The Blob (1958)

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“Good ‘ol yesterday,” Steve (Steve McQueen) tells Jane in the middle of the night as they consider what it means now that there is a monster in their small town.

See, I think I figured it out.  The “blob” is modernity and the ever-changing landscape of America.  It’s this mysterious and barely definable gel substance that consumes people and grows bigger and bigger.  We only know it came from space, but we don’t know why.

Steve and Jane are a young high school couple who come across an elderly man that has come into contact with the blob.  The elderly man’s hand is covered in the gel, and it doesn’t take long for it consume his whole arm.

Steve and Jane, on their way to the doctor, speed by a car of three teenagers.  “That’s Steve Anderson,” the driver says, and they speed off after him.  It’s at this point that I, conditioned by many modern horror films, expected the three teenagers to be incredibly aggressive and, frankly, douchey.

They briefly harass Steve and Jane, but soon they’re all laughing together, firmly on the same side.

The five teenagers all decide to visit the location where the old man was found.  They discover a warm rock, and they realize it’s what cut brightly through the sky early in the night.  One of them says in awe “that was in the universe!”  These kids are just the best.

Back at the doctor’s office, the blob has consumed the elderly man and it soon kills a nurse and the doctor.  Steve and Jane return to the doctor’s office, and Steve sees the blob, and realizes the danger they’re all in.  He tries to warn the police, but they don’t believe him.

The police call the kids’ parents to the station, and it seems like Steve is more scared of his father than of the monstrous blob.  Steve’s and Jane’s fathers each show up in the middle of the night in perfectly pressed suits.  They are unhappy and take the kids home.

After a brief costume change (from a yellow dress to a blue dress), Jane sneaks out, as does Steve.  It’s at this point that Steve longs for “yesterday,” before the blob started wreaking havoc.  They deliberate on how to warn the town that they’re all in danger.

 

“How do you get people to protect themselves from something they don’t believe in?”

Steve and Jane recruit the other three teenagers, and they all struggle to warn the town that doesn’t believe a word they say.  Along the way there are a couple close calls with the blob.

Finally, out of ideas, the teenagers start blasting their car horns, waking up the entire town.  All the townsfolk are pissed yet they all seem to show up regardless.  Despite Steve’s best efforts, the town thinks he’s making this all up… except for one cop named Dave.

The rest of the town finally gets onboard after the blob attacks a movie theater and expands from the size of a five foot man to the size of an entire building.

Everyone runs in terror, and thanks to Jane’s not so bright little brother, Danny, our heroes (Steve and Jane) end up stuck in the cellar of a small diner.  They’re trapped and death appears certain.  That is, however, until Steve realizes the blob can’t handle the chill of the fire extinguisher.

Realizing this, the entire town fetches any available fire extinguisher and freezes the blob, rescuing the children.  At the end, the army picks up the blob and airlifts it to the arctic where it will remain forever frozen, presumably.

Okay, so this was incredible.  Everyone is just the best.

I’m trying to think of what this film represents about society at that time, in the late 50s.  The town itself is so idyllic, and the danger comes from outer space, before we had ever landed on the moon.  It wasn’t until after the movie was filmed that the first U.S. Satellite went into space, and it wasn’t until 1961 that the first American made it to space.

So space was probably heavily discussed but still almost entirely unknown.  It makes sense that the danger invades our home from the unknown above.  Add to it that the blob is, well, a blob, and it just seems to be a metaphor for the future.

The biggest setpiece of the film is set within a movie theater, which is like the modern church (in the 1950s), especially for kids and teenagers.  The blob literally blows up in the theater, growing from “jesus, look at that” size to “what happened to Clifford the Big Red Dog?” size.

The film, however, shows how a town can band together to defend itself.  I find it amusing to think of the blob as the future because they remark that the blob cannot be killed, only frozen still and placed in the arctic.  If my “theory” (if you can call it that), is true, then the message of the The Blob is that the future is inevitable, but we can freeze it and put it off for a while.

Damn, that town, though.  Everything is so perfect.  In one scene there’s a cop who remarks that the three teenagers we meet (who are incredibly kind and helpful) are bad eggs, essentially.  All we hear of the teenagers is that they enjoy having a good time, so they go see a spooky movie.  That’s what misbehaving teenagers did back then?

I don’t know what else to say about this movie.  I read a book on horror films last year, and it detailed