Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blobaliciousness: “The Blob” & I

Be careful of the blob
Beware of the blob/
it creeps/and leaps/and slides and glides across the floor/
and through/
the door and all around the wall
a splotch a glotch
Be careful of the blob
Beware of the blob/
it creeps/and leaps/and slides and glides across the floor/
and through/
the door and all around the wall
a splotch a glotch

That was Burt Bacharach’s first professional sale, and it’s the theme song to the 1958 movie, The Blob.

As part of The Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear’s utterly mind-roasting, blast-from-the-past Monster Movie Blogathon,
The United Provinices of Ivanlandia is taking a look at
1958’s The Blob,
a flick that’s not really too good, but that IS a classic piece of American pop culture—a picture that when I screened it specifically for this blogathon, I found it annoying the shit out of me—but one that is the first film to ever scare the shit out of me—
but also a flick that has a theme song SO GOOD, that it was the song my wife and I did our “first dance” to at our wedding. (Just ask Otto Mannix or Toestubber—they were there).

This isn’t a “blogathon”—it’s a BLOBathon! Bwah-hah-hah-hah!

Unlike other genre films from that era that survive and are remembered because they actually have merit (like Them! or Gojira or, my fave, Attack of the Crab Monsters),
The Blob (inspired by the Sherwin-Williams logo (“cover the world”)) is remembered, I think, more out of nostalgia—or MST3K hijinks for newcomers to the movie.

The three factors that have made The Blob a kult kamp klassik are:
Steve McQueen and his subsequent stardom
The theme song (VERY important)
and a cool monster shot in Technicolor—a bright red weird blob. (Getting absorbed—that freaks me out!)

If you’re unfamiliar with the plot of The Blob—I’m shocked, shocked!—but there are good synopsi HERE and HERE.

Let’s start with the song: “The Blob” by The Five Blobs.

More than young Steve(n) McQueen or that majestic red goop, it’s the song.
If The Blob didn’t have the song “The Blob” under its opening credits, the flick would not be more than a footnote, perhaps fondly remembered like Kronos or The Deadly Mantis or The Monolith Monsters (a flick I like—another movie about a monster with no “personality”), but only by a dedicated few.
If it wasn’t for the song, The Blob wouldn’t be a Criterion DVD!

The song sets a mood and tone—it’s an unrelenting ditty, impossible to get out of your head—who doesn’t love calypso?—
but peppy and poppy enough—are those bongos?—that it is absolutely an upbeat number…
about the complete inevitability of death! The Blob can get you ANYWHERE!

Sometimes the studios know what they’re doing: The song was imposed on the film by Paramount Pictures after it picked up the movie for distribution.

“That tune…helped make the show,” said director Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr. “It wouldn’t have made it without that music.”

Bart Sloane did the animated titles as well as the film’s other effects, and while he did not design the series of outwardly radiating blob-like ovals for the lovely pop ditty, the animation really goes well with the song—a fascinating contrast that synthesizes into something goofy, but chilling.

(This shot of the doctor’s house looks incredible in the theater, especially if it’s a clean print—the clouds are pulsing very ominously, courtesy of Bart Sloane’s animation.)

In the reality of the film, the blob is just a hitchhiker on that shooting star, going “anywhere.”
But look at that meteor: it’s hollow, and the clear, pre-human-absorbtion “splotch a glotch” is nestled right in the center of the fallen satellite, like a yolk—as if it was planned that way.
The blob isn’t a stowaway, it’s the passenger!

While it never comes into play in the film itself, I like to think that the blob was sent to Earth on purpose, to clean out this place form some alien force. (Who needs spaceships like in that dumb Battle: Los Angeles?)

Or even better, the blob is itself the alien on a specific mission of conquest—thwarted by some damn meddling teens!

If the blob is on a specific mission, it becomes a more interesting monster (more interesting to me, perhaps)—
it is no longer some dumb hungry beast—
or a natural phenomena gone wild in a new environment (like The Monolith Monsters or the Ymir from 20 Million Miles to Earth)—
the blob becomes an intelligence we cannot even begin to understand—something much more alien than the variety of UFO-flying extraterrestrial bipeds that routinely showed up to conquer around that time.

With a malevolent intelligence at work, the blob becomes more Cthuhlu-like. Something beyond space and time…
As is, it’s still a Shoggoth. And you know how nasty those things are….

(Hollywood aliens of the “malevolent intelligence” variety rarely deviate from the two arms, two legs format, it seems—let me know if I’m missing something—
Even as weird as the Martians from George Pal’s The War of the Worlds were, they still had two arms and legs.)

These Lovecraft-esque themes could be better read in (or superimposed) over The Blob if the flick wasn’t so padded with dull, pointless “teen” hijinx and cornball hot-roddin’ “juvenile delinquent” shenanigans.
The Blob is a flick that would have benefitted from a shorter running time, like 45 minutes to one hour—
Or, those scenes would have been helped by more “coverage,” tighter editing and some decent dialog.

Even at 88 minutes, sometimes The Blob just drags.

