“The Blob” was one of those creature features of the 1950s that gave B-movies a good name. It’s not good, the special effects are dated, but if you like thick slices of cheese on your cinematic entrées, this 1958 science fiction/horror flick is well-worth watching.
On the plus side, “The Blob” features a young (but not that young) Steve McQueen as a teenager. McQueen was 27 and it was his first lead role.
Released by Paramount Pictures as part of a double feature (with “I Married a Monster from Outer Space”), “The Blob” takes place in a small rural town in Pennsylvania during July of 1957. Our teen hero Steve Andrews (McQueen) is making out with his girl, Jane Martin (Aneta Corsaut) on lovers’ lane when they see a meteor crash. They aren’t the only witnesses. An elderly man (Olin Howland) goes to investigate, poking the steaming meteor with a stick. The meteor opens and the titular blob oozes on to his hand.
Unable to get it off, the old man panics and runs out into the street where he is found by the young lovers who were driving toward the meteor crash site and who then take him to the local doctor, Dr. Hallen (Stephen Chase). Instead of calling the police or the local mad scientist, Hallen sends the couple back to investigate the meteor. While the couple is gone, Hallen decides he must amputate the man’s arm, but before he can the Blob grows and engulfs, the old man, Hallen’s nurse (What is she doing there that late?), and the doctor.
Steve and Jane return in time to witness the Blob’s medical meal and finally go to the police. But when they return to the house with Lt. Dave (Earl Rowe) and Sergeant Bert (John Benson), the Blob is gone and apparently doesn’t even leave a slug-like slime trail to follow. The police think Steve and Jane were just pulling a prank. In today’s world, the police might suspect the young lovers were taking drugs, but this is pre-psychedelic sixties.
Steve contacts his friends at the Colonial Theater (this is important) which is having a midnight showing of “Daughter of Horror.” They believe him and try to warn others. But the Blob has been busy. It has consumed a mechanic and then gone to a grocery store owned by Steve’s father. There is almost corners the Steve and Jane who have gone into the store to investigate, but Steve and Jane hide in the walk-in freezer. The Blob starts to ooze under the door, but changes its “mind.”
Steve and his gang then set off the emergency alarms, probably meant to warn of Red Forces (Communists) invading, but once assembled, the townspeople don’t believe our hero. The Blob blobs on, reaching the Colonial Theater consumes the projectionist and then some of the audience members.
The townspeople grapple with how to defeat the Blob. Cap guns won’t do it. A shock from a fallen power line doesn’t stop it. Steve realizes that CO2 fire extinguishers and cold cause the Blob to retreat. Armed with fire extinguishers, the town freeze the Blob and ask the Air Force for the ultimate big chill–transporting the Blob to the Arctic. The movie ends with a literal question mark, suggesting that the Blob might return.
That was before global warning became a worry, so one supposed that the Blob will be unleashed again.
The Cast & Crew
Director Irvin S. Yeaworth also did “Dinosaurs!” (1960) but this is likely the highlight of his directing career. Born in Berlin (1926) on Valentine’s Day, he died at age 78 in 2004 in Amman, Jordan.
The uncredited director, Russell S. Doughten Jr. was born in Carlisle, Iowa in 1927 (he died there in 2013) went on to direct other movies such as “Happiness is…”(1975) and “Brother Enemy” (1987).
Steve McQueen went on to star in many other movies, but first he would star in a Western TV series, “Wanted: Dead or Alive” (1958-1961). He played Josh Randall, a Confederate veteran turned bounty hunter with a heart. He often ended up helping those wrongly accused of crimes and helps find missing loved ones.
In 1959, McQueen starred as George Fowler, in “The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery,” the driver who survives a failed bank robbery attempt. Highlights of McQueen’s career include:
- “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” TV series (“Human Interest Story,” 1959, and “Man from the South,” 1960)
- “The Magnificent Seven” (1960)
- “The Great Escape” (1963)
- “The Sand Pebbles” (1966)
- “The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
- “Bullitt” (1968)
- “The Getaway” (1972)
- “The Towering Inferno” (1974)
His leading lady, Aneta Corsaut (1933-1995), is probably best remembered as the woman who played Sheriff Andy Taylor’s girlfriend who later became his wife, Helen Crump (Taylor) during the run of “The Andy Griffith Show (1963-1968) and “Mayberry R.F.D.” (1968-1969) and the TV movie “Return to Mayberry” (1986). She also played Head Nurse Bradley on the TV series “House Calls” and Judge Cynthia Justin on the TV series “Matlock.”
The Old Man, Olin Howland (1886-1959), was a Denver-born actor who had been in the 1939 “Gone with the Wind” as a carpetbagger. In 1958-9, he played Charley Perkins in five episodes of “The Real McCoys,” a TV show that starred Walter Brennan.
A pilot in real life, he played one in the 1957 “The Spirit of St. Louis.” “The Blob” was his last movie. He died at age 73.
Since 2000, a festival has been held, the Blobfest, at Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Activities include re-enactment of the screaming audience fleeing the restored Colonial Theatre.
The 18th annual Blobfest is scheduled for 14-16 July 2017. Tickets go on sale 1 June 2017. “The Blob” can currently be streamed on Amazon Video for $2.99.