The Blob is timeless 50's the tale of two "teenagers" out for a smooching session in a styling blue 1953 Plymouth Cranbrook. Steve McQueen (billed as "Steven McQueen" here) is just about to clear the hurtles of Jane's (Aneta Corsaut) inhibitions when a meteorite comes crashing down in their vicinity. Good thing too, since McQueen was 27 at the time of shooting; well outside the range for acceptable teenage necking. They decide to investigate, but an old timer reaches the site first. With a character name like "Old Man" (former silent film actor Olin Howard in his final role) you just know he's going to make a huge mistake. Not wanting to disappoint, he decides the best course of action is to poke the gooey center of a crashed space rock with a nearby stick. Any gal with a semblance of dignity objects to that sort of treatment, and so does our monster, latching itself onto our bumbling fellow's hand.
As it presumably hurts quite a bit when a gelatinous fiend dissolves your hand, Old Man runs screaming into the road and is almost creamed by Steve and Jane. As good 50's kids, they rush him to see the town doctor, who calls in his nurse to assist and tasks our heroes with returning to the scene to find the coot's family. This is where The Blob diverts course and serves up several slices of small town teenage shenanigans of the bobbie sox variety. Steve and Jane are challenged to a drag race by pushy, but quite friendly, local goons; they're scolded by the amiable town cop who doesn't want to take them in; they're invited to a midnight movie spooky show at the "healthfully air conditioned" Colonial Theatre; they even decide to take in the old man's dog for the time being.
Filmed in and around Chester County, Pennsylvania for an estimated budget of around $110,000 this was to be the B picture portion of a double bill with I Married a Monster from Outer Space. Early test audiences were apparently so enamored with The Blob that the billing was flip flopped (and you've likely never heard of Gene Fowler Jr. directed tale of a transforming monster husband). Steve McQueen, still not the well known star, reportedly took between $2,500 and $3,000 for this film over a much smaller upfront sum with 10% of the film's gross. He needed to pay bills right away and likely didn't expect a film called The Blob to gross $4 million dollars. That's some expensive $400,000 egg on his face, but he'd be breaking big onto the scene not too long afterward anyway (and we got a cool factoid out of it!).
The Blob itself is made of silicon and was originally clear. As it digested more Downingtown denizens red vegetable dye was added, leading to the dark pink consistency which we all know and love. Today it's kept in its original five gallon metal canister by caretaker Wes Shank, who lovingly shares it with convention goers and Blobfest attendees. Interestingly, in it's room temperature form, the Blob is rigidly solid. On set, it needed to be warmed and heated so it could appear supple and move on camera.
The original The Blob remains a celebrated classic, embodying many nostalgic ideas: the 50's, classic science fiction, teenage hijinks, unbelieving adults, unstoppable monsters and unapologetic Americana. I absolutely love this movie and can't wait for Blobfest 2012 (July 13th, 14th and 15th). Blobfest is a weekend of horror hosts, costume contests and macabre mania; and it's all based in Phoenixville, PA. Look forward to plenty of pictures and a full recap of that event right here on Mania.
And if you simply can't get enough horror happenings here on Mania, might I humbly suggest checking out Tuesday Terrors? It's got all the shocking news to keep you current (and possibly help you survive until the credits roll).
Chuck Francisco is a columnist for Mania writing Saturday Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a horror co-host of two monthly film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA (home of 1958's 'The Blob'): First Friday Fright Nights and Colonial Cult Cinema.You can delve further into his love of all things weird and campy on his blog, The Midnight Cheese or hear him occasionally guesting on eminent podcast You've Got Geek.