' ' Cinema Romantico: Friday's Old Fashioned: The Blob

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday's Old Fashioned: The Blob

Dreadful effects. Shoddy sets. Porous acting. It must be "The Blob" all right, that supposed classic of campy 50's cinema (1958 to be exact) about an amoeba-like alien that crash lands in rural Pennsylvania and, as it must, terrorizes a small town. Well, sort of terrorizes it. I had never seen the film as directed by Irvin Yeaworth and not until after did I realize its "auteur", according to ever-reliable Wikipedia, "directed more than 400 films for motivational, educational, and religious purposes." This shows. "The Blob" really doesn't blob it up all that much and the film itself isn't all that.........fun.

Steve (Steve McQueen) and Jane (Aneta Corsaut) are out - to use the parlance of the times - parking when a meteor streaks through the sky. They drive off to investigate and happen upon an old man running across the road with the gelatinous blob attached to his hand. They immediately take him to the town doctor who orders Steve back to the crash site to see if anyone saw what happened to the old man. But while Steve is away The Blob grows in size and swallows up both the doctor and his nurse and Steve returns just in time to see it. He tells his story to the disbelieving cops (Earl Rowe and John Benson) who calls the parents of Steve and Jane in to take their kids home. Not to be thwarted, Steve and Jane sneak out, team up with their pals and head off to warn their fellow citizens. Eventually it is The Blob vs. The Town.

I was under the strict impression this was of the, as they say, So Bad It's Good variety. But it's not So Bad It's Good. Not even close. It's just Bad. Bad-Bad. It's not Overtly or In-Your-Face Bad, which might have made it enjoyable, it's just sort of Summer Night, Leisurely Stroll Bad. It's completely indifferent to all it's non-goodness. It wreaks of a director who's churned out, well, over 400 films and is just slapping together another one on the assembly line. The acting isn't terrible, per se, it's just boringly wooden. The only moment in its entire truncated running time when it rises to the level of genuine So Bad It's Good entertainment is in the aforementioned scene when The Blob takes out the doctor and the nurse. Kudos to Steven Chase (Doctor Hallen) and especially to Lee Payton (Kate the Nurse) for taking it up a notch. Unquestionably the finest line reading of the whole film is Payton's: "Doctor, I'm frightened." This scene is majestic is in its kitsch. IMDB tells me Payton never acted before or after so perhaps this was Payton's one shot at a career and she went for it. She failed, sure, but her claim to fame is indelible.

Also curious is the film's presentation of its teens. McQueen, of course, would go on to become the so-called King of Cool, the anti-hero of anti-heroes, Frank Bullitt and Virgil Hilts, yet in "The Blob" he's all gee-whiz and aw-shucks. Sure, there's a scene where he drag races but, heck, the law doesn't even lock him up. He gets let off with a warning. And the vagrants against whom he races don't even turn out to be vagrants at all. They're his friends! They help distribute warnings about The Blob! And look at how his dad doesn't even question his son when he gets called down to the police station! "You saw a monster? Well, sure you did. No doubt at all. What a good boy." Can't he even ground him?! WHAT'S GOING ON?! DOESN'T ANYONE PLAY BY THEIR OWN RULES IN THIS TOWN?! Of course, if your "auteur" specifically made motivational, educational, and religious movies it all makes sense.

"The Blob" can only be defeated by a bunch of longhairs. Man, is this movie from Squaresville.

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