Sunday, 25 March 2018

THE LEIGH SPENCE MOMENT: THE BLOB (1958)


64. “Hey, I thought you cats didn’t dig spooky shows.”



25/03/2018



To break from the tendency to rely on Netflix as the replacement for Blockbuster Video, I signed up to a further on-demand service the day after it began operating in the UK. Filmstruck, a service operated by Turner Classic Movies that concentrates on the more classical and arthouse end of cinema, teamed up with the British cinema chain Curzon, who also operate the Artificial Eye range of arthouse and foreign DVD and blu-ray releases, which now sit alongside Filmstruck’s online selection of titles from The Criterion Collection. It’s a welcome addition, and a welcome change, but be aware that films are available to view for shorter periods than on Netflix.

The surprise at finding “The Blob” as part of The Criterion Collection was my reason for its becoming my first film to watch on Filmstruck Curzon, and it is definitely a film now viewed entirely as a historical document – the teenager-led drama, the movie monster, the Communist scare overtones (discredited by “The Blob’s” screenwriter, but prevalent in other science fiction films of the time, like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”), the first starring role for Steve McQueen, and the pop theme song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s brother Mack: “Beware of the blob, it creeps and leaps and glides and slides…”

Some scenes feel like those you would find later in the various sequels to “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween”: scenes of everyday life being invaded, promising only death, except the villain is an amorphous, gelatinous blob that becomes redder with each absorbed victim, achieved by progressively adding red vegetable dye to beef gelatine.


However, the later films exist in a time where the patrician authority of the adult – seen in “The Blob” through the police and parents – has been thoroughly criticised and punctured. However, in 1958, that criticism was still only just beginning – Steve (for McQueen’s character is also called Steve) and the other teenagers are seen as only being up to no good, with one police officer shown as believing the teenagers are out to get him personally, and so disparages them, despite having no evidence on which to base his actions. Thankfully, the officer’s superior is more open, because that is doing his job – and the blob is eventually dealt with because the more open teenagers are the ones that noticed how to defeat it, and where to get the required resources – I am just trying not to give away spoilers at this point.

“The Blob” shows good American citizenship and co-operation, while also being a film for teenagers that adults could also watch. It is a film that cost only $110,000 to make, ten thousand dollars under its original budget, it took $4 million at the American box office – Steve McQueen thought it would fail, so was paid a total of $3,000 instead of the ten percent of the profits he had been offered.

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