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The Blob   A-

The Criterion Collection

Year Released: 1958
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.
Writers: Theodore Simonson, Kate Phillips
Cast: Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Earl Rowe, Olin Howlin, Stephen Chase, John Benson, George Karas, Elbert Smith.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

"Doctor, nothing will stop it!"
--Kate, the nurse (Lee Payton), The Blob

Upon finding a meteorite in the woods in the middle of the night, an old man (Olin Howlin) does what any one of us would do if we stumbled upon a steaming meteorite from outer space. He pokes it with a stick. It opens up to reveal a mound of gelatinous goop, which attaches itself to the old man's stick and starts dripping down towards his hand. Before it reaches his hand, he turns the stick over -- but the goop starts to climb upward and it devours his hand. The old guy starts screaming and hollering and, oh man, does it look painful.

Meanwhile, Steve and Jane, two teenage lovers who were smooching nearby in a parked car, saw the meteorite falling across the night sky just minutes before and they head off to find it. Never mind that the teenagers are played by actors approaching 30: Steve McQueen (in his first major film role) and Aneta Corsaut (in her only major film role; she later starred in The Andy Griffith Show). Anyway, the two, ahem, teenagers find the old man with the space goop covering his hand and take him to the town doctor, who gently tells the old-timer to take it easy. Leaving the old man in the doctor's care, Steve and his girl engage in some backwards drag racing with some juvenile delinquent buddies and get pestered by the cops to, you know, cool it.

None of the adults in town will listen to poor Steve when he tries to warn them that some kind of monster is on the loose. So, of course, it's up to Steve, his girl, and his drag-racing buddies to try to stop it. But how do you stop something that's immune to bullets, fire, and just about everything else?

Yeah, like I'm gonna tell.

One of the pleasures of The Blob is its lively mix of sci-fi schlock and teenage delinquency picture. Producer Jack H. Harris was trying to cash in on the popular sci-fi chillers at the time as well as the teen delinquency flicks like The Blackboard Jungle and Rebel Without a Cause. And, well, it paid off because the mix is a pure joy to watch. The action in The Blob moves along at a brisk page and there's not a dull moment in all its 82 minutes. If you can find a 1950s sci-fi schlocker more fun than this one, please let me know 'cause I wanna see it.

The Criterion Collection DVD of The Blob is a must-have for fans (I must admit, I just became a fan recently, viewing it for the first time on DVD). The film is presented widescreen and it looks terrific -- bright colors, images so clean that it's almost tough to believe this movie is over 40 years old. There are two audio commentaries: one with producer Jack H. Harris and film historian Bruce Eder; the other with director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. and actor Robert Fields (who plays Tony, one of the teenagers). Both commentaries are entertaining and informative, with producer Jack H. Harris offering a few stories about Steve McQueen being difficult (and even before he was granted the right to be difficult by becoming a big movie star... sheesh). Rounding out the extras: the theatrical trailer; a collection of rare stills, posters, and other ephemera; and even a collectible poster folded up in the DVD case.

What a cool movie. You've got Steve McQueen giving an enthusiastic, likable performance (though nobody will ever buy him as a teenager), pacing that keeps things moving along very nicely, and that big blob of red-colored goo wobbling around and consuming people ("I don't know what it is, but it's swallowed the old man completely!"). The blob even invades a midnight horror movie and sends hordes of teenagers screaming into the night. How cool is that?

Suggestion: Make The Blob the top half of a double bill with Fiend Without a Face (also available on DVD from Criterion). Fiend Without a Face starts out slow but builds to a terrific climax, while The Blob is fast and fun all the way through. I can think of far less enjoyable ways to spend an evening.

Review published 07.16.2001.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

IMDb | buy it at Amazon.com

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