins an Oscar,” the comedian said, “it will take home the statuette, the presenter and the audience.”  How’s that for free publicity?

In any case, other titles considered for The Blob included The Creeping Dead and The Glob that Girded the Earth, which was liked by most in the production team, but since they had little money for marketing they needed a name short and memorable enough to catch on.  After pouring over many other ideas, the team settled on The Glob only to learn that title had already been copyrighted by someone else.  Rather than start from scratch, however, Yeaworth and the team liked The Glob so much they decided to go through the alphabet to find something close to it.  They needed only get to “B” to find perfection in a simple change.

As far as a match between the movie’s title and its star a better name than The Blob could not have been conceived.  What does “the blob” mean exactly?  Well, EXACTLY!  It means just that – a word that evokes a specific, non-specific image that’s never more than thick liquid with color like the movie monster, which is a creature that is a shapeless mass of ooze with no distinct characteristics other than its persistent goal to consume other life forms.  The Blob – the movie – never makes an attempt to explain what the creature is.  Yet…

The Blob as a monster…

…is quite effective – a contradiction to the simplicity of its name and form. While both the film’s title and the “look” of the blob itself lend themselves to being joked about, the movie presents its story methodically and deliberately.  It is a serious story about a serious threat.  Perhaps some might take an exception to this particularly if comparing The Blob to a few of the other science fiction films made at the time, which feature creatures that are life-like or that pose questions and/or concerns regarding societal fears.  But due to its simplicity The Blob works because it presents an indiscriminate creature that defies gravity, can slither through the tiniest crevice or engulf a building, all in order to consume everything in its path, which suggests the potential for continuous, escalating menace.

To illustrate the contradictory effect the mass that is the blob can have on people, consider the review that appeared in the New York Times when the film was released.  In that review critic Howard Thompson makes a point of describing in detail how fake the blob is.  But then, he recalls squirming when he felt a huge wad of gum under his foot while watching the film in the theater and tells all, as a precaution, to be sure to check the floor before the lights go out.

It creeps, and leaps, and glides and slides across the floor.

The Cast

Aside from its memorable title character, The Blob should also be recognized for being the movie that introduced Steve McQueen to mass audiences.  You may have heard he subsequently became a major movie star.  In the movie Steve McQueen, billed as Steven McQueen for the only time in his career, plays Steve Andrews who is believed by the authorities in the movie to be just another annoying teenager prone to delinquency.  But Steve is actually a responsible young man and, along with the other teenagers in the movie, ends up being the hero, which is yet another part of the story depicted in The Blob that makes it stand out among other movies of the time, which often depict teenagers as angry and irresponsible.  In that regard one must credit The Blob for giving due to what was its intended audience, young drive-in attendees.  I’ll add that McQueen is actually quite good as Steve Andrews despite the fact that at 28 he is never believable as a teenager.

The Blob also marks the debut of Aneta Corsaut, who plays Jane, Steve’s girlfriend who helps save the world of the massive, oozing monster.  Ms. Corsaut went on to have a substantial acting career on television.  The rest of the cast in The Blob is also effective with the exception of the little boy who plays Jane’s 5-year-old brother, Danny.  I have to admit I’ve wanted Danny to become victim of the blob during more than one viewing of the movie.  And I know that’s mean, but it’s true.  Anyway, I will offer one more special mention to Olin Howlin who plays the Old Man, the Blob’s first victim.  Howlin makes his last film appearance in The Blob after a career that began in 1918.  Playing mostly small, often uncredited roles he appeared in such acclaimed films as Cukor’s Little Women (1933), Taurog’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938) and Fleming’s Gone With the Wind (1939).  In The Blob Howlin’s first scene is my favorite in the movie, the warning scene of what’s to come (described below) as we learn one of the few things we ever learn about the Blob.

The indestructible creature! Bloated with the blood of its victims!

The Movie – with gooey spoilers so BEWARE!

