So here we go, trying this once again. In 1958, movie audiences were treated to a new kind of movie monster. Instead of a werewolf or vampire or creature made from pieces of dead men, The Blob featured a giant glob of alien goo.
The movie begins with a peppy, preppy song about a blob that “creeps and leaps and glides and slides.” The music for the title tune was composed by Burt Bacharach, and it makes you think you’re in for a tongue-in-cheek spoof, which is not at all the tone of the movie that follows.
Then we meet young teenage lovers (or perhaps at this point, they’re just “likers”) Steve Andrews and Jane Martin, played by Steve McQueen and Aneta Corsaut. At the time the movie was made, McQueen was a starving actor who did the feature for just $3000. But the year it was released, McQueen became a household name when he landed the lead in his own TV series, the Western Wanted: Dead or Alive.
Steve and Jane see a meteor crash to Earth not far away and go to investigate. But they are beaten to the punch by some old dude who lives in a cabin in the woods. He investigates the mysterious meteor, which breaks open, revealing a mysterious goo inside.
The stuff envelops the man’s hand, causing instant agony. He stumbles out to the road, where he runs into Steve and Jane (almost literally). They rush the guy out to the doctor’s office. While Steve and Jane and a few other teenage delinquents head out to the woods to try to find the origin of the mysterious goo, the doctor calls in his nurse to assist him in amputating the old man’s arm, because the stuff has resisted any attempt to remove it and it is growing.
By the time the nurse gets there, however, the old man is gone and in his place is this: a giant blob that can move of its own volition and seeks out living people to absorb.
For a low-budget movie made in the 50’s, the effects are well done. The odd yellow discoloration in the screengrab above is from acid that the nurse has thrown on the thing, which is quickly absorbed. As the blob continues to devour people, it grows larger and redder. And there is no way to escape it. The doctor locks himself in his office after the thing eats his nurse, only to have it squeeze through the crack under the door and envelop him in front of a horrified Steve (who has returned just in time to see the doctor’s demise through the window).
The rest of the movie features Steve and Jane trying (and mostly failing) to convince people of the danger the blob represents as it moves from building to building, quietly devouring everyone in its path. In many ways, the script is typical of 50’s teen exploitation movies, especially frustrating for Steve’s complete lack of communication skills whenever he tries to tell people what’s happening. You just want to reach through the screen, grab him by the lapels and shake him while shouting, “Use your words, Steve!”
But there are some nice touches to writing as well. There is real subtlety and tension in the way the script depicts the growing danger through off-hand mentions of bars and mechanic shops that are mysteriously deserted. The script is also surprisingly good at giving dimension to the characters. The young delinquents who hassle Steve in the beginning turn to be surprisingly civic-minded once the danger presents itself, while the strict by-the-book cop who hassles them all and dismisses Steve’s concerns turns out to be a war hero who’s still dealing with the horrors he experienced over there.
Finally, the monster emerges into pubic view in, of all places, a movie theater (which is “healthfully air conditioned”).
Steve and Jane end up trapped in a diner that has been enveloped by the blob as the rest of the town rallies to freeze the thing with CO2 fire extinguishers, apparently heedless of the ecological disaster they bringing down upon all our heads. Once the thing is frozen, they have the military airlift it to the Arctic Circle, where it will hopefully stay frozen forever, or you know, eat the few polar bears left alive after that fire extinguisher debacle.