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Director: Irvin Yeaworth
Starring: Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Earl Rowe, Olin Howland
Perhaps the quintessential ‘50s teen horror, The Blob is all too often remembered for introducing the world to the great Steve McQueen.
It’s so much more than that though, what with introducing us to that rare concept (at least for 1958) of a truly alien creature. This is no man in a suit, giant bug, lizard or dinosaur. There’s no ray guns or flying saucers, no plans to replace anyone with exact replicas of themselves.
Instead, it’s just an amorphous blob of goo. A predatory, Lovecraftian horror that lurks in corners and on ceilings, ready to absorb anyone unlucky enough to come across it. More than ever, that fear of The Other is really rammed home, initially by the rebellious teens, but ultimately by a menace so otherworldly, so bizarre and different, that it can only be described as… the blob.
When a meteor crashes in small-town Pennsylvania, Steve Andrews (McQueen) takes his girlfriend Jane (Corsaut) to investigate. They’re beaten to it by an old man who, after poking the object with a stick, finds a gelatinous goo inside which attaches itself to his hand and won’t cone off.
In great distress as a result, the man runs in front of Steve’s car leading the teenagers to take him to hospital. The Blob then begins trying to consume all in its path, starting with the old man, then the medical staff. The pair alert the authorities, but neither Lieutenant Dave (Earl Rowe) or Sergeant Bert (John Benson) believe them and send them home.
Unknown to anybody though, The Blob is a sentient, extra-terrestrial predator that grows in size every time it consumes a victim. When Steve and Jane sneak back out to investigate they discover a horror more alien and more dangerous than anyone can imagine…
Now we’re talking. Up until this point teen horror had been taking the monsters of old and transplanting them into a modern, youth-oriented setting. The Blob feels different, like a bold new direction to take scary movies.
As enjoyable as they are, AIP’s teenage horrors tended to be written from an older, outsiders perspective, all crowbarred-in dance routines and clunky rebellion.
The Blob feels like real youth in revolt, just driving around, parking, racing and going to the movies while being snotty for no reason to the older generation. It’s natural and subtly played, which goes some way to making you see them as real people when the drama kicks in. Which is does fairly quickly.
In his first role as a lead actor, Steve McQueen is fairly magnetic as the attitude-laden but responsible teenager, despite being 27 at the time of shooting. That charisma that would make him one of the biggest stars in the world is already burning bright and he brings a level of gravitas to the proceedings that elevatesthe whole thing several levels.
As for The Blob itself, it’s nothing short of magnificent. A simple idea and one that could easily feel silly, but in actual fact is quite terrifying. There’s something just…wrong about it. It’s as alien as you’ll ever see and the threat it possesses is potentially world-ending. Every time we see it, it’s gotten bigger and more blood red as it consumes everyone it comes across. It’s an otherworldly, cosmic evil, it’s near-indestructible and its appetite is endless. Now that’s a scary concept.
The old trope of small town America being invaded by a monster is nothing new, but few films realise it so effectively as The Blob. The quiet Pennsylvania town that we are introduced to feels like a real place, with real people in it, who you can imagine having a life when the camera isn’t on them or when they’re not being menaced by a Lovecraftian cosmic horror.
Vividly colourful, perfectly cast and featuring an inspired central concept, The Blob is an absolute masterpiece. It’s chilling at times, but it’s enormously fun too. Quintessential ‘50s teen horror? Most definitely.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy