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THE BLOB
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Steve McQueen
Director:  Irvin S. Yeaworth
Audio:  PCM Mono
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.66:1
Studio:  Criterion
Features:  See Review
Length:  82 Minutes
Release Date:  March 12, 2013

Film ***1/2 (on the cheese scale)

What can I say?  I love The Blob.  Always have. 

I can still remember being a little kid and seeing it as some Late Show movie on TV.  It didn’t scare me. But I enjoyed it in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on then, nor can I completely do so now.  Whatever the reasons, I guess I’m not alone, as Criterion has seen fit to add The Blob to their impressive growing library of Blu-ray classics…and it gets the same kind of red carpet treatment they give to their bona fide landmark films, too.  More on that further down.

For starters, you’ve got to love the opening…those cheesy pond ripple animated graphics swirling to the swinging tune “Beware of the Blob” (composed by a young Burt Bacharach, no less!), ending with the title of the film rather than beginning with it.  It sets the mood perfectly every time.  Then, of course, we get our first look at Steve McQueen, playing Steve…easy to remember.  He was young, but way too old to be playing a teenager; a point that always gets a lot of laughs with this film.  But look at the proud tradition of films that followed in those footsteps, including Grease!

When Steve is out parking with his girlfriend in his bright blue convertible, a shooting star falls from the sky, and naturally, being teenagers, they have to go investigate.  Meanwhile, the meteor has landed near an old farmhouse, where the farmer goes to check it out and soon wishes he hadn’t:  the rock splits open, and out comes the blob.  He pokes and prods it with a stick, until it ends up painfully on his hand.  He should have listened to the theme song earlier.

Steve takes him to the local doctor, but by the time he gets the old man there, it’s a lot worse.  The blob has spread, and seems to be eating away his flesh.  The doc sends Steve to investigate, which he does, but not before the first of several ‘filler’ scenes that play out as if there were no script:  Steve gets involved in a backwards drag race with some fellow high school kids, then has a lengthy ‘aw shucks’ and ‘gee whiz’ conversation with a local policeman.

In the meantime, back at the doctor’s office, the nurse arrives to help with a possible amputation, but it’s too late…no old man, just a big red blob.  And soon, the hungry goo ball is snacking on the nurse and the good doc…but the latter doesn’t happen until Steve arrives back at the office in time to see it.  Soon, he’s trying to alert the police, his friends, and the whole town about the menace of the blob…but who would believe such a thing?  Not many (including the movie’s audience, I’m guessing, but what the heck).

I mentioned the filler, and there’s a bit more padding the film’s length, which may detract from the quality of the movie, but adds to the goofy charm.  I liked how a scene of rapidly exiting policemen from the station lingers on the final lone guy, playing a game of chess over the phone with a companion…how long can the camera sit on something so insignificant?  Then there’s the obligatory talking scenes between Steve and his girlfriend, and a soliloquy from the ‘bad’ cop about those darn kids, and…well, you get the idea.  Something had to be done to make the film of adequate length…apparently, there just wasn’t a whole lot that could be done with a big blob in those early special effects days.

Still, the scene of the blob emptying out the movie theatre is an indelible image, as is the way it enveloped an entire diner at the end, with the protagonists trapped inside.  And the effects, though primitive, work for the most part, as models and miniatures were used at varying angles to give the impression the blob was moving and oozing its way around and through obstacles.

And, of course, the film was influential enough to inspire a remake some thirty years later…with better production values and grislier effects, but nowhere near as charming as the original.  The blob didn’t need personality.  It was better off as a big, menacing ball of gunk.

Video ***1/2

Criterion has presented the best looking version of The Blob I’ve yet seen, so if you’re holding on to an outdated VHS version or something you’ve taped off TV, you can pitch it in favor of this Blu-ray disc.  The coloring throughout is very bright, but not natural…early examples of coloring by Deluxe always produced that effect.  If I could, I wouldn’t change it…it really adds to the charm of watching a campy 1950’s horror flick…it just has “that” look.  The print is remarkably clean for being over 40 years old…any blemishes or signs of aging, be they a bit of debris or occasional ‘flicker’ to the image, were few and far between.  Having seen the film a number of times in my life, I was really able to just sit back and drink in the effort Criterion put into this transfer, and how improved it was over any previous viewing I had experienced.  There are one or two stretches of film where the colors get a little muted and images aren’t as clear…they might have been just bits of stock footage used in the movie…but still, I’d wager this is as good as it will ever be.  And that’s pretty darn good.

Audio ***

Despite being a 1-channel mono mix, I found the listening experience very enjoyable, starting with Burt Bacharach’s memorable theme song.  There are fair amounts of dynamic range generated by the score and the cues of screaming and panic, and the quieter moments are quite clean and clear, with discernable dialogue and very, very little in the way of bits of background noise. 

Features ***1/2

This is a typically loaded Criterion Blu-ray, boasting not one, but TWO commentary tracks.  The first one I found more interesting, featuring producer Jack H. Harris and film historian Bruce Eder.  The second was a little more subdued, but with good gems as well, featuring director Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr. and ‘teen’ star Robert Fields.  Both were newly recorded for this disc release.  There is also a trailer, and a video collection of memorabilia from the film, including posters, photos, and the original blob in person.  A good package all around.

Summary:

For fans of the original or cheesy sci-fi horror in general, you can’t ask for a much better treat than Criterion’s excellent presentation of The Blob.  Looking better than ever and with a fun package of good extras, this is just the right disc to pop in for that late night simulation of an old drive-in date.  Just remember if you see a falling star drop outside…well, heed the words of the song, will you?  Beware of the blob, already…

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