Monday, 28 September 2015

The Blob (1958)

First impressions for this movie are somewhat mixed to be honest, I mean seriously, what the hell is going on with that opening credits song? Great balls of ectoplasm...its like a flippin' jingle! you start to wonder if you're about to watch some kind of Disney flick about a friendly blob of jelly. The studio group that sung the tune was also called The Five Blobs, I'm not lying!

The plot is simple enough, the basic premise kinda being used over and over during this era. A single lonely meteor crash lands in a sleepy rural all-American town. A local man goes in for a closer inspection and ends up with his hand encased by some sentient pink goo. Eventually he is picked up by the young Steve (played by...errr Steve McQueen) and taken to the local doc. It is there that the pink goo starts to absorb people one by one, growing in mass and power. Of course no one believes Steve and his wild tales of a monster on the loose, but soon enough, after some persuasion, the townsfolk are greeted by the horrific truth.

Fun fact, the blob actually starts off grey in colour and only turns red when it starts to absorb humans, yummy! Although the blob is not in the least bit scary, it is a well crafted creature considering it is just a blob of red goo. The blob was actually a small ball of silicone that had been injected with a dye to give it its red colour. Apparently effects wizard Bart Sloane used incredibly simply techniques such as miniature sets to give the creature a sense of size, and a special gimble device to help give the creature the appearance of movement within the tiny set models. So basically at times they were just making a small, slow moving puddle, or ball, of silicone run/dribble/ooze to one side to achieve a sense of movement, almost like a thick droplet of syrup. Hanging the silicone upside down would give the effect of it rising up ready to consume its prey (remember the silicone was a very thick, slow moving, molten glass-like substance).

You can easily tell that for most of the blobs more dynamic movements, the silicone has been squeezed, pushed or blown through tight openings such as gaps under doors or vents. Then when the blob is required to retreat or change direction, the footage has been reversed giving the appearance that the goo is slipping backwards under a door or whatever. Simple yet very effective. Other more elaborate shots such as the blob attacking a diner were actually part cel animation along with rotoscoping, and the use of a black and white photo! It is impressive but an obvious effect, think of the Id monster in 'Forbidden Planet'. Amazingly there was no rear projection in the film (apparently), any shots of an actor with the blob were usually utilising clever props or just real blobs of silicone.

What is highly amusing (for me at least) is the fact that Steve McQueen is suppose to be a teenager in this movie. At the time McQueen was 27, yet he looked about 37 if you ask me. It really is quite funny to see McQueen acting like some naughty 18 year old kid sneaking out of his parents house, talking to other adults as if he were a child, and getting scolded by adults as if he were a child. The whole thing just doesn't work at all, it doesn't help that his sweetheart and other teen friends all look like they're in their mid 30's also. Plus at the start we spend ages getting involved in some pointless wishy-washy street racing sequence, seriously it goes on for like...ten minutes, and is completely pathetic. I suppose its to show McQueen's character as a bit of a bad boy that no one trusts, but its so lame. Love how all the teens are so smartly dressed too, its like watching your parents trying to be hip, meh...different era.

This naturally leads into the crux of the movie which is the teens trying their best to convince everyone (the adults) that a monster is killing people. Of course no one believes the pesky teens because they're all so untrustworthy and pesky, racing their highly colourful respectable cars at slightly dangerous speeds and being all polite n everything, damn pesky polite teens. Alas most of the runtime is taken up with us watching these teens trying to convince people, you don't really get much absorbing action from the blob, and when you do there isn't much to see.

Of course it turns out those pesky teens weren't lying (to the annoyance of one bitter cop), and its up to everyone in the town to try and stop the thing before it gets any bigger. Honesty, the finale is reasonable tense as a small group of heroes get trapped within the diner with the blob slowly devouring it. Its a fun ending with some neat but cheesy effects, but you're never overly concerned of course because the trapped characters are McQueen, his bird and some kid, no way anyone's gonna get absorbed here. Would a bunch of fire extinguishers be able to freeze an alien entity? would fire extinguishers be able to freeze anything? errr...just go with it.

Like most other horror flicks of this era, they don't scare anymore, they are laughably corny. The hammy acting, the middle aged teen characters, the fact the badass teens are so charming and polite, the fact you always get a mushy score playing over serious dialog revolving around anything serious (or anything) etc...The film looks lovely that's for sure, the effects are cool and the alien monster is great fun, I just wish we got a bit more of it. A primal killing machine, it can't be bargained with, it can't be reasoned with, it doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or...wait a minute.