If memory serves, The Blob was often shown on WABC-TV’s The 4:30 Movie, and by cutting out all the extraneous junk for Shop-Rite commercials (and to squeeze a flick into the 90-minute timeslot), NYC Channel 7 was doing the viewer a favor.
(That’s a young Ivan, patrolling the forests of Ivanlandia for blobs—note the ray-gun)

But the first time I saw The Blob was on WOR-TV Channel 9
It was probably 1971 or 1972—
my mom had to work late, so my stepdad picked me up from kindergarten. We got home; he turned on the TV for the 4 o’clock movie.
Neither of my parental units were big proponent of the electronic babysitter, but THE BLOB was on: Pop wanted to watch it—
He was into all kinds of crazy shitr and cool junk—and turned me onto a whole mess of counter- and trash-culture.
I had no idea this movie existed, but he felt I would be good for me. So we watched the movie—I was already a fan of spaceships, monster, comic books and dinosaurs, so why not? What could go worng?

It was frightening because the Blob ate you clothes and all! It absorbed you! There was nothing left, like you were never there.
Like maybe you were never born!

And what the hell was it? It was just a…blob…that kept growing and growing

At some point after the movie, I went to bed—
before mom got home from work.

But that night I woke up terrified:
Every shadow on the wall was…the Blob.

And that song! It was stuck in my head! So seductive and cheerful…but so malevolent in its relentlessness!

I heard voices in the kitchen, got out of bed and tiptoed out of my room.

The apartment was one of those giant pre-war apartments off Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn.
The place was big and dark.

But at the end of the hall I could see the lighted kitchen doorway, and I could hear mom.
But what’s that shadow on the table?

I screamed and screamed, having a full-on freakout meltdown.

The lights go on, and
I see that the blob is actually one of those long balloons, three or four foot long, and squiggly with psychedelic paint.
It was one of those balloons that you buy from the vendor standing on the traffic islands.
You’d see them by the Holland Tunnel or on Houston Street, and my mom had picked one of these big weird balloons for me, as a gift.
Because she was working late.

Meta-movie sidebar

The blob’s first victim is The Old Man from the (forced perspective) cabin in the woods.
He’s played by veteran character actor Olin Howland, who was also in Them!
In that, he was the dipso bum in the drunk tank who’s seen the big bugs and cackles at the army dudes: “Make me a sergeant, charge the booze! Make me a sergeant, charge the booze!”
(A phrase my stepdad loved!)

So the old drunk survives the giant ants of Los Angeles, and moves to the woods of Pennsylvania to get sober—no more hobo’ing around for him anymore! No more boozing it up on cheap sterno (like that old alkie bum in The Andromeda Strainahhhhh, another unique invader from space movie—and highly recommmended!)

Because he’s sober, he’s not in a drunken haze—and Olin notices the meteor falling.
Then he gets eaten for his troubles.

But despite any gripes against the film itself that I might have, it’s damn wonderful that The Blob has inspired the almost pagan civic celebration of The Blobfest
In Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, where the Colonial Theatre (the movie theater the blob attacks and oozes out of) still stands, still “Healthfully Air Conditioned,”
the town celebrates the film, an era and a state of mind—

And the creation of the film The Blob reinforces its Pop Culture Americana status—a truly independent picture, made far away from Hollywood—a “Hey guys, let’s put on a show” situation—off in Central Pennsylvania
[For a monstro-in-depth look at the production of The Blob, visit the always incredible Cinemafantastique]

Driving to the 2011 Blobfest, and passing by towns like Monroeville, you cannot help but think of George Romero, and wonder if there’s something in the water in the Keystone State… “The pure products of America…”

We only spent one afternoon at the Blobfest, and a lot (most) of that time was spent in various drinking establishments—but watch out Blobfest 2012: prepare to be invaded by Ivanlandia!!!


  1. Splendid! I loved the personal touch, and I just love how much cult this movie has, the Blobfest sounds like the time of a lifetime. The movie itself, I'd agree, is not a masterpiece, but I feel its entertaining in its start and end, some 20 minutes of the middle I'd extract, but still those feel like a universe, as if the town itself existed beyond the movie screen, some looks and dialogue hint at a bigger scope given to all the characters. The chess game is a giveaway in that direction.

  2. The Blob is one of my very first movie memories, one of the first movies I fell in love with, thanks to a screening by Philadelphia's own Dr. Shock on UHF channel 17. Phoenixville is in my neck of the woods, but I've never been to Blobfest. Sad oversight; thank you for reminding me of it. I'm glad to see some Monolith Monster love as well. That's another favorite, another UHF days holdover. Oh, as for monsters that don't fit the two arms and two legs mold: don't forget The Creeping Terror. That's another fun one. Nice nostalgia piece Ivan, great post.