The Blob opens as Steve and Jane are necking in Steve’s car. Suddenly they see what they think is a shooting star at first, except this one is lit red and crashes nearby.

necking
Jane and Steve necking

Cut to the Old Man and my favorite scene – it turns out that the meteor lands in the bushes behind the small cottage where the Old Man lives.  As is the requisite of all monster movies, the Old Man goes out to investigate and finds a crater with a ball of some kind inside, which he pokes with a tree branch.  As he does so the ball opens to introduce what is at this time a small, gooey thing.  The Old Man then picks up the goo with the branch at which time the thing proceeds to climb up the stick and take firm hold of his hand.  What’s particularly good about this scene, by the way, is that as the Old Man sees the goo slide down the stick he quickly tries to shake it off by turning the stick upside down, which then shows the goo quickly going up, against gravity to grab a hold of his hand.  It’s one of those ‘Oh-oh’ moments.  Simple, but effective.

how
Right before the “oh-oh” moment

Meanwhile, Jane and Steve are on their way to the crash site, but they’re sidetracked when they almost run over the Old Man as he crosses the road, writhing in pain – his hand now fully covered by a gooey, jello-like substance.  Obviously alarmed, Steve and Jane rush the Old Man to the Dr. who’s baffled by the mass that has by now moved up the Old Man’s arm.  The Dr. begins to research what the strange mass can be, but before he finds any answers the Old Man is no longer and what is now creeping around the Dr.’s office is the Blob.

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The Blob after having consumed the Old Man

By this time the Nurse has joined the Dr. and both scurry to try to kill whatever the slimy thing is.  The Dr. orders the Nurse to throw acid on the thing while he goes grab for his rifle.  Unfortunately, by the time the Dr. grabs the gun, the Blob consumes the Nurse and later, the Dr.

acid
The Nurse pours acid on the young, still small blob to no avail

Steve and Jane, who’d left the Dr.’s office after dropping off the Old Man to find clues as to what this thing is, return just in time to see the Dr. being attacked.

win
Not quite distinguishable, but the Dr. is being attacked just beyond the window
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Steve sees the Dr.’s attack, but doesn’t know what to make of it – at first

Jane and Steve then go to the Police who don’t believe a word they say about a monster having killed the Dr.  No one believes them, in fact, chalking it all up to youthful pranks.  But while Steve, in particular, is trying to convince the Police, the Blob continues its reign of terror consuming an unsuspecting mechanic who’s discussing leaving his wife.

Thinking there’s no other alternative, Steve gathers the other teenagers in town to help spread the word and search for the Blob, but it’s Steve and Jane who run into the thing in his own father’s store.  As Steve approaches the store after seeing the Old Man’s little dog cowering in a corner he notices the store’s door is open well past closing time.  Of course he and Jane go in to investigate and there’s the thing waiting for them.  Luckily, the couple runs into the store’s freezer unit, which repels the monster for some reason.

Spread the word, BEWARE, THE BLOB!
Spread the word – BEWARE! THE BLOB!

Steve and the rest of the kids sound all the raid alarms to get everyone in town out in the open so they can be warned – BEWARE, THE BLOB!  (Although the thing is never given a name in the movie.)  Anyway, finally the police chief, Lt. Dave believes the teenager’s story so he sends another officer into the supermarket to find the monster.

While the police and fire dept. look for the Blob in the supermarket, A SHOCKER!  Watermelon was 4 cents/lb.
While the police and fire dept. look for the Blob in the supermarket, A SHOCKER! Watermelon was 4 cents/lb.

Just as the supermarket is being searched we see the ever-growing red goo seeping into the protectionist’s room in the local theater, just a few yards from where the rest of the town now stands heeding Steve’s warning.  Suddenly, crowds of people are running out of the theater in a panic with the Blob in tow.  By the way there’s a particularly great shot of the people running out of the theater and toward the camera that resulted in the cameraman actually being trampled so you can see the people running by from the floor’s perspective, which works great.  Obviously everyone else thought so too as the shot ended up in the movie.

