There comes time when all Horror fans or Sci-Fi B-Movie fans discover The Blob (1958). It’s disarming opening theme song by Burt Bacharach and Mack David makes us think that any true danger is far away. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. What is so surprising is how discriminating the film is and how it uses that to its advantage. The Blob is classic piece of cinema with a message and characters that will forever endure. That alone is why Criterion Collection selected it for its 91st film (Spine# 91). In Criterion’s incessant need to update their library, The Blob has just been given a Blu-ray release.
The plot of The Blob has been done to death since it oozed its way into cinemas. Teenagers discover an unknown object, they try and warn the authorities, and, of course, no one listens to them. In 1958 teenagers were often seen as juvenile delinquents, thanks, in part, to James Dean in Rebel Without Cause (1955). Kay Linaker’s and Theodore Simonson’s script paints them in a different light right from the get-go. They aren’t troubled of disillusioned. In fact, the teenagers in this film are portrayed as good, wholesome American kids. Sure, they like to race their cars, but no one plays for “pinks” or races to the bluffs. It is that contrast that makes The Blob so refreshing. Here, a young Steve McQueen plays Steve Andrews who witnesses the impossible. Steve and his date, Jane Martin (Aneta Corsaut) do the right thing at every turn. It is their age that people are discriminating against. Steve and a few of the other teenagers in the film have had some run ins with the law before, but, again, nothing serious. It is their wholesome good nature that saves the day and even the world.
This is not Steve McQueen’s best role, though it is one of his first. McQueen delivers several of his non-hysterical lines as if he rehearsed them over and over again. It is when the leading man and hero emerges that McQueen becomes the star we all now know he will be. “The Teenagers” are not very strong, either. Each scene plays out like a high school play, which isn’t surprising as many of the actors in the film were locals. The dialogue is funny when it doesn’t need to be and the situations lead themselves to comedic moments, as well. The Fire Chief alone may deliver the biggest laugh of all for simply pointing out the obvious. Yet, when the true star emerges, the Blob, the film delivers the B-Movie spectacle that so many films try to emulate. There is a quaintness and simplicity that has endured for over fifty years. The Blob may not be the greatest film of all time, but it has earned a spot in our collective hearts.
The Blu-ray Experience:
Criterion Collection released The Blob on DVD back in 2000. There was an assortment of commentaries and the “Blobabilia!” highlighting the making of the film. Here we are thirteen years later and there are no new special features. One could easily argue that there simply are no new special features for a film that is 55 years old. I have to call shenanigans on Criterion Collection. In the town of Phoenixville Pennsylvania, The Colonial Theatre celebrates The Blob every year with “Blob Fest”. To most, this is just a simple home town fair and a weekend of Blob screenings, but, in 2008, things were a little different. For the 50th anniversary of the film, The Colonial Theatre brought fourth surviving cast and crew members to discuss their experiences on the film. Criterion was not present, nor did they acquire any of the footage from the Q&A. How do I know this? Well, I was there. If the likes of Monster Mania can assemble the cast from The Monster Squad and that footage makes it onto the DVD and Blu-ray, then Criterion Collection can at least mention The Blob’s enduring appeal in the place that spawned it. This might be the only time that Criterion Collection has let me down on one of its Blu-rays and DVDs.
One a better note, the transfer is all that should be. Despite the film being incredibly dated by the clothes, cars, and film stock, The Blob glistens in 1080p. It is almost creepy to see loose strains of hair free standing off of Steve McQueen’s head. Jane Martin’s eyes truly are a bright blue sky and the one that McQueen is fighting for. The Blob, itself, glistens in the darkness and is completely translucent when it needs to be. It even appears to have a heartbeat with its blood red surface. Where Criterion fell short on new special features, it delivered in a transfer that should last another 50 years.
New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
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
Blobabilia!, a gallery of collector Wes Shank’s rare trove of stills, posters, props (including the blob itself!), and other ephemera
PLUS: An essay by critic Kim Newman
Fan of The Blob? Check out Mania’s Review of the Soundtrack here on Mania.com.
Our weekly Shock-O-Rama column also did a piece on “Blob Fest” here. Check out this great weekend which celebrates a B-Movie Classic.