  3. Haven't even finished reading it, but so far so GREAT. I love that movie. It does kind of suck, but somehow that weird translucent, slippery surface of the BLOB is creepy even today. One of the best characters in a movie: BLOB. (great pic of the dictator with the ray gun)

  4. I have only ever heard of The Blob, but now I must watch it! It had Steve McQueen in it? Holy hell I must watch it.

  5. Awesome review. I loved the Blob when I first saw it (on TV in the 70s). If you think about it there are some Lovecraftian elements to this tale. Inhuman thing from outerspace. It many ways it also the prototypical 50s monster movie that isn't about a giant monster. Well at least not till the end.
    I always kept hoping for a sequel (or rather a proper one) thanks to that ending "The End?"

    Great review.

  6. From another New Yorker who also remembers watching monster movies on Channel 9, thank you for this.

  7. I really got a kick out of your relationship to "The Blob".

    Love, love, love that song. Sing it all the time. My daughter yells "Mama, no. Just stop. Stop it now." So, of course, I don't.

  8. Like that pic showing a marquee where 'Daughter of Horror' and 'Bela Lugosi' are playing the midnight spook show - as if Bela is a movie all unto himself. Great post, love the Lovecraft references - as you note, the Blob may be the freakiest monster of all because it ABSORBS - ugh!

  9. Call me crazy, but I prefer the theme song for The Green Slime. However, I'm not quite sure blobs of matter deserve their own theme music. Where's my theme music? I'm fully formed and anthropomorphic! :P

    Call me even crazier, but I much prefer the remake of The Blob (1988), although keep in mind that this was The Blob movie of my youth. It's certainly much faster paced. If forced at gun point to decide, I might rank The Blob remake as the best remake ever, with the caveats that it has to be similar to the original, and excluding examples where they were just readapting a book (for example, The Fly is completely different from the original, and The Thing is another adaptation of the short story). However, I wonder why someone would stick a gun to my head and ask me that sort of question. That's seems really unlikely. I usually just get "GIVE ME YOUR WALLET ASSHOLE!"

  10. Great review! I actually saw the Blob for the first time at this year's Blobfest! Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it on Saturday when most of the festivities were held. Still, it was an awesome experience to see this in the theater when it was filmed and with a great crowd!

  11. So many wonderful memories of watching The Blob on WOWK-TV's Chiller Theater...I wish the film still held up today, but as a kid I thought it was the best thing ever--and even then, my couch potato was developing because I recognized Steve McQueen's girlfriend as the main squeeze of Sheriff Andy Taylor. The theme song -- can't get it out of my head. Fun review!

  12. Why didn't you let me know that you were going to Blobfest 2011? I literally live less than an hour away from there!

    Anyway...phenomenal review! Once again you have proven yourself to be a king among bloggers with your insightful and amazingly entertaining reviews! This is turning into one hell of a bloga...excuse me...BLOBathon!

  13. Thanks to everyone for your kind and enthusiastic comments: I’m glad I got to stir up all sorts of memories with readers (especially since this blogpost was written during an unbelievably TENSE period here in Ivanlandia, and we thought we might actually miss the deadline)!

    So it looks like we’re going to have a blogger invasion at Blobfest 2012; I know *I’m* gonna be there: Watch out, Phoenixville, here we come!

    Thomas Duke: You’re not crazy, you’re KEE-RAY-ZEE. Now give me your wallet! (BTW, the theme to The Green Slime *is* great; and when I saw the remake of The Blob when it was released, it scared the crap out of me.)

    Caftan Woman: Don’t ever stop singing!

    Rich: I miss the old WOR-TV, as well as the old WPIX and WNEW. Sigh….
    Nflix streaming is the closest contemporary example of the volume of odd, obscure and crappy flicks that these stations used to broadcast regularly.


  14. This was such a fun review. It strolls along comfortably, absorbing many different topics, it's just like the Blob itself. The Blob's one of those movie monsters I can't help but feel fond of, just a little. It may not be one of the world's great thinkers, but it's got style, dammit. And a great theme song.

  15. I'm glad to know there's someone else out there who loves the "Make me a sergeant..." tune from THEM! I wish there were a tribute CD to that song (seriously!). Nice post!

  16. A truly fun post, Ivan. I'd forgotten the little song. (I know, I know, how could I?) but thanks to your post it is now bobbing forever in my brain. :)

    Ah, memories.

  17. Oh Rachel, are you going to yet another gal the blob rolls all over? Sigh... BTW, I liked your Night of the Demon review (home computer weirdness prevents leaving comments at some sites...)--in the big monster's defense: seeing the flick in the theater makes a big difference I think--I'll admit I was a kid when I saw it in a cinema, but it was scary (to a kid). And since then, I've always been fond of the big ugly fella.

    Doug: Okay, we need to get people in bars to start singing this!

    Yvette: don't you mean "blobbing forever"?

    Thanks for your comments!

  18. I love the story of your first time seeing the movie. You were so young! Did you really dance to the theme at your wedding? That is so cool.

  19. Thanks KC--yep, the Missus and I did our first box-step/cha-cha-cha to the lovely sounds of The Five Blobs. Sorry, it'll never go up on YouTube or Vimeo, though...