Despite the Colonial Theater being "Healthily Air-Conditioned," the crowd would rather face the heat than face The Blob
Despite the Colonial Theater being “Healthily Air-Conditioned,” the crowd would rather face the heat than face The Blob
blobtheater
The Blob follows the crowd out of the theater and reveals itself to the townspeople

Now we’re ready for the final showdown thanks to Jane’s little brother, Danny.  As the Blob stands on the main street of the small town the boy tries to shoot it with his toy gun, but when the thing starts moving Danny runs into the Diner behind him.  Jane and Steve go after him, but it’s too late for them to escape as the Blob is now eating the entire diner!  The Police shoot down one of the nearby power lines to try to deep fry the thing, but it doesn’t loosen its grip on the diner.

Diner engulfed by the Blob
An animated Blob trying to consume the diner

Meanwhile, Steve, now hiding with Jane, Danny and the diner staff in the basement grabs one of the CO2 dispensers and fires the cold at the Blob as it starts to slither under the basement door towards them.  Lo and behold, the cold makes the thing retreat!  Steve is able to get word out about the cold remedy (see what I did there?), which sends the rest of the kids scrambling to gather all available CO2 dispensers.  The Blob is then frozen into submission and contained.

Steve, Jane and the rest are able to escape and the world is rid of the Blob forever.  OR IS IT?

Indescribable… Indestructible! Nothing Can Stop It!

Lt. Dave: “They’re flying it to the Arctic.”

Steve:  “It’s not dead, is it?”

Lt. Dave:  “No, it’s not.  Just frozen.  I don’t think it can be killed, but at least we have it stopped.”

Steve:  “Yeah, as long as the arctic stays cold!”

Say what?  If nothing else Steve’s statement gives us yet another reason to worry about global warming – as we see the frozen Blob being lowered into the arctic waters by parachute – and a question mark appears as to the fate of The Blob and mankind.

question

 ♦

Despite all its flaws, The Blob is undeniably entertaining.  That’s true from the movie’s opening sequence, which features a terrific theme song,“Beware of the Blob,” written by Burt Bacharach and Mack David, which makes fun of the movie one is about to see.  Similarly light is the animated sequence that accompanies the theme song making neither element that introduces The Blob true to its horror genre – yet another contradiction.  The song, by the way, is performed by The Five Blobs, who in truth was just one guy (Bernie Nee) whose vocals were overdubbed five times.  I’ll admit I find “Beware of the Blob” irresistible and can hardly control myself from tapping along to the beat.  Apparently many others felt the same way because the song became a national hit.

The Blob is a classic, a fabulous film of the 50s, a standout filmed in glorious color with exceptional staying power all for a very small budget.  Testament to this movie’s popularity through time are the various times it has been revamped by Criterion – first on VHS, then DVD and just a few months ago in a new, gorgeous bluray release.  Also worthy of mention is the yearly Blobfest the movie has spawned.  The festival is held in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania where most of The Blob was shot commemorating not only the movie, but all the players involved in the making of it, a group made up almost entirely of locals with little to no previous feature film experience.

The Blob was released on September 12, 1958 by Paramount Pictures in a double-bill with Gene Fowler, Jr’s I Married a Monster from Outer Space and it became a sensation grossing $8.5 million in the first year of release.  It also remains one of the most popular drive-in movies of all time.

The marquee at the Colonial Theater featured in The Blob and featuring The Blob in 1958
The marquee at the Colonial Theater in Pennsylvania featured in The Blob and featuring The Blob in 1958

This post is my submission to the Fabulous Films of the 50s Blogathon hosted by the Classic Movie Blog Association (CMBA).  Be sure to visit the host site to read about all the other films of the ’50s that members are paying homage to – because they’re fabulous!

cmba

47 thoughts

  1. Thank goodness you were there to save Kiki from the Blob! Whew!

    I’ve never seen this movie, but I’ve heard quite a few people talk about it. After your review I might just have to have a look at it. It sounds interesting with all of its problems and out of this world plot. I could use a movie like this about now, you know? 🙂

    Great reading as always Aurora, thank you.

    1. Poor little Kiki! She’s not one of those all over you cats, but when she’s scared and I catch her before she hides, she’s usually lovey dovey and enjoys the reassurance that she’s safe.

      This is just pure entertainment and I think you’d get a kick our it, Sarah.

      And thank you!

      Aurora

  2. It’s been a long time since I saw this, but I remember thinking it was a entertaining and fun film.

    And your a CAT Lover!

    1. It is just that.

      Kiki was unexpected and I didn’t plan on being a pet owner. But she showed up at my door one day and I fell in love with her. The cutest thing. 🙂

  3. Ah, next the Blob will be the new Jenny Craig spokesperson – I mean spokesmonster. Super post! In my home, every time Andy Griffith went a-courtin’ with Aneta, my whole family would say “she was in THE BLOB!”

  4. As a kid, I learned to NEVER poke anything with a stick after watching this movie. Entertainingly cheesy and scary, this was a classic of my childhood. Wonderful examination, Aurora 🙂

  5. Aurora, THE BLOB is creepy, crawly, gooey fun and almost as entertaining as your inspired review. Steve is actually pretty good in it and the climax alone makes watching it worthwhile. For those reason, I was enthused to see the belated sequel BEWARE THE BLOG, which was directed by Larry Hagman! Alas, it wasn’t very good at all.

    1. Thanks, Rick!

      I saw the sequel some time back and it is forgettable, which is why I didn’t bother to mention it. I prefer the lingering question mark of possible atmospheric doom reawakening the blob rather than having Larry Hagman’s wife defrost it. 🙂

      Aurora

  6. Not having seen it (that title puts me off), I wonder if The Blob deserves your great review!
    Even now, I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to view it. Sorry,Aurora. Give me The Thing .

    1. So happy you like this, but the movie deserves accolades, I assure you. Again, in the vein of pure, campy and memorable fun. I like THE THING too!

      Aurora

  7. Hi Aurora!

    This has long been my favorite horror flick of the 50s! Thanks for the Old Man’s (Olin Howlin) background. I had no idea; quite impressive. I’d like to seek him out in the other movies now. His scene is the one that still creeps me out, no matter how many times I fuss back at the screen. And the poor fellow running the movie in the theatre and the way Blob squeezes out the doors and windows! Sheesh… still spooky stuff.

    Oh… wasn’t Steve McQueen absolutely adorable in it?! 🙂

    Great post! Thanks for the great information and insight!

    ~Tonya

    1. Thanks so much, Tonya! I was impressed with Mr. Howlin’s career and intrigued he ended it with THE BLOB. I like McQueen in this, but can’t say I’m a huge fan otherwise. I know – I’m one of the very few. I can’t help but think McQueen and immediately my mind goes to Paul Newman who I adore! Not sure what that’s about.

      Aurora

  8. While it’s not necessarily labeled as such, I’ve always viewed The Blob as an anti-communism film, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Still, it’s probably way too campy to fall into that “genre”. Anyway, your review was both informative and entertaining. It’s interesting that this was McQueen first film role…my husband, Mr. Clooney, had a similar start in Return to Horror High and then Return of the Killer Tomatoes.

    1. Dear Mrs. Clooney,

      I read all sorts of things regarding the end of THE BLOB representing the cold war so you’re certainly not alone in attributing those ideas to it. I wanted to focus on the fun aspect of the movie and it was already way too long to get into those types of things, but they’re interesting to consider.

      Aurora

  9. I know what you mean about tapping out the theme song. I start grooving and before I open my mouth to sing the original song that doesn’t end my daughter screams “Noooo!” and runs from the room. She just knows what’s coming.

    A perfect 50s movie and a great take on same.

    Did you know that Kate Phillips was also known as Kay Linaker and acted in several of my favourite Charlie Chan movies. (All roads lead to Chan.)

    1. LOL. I’m sure your daughter’s just dramatic and you sound great. NO! I didn’t know that about Kate Phillips. Thanks for that info.

      Aurora

  10. It really does stay with you! Years after seeing it for the first time, my daughter still talks about the movie and sings the theme song. She loved it, and it has always been one of my favorite of the weirder 50s films.

    1. A favorite of the weirder ’50s films is exactly what it is. We’re lucky to be able to enjoy this type of movie and also the other, more universally recognized “as greats” movies.

      Aurora

  11. I have to admit, ‘The Glob That Girded The Earth’ has a catchy, Roger-Cormanish ring to it; but I think ‘The Blob’ was ultimately the right choice. Loved all the fun info on how the movie got its name – thanks for a great post!

    1. I agree and I actually love “The Glob that Girded the Earth,” but I get why that had to go with something short. Thanks so much for stopping in.

      Aurora

  12. I was excited to see that you had chosen “The Blob”, and you lived up to my expectations! SUCH an iconic film, and one that never gets old.

    Who knew there was a Blogfest?! This is very important information.

      1. I can’t tell you how often I wrote “blog” instead of Blob and I’m actually lucky to have caught those while proofreading this. Spellcheck didn’t alert me. Thanks so much as always, Ruth.

        Aurora

  13. Ah, sweet little Kiki!! Glad momma Aurora is there to save the day. But if SteveMcQueen is right, you better come up with a fix for global warming too- because the Blob should be making a sequel soon at this rate!

  14. Great review 🙂 We have a Kiki here, too so I’ll consider myself warned in advance that this might frighten her! It’s a fun movie that captures the era and the genre. Blobfest would be a Blob-blast to attend. She who eats a Jello snack while watching this is a brave woman.

  15. Aurora,
    We discussed on Twitter, I saw The Blob once at the Drive-In as a kid. (So thankful we had a local Drive-In that showed old 50s films.) All the more reason I was thrilled you were covering it and then seeing Attack of the 50FT Woman would also be covered. A 50s Blogathon wouldn’t be complete without a few of these thrown into the mix.

    Molten Meteor, really? That’s hilarious. The Blob was certainly fitting and perfectly describes that non scary pile of goo that oozed through doors and the streets. Not really terrifying to me as an adult. I don’t even recall being frightened as a kid.

    Loved every word you wrote on the film. Fun and entertaining!
    Well done!
    Page

  16. Great background on how they came up with the title. It’s ironic how much work went into something so simple. Funny too, how someone else had dibs on “The Glob” (huh?!?), thus the iconic Blob was born! As always, with titles and ’50s sci-fi concepts, simpler is better!

  17. Wow – I never realized Steve’s girlfriend in the film was none other than Miss Helen Crump! The blob is one of my favorite guilty pleasures – wish they would air it again soon!

  18. Great post for a great underrated classic–thanks! The Blob has long been one of my faves, and I tend to trot out the Criterion blu-ray fairly often–as you mentioned, the color photography is really fantastic, and the story strangely compelling (is it the small-town ’50s vibe? the fact it takes place in a single night? hard to put a finger on it)

    I keep hoping to make it out to Pennsylvania for the historic Colonial Theater’s Blobfest, especially to partake in the yearly “Blob run” ritual–each year they film the audience running screaming from the very theater featured in the film. Gotta love it. Anyway, thanks for the post!

  19. I never realized that Burt Bacharach did this song! It was never a favorite, but once I hear it….it’s in my head for days!
    And while ‘Steven’ is cute in this, I really loved him in “The Thomas Crown Affair” with Faye Dunaway.

    1. I’m actually not a huge fan of Steve’s, but Thomas Crown I really enjoy.

      This is a catchy tune – I want to download it to my iPod. 🙂

      Aurora

  20. Aurora, this is SO GOOD! What a great opening and an entertaining read. I’ve seen THE BLOB, but is was a looooong time ago. I feel like I just sat down and watched it with you as you walked me through it, and had such a good time. Those screen grabs of yours are excellent and really show the film to be of great style, which I’m sure is a really under-appreciated aspect of the film. And how can it not be stylish when it’s got STEVE MCQUEEN in his first lead?! You’ve definitely made me want to watch it again. 🙂 Great job!

    1. Thanks, Kimberly! So glad you enjoyed this. 🙂 I should’ve mentioned the costumes in your honor. This is pure, campy fun which we all need now and again.

      Aurora

  21. I’m not really sure whether I’ve ever seen more than a few scenes from “The Blog,” scenes featuring Steve McQueen, of course. No matter because, as often is the case, I suspect your post may be better than the movie. Great intro, summary and backstory tidbits – just plain great, Aurora.

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