Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.
Review by Thomas Scalzo
Posted on 11 July 2004
Source The Criterion Collection DVD
Beware of the Blob! Viewing this seminal classic nearly fifty years after its initial release, one may be inclined to imagine that it might well have lost some of its luster. Surely the special effects will have aged poorly; surely the ludicrous plot of a red, oozing protagonist will have grown stale and boring in this age of inventively psychopathic killers and technologically enhanced nemeses. But not so: The Blob endures as one of the most perfect horror films ever created, a timeless example of how to tell a entertaining story.
The key, of course, is simplicity. Whereas innumerable horror films of past and present exude unnecessary energy and time crafting needlessly complicated plots and ridiculously elaborate killers, The Blob sticks with the basics; rowdy teenagers, an adult population that does not believe a word of what those teenagers say, and an antagonistic force to be reckoned with that is purely and simply evil.
To my mind, The Blob is the most perfect of all horror movie adversaries: not a man, not a monster, just a glob of goo. It is nameless, faceless, personality-less, and, seemingly, motivation-less, merely content to consume everything and everyone in its path for all eternity. This makes it at once terrifying and unstoppable, yet humorous and presumably easy to avoid. Of course, if everyone managed to escape, it wouldn’t make for much of a movie.
The story begins when a meteor crash-lands in a forest near a small town, prompting a curious old man to take up his lantern and do some investigating. Finding a steaming rock, he pokes it with a stick whereupon it splits open and reveals a glob of black goo that affixes itself to his hand. The old man understandably freaks out. By the time a romantically thwarted youngster named Steve (Steve McQueen in his breakout role) finds him, the old man is half-crazed. The quick thinking Steve heads over to Doc Hallen’s and the good doctor agrees to take a look at the patient. The Blob’s reign of terror has begun.
After feeding on and dispatching with the old man, the Blob turns blood-red and grows to a size capable of absorbing human beings whole. After ingesting an unfortunate nurse and the well-intentioned doctor, the Blob heads out on the town. Knowing something is terribly wrong, young Steve tries his best to convince everyone that there is a serious threat to their collective safety, a warning summarily ignored by any and all adult figures. Luckily, Steve’s fellow teenagers are easily convinced of the problem and together they manage to stir up enough commotion to convince the chief of police that he’d better do something — and quick.
Despite its rather simplistic special effects, The Blob does a marvelous job creating suspense because it relies on the time-tested technique of portraying people in immediate peril going about their lives assured of their safety. When Steve and his friends attempt to spread the word about the danger, they are laughed at, ignored, or accused of playing tricks. It isn’t until the sheriff of the town announces that there is, indeed, something to worry about, that a true sense of panic consumes the populace. By this time, of course, the Blob has expanded to catastrophic proportions and there is doubt whether it can ever be stopped. It is left to the resourceful Steve and the rest of the town’s mistrusted youth to come up with a way to put an end to the terror.
The Blob was and is the quintessential science fiction/horror movie. A believable, suspenseful, and straightforward story centered on the most innocuous of adversaries, the film paved the way for innumerable imitations (not to mention two sequels) and introduced the world to both Steve McQueen and Burt Bacharach (who co-scored the title theme). But over and above its value as an influential piece of cinematic history, The Blob endures as a timelessly entertaining and well-crafted story, as worthy of praise today as it was nearly five decades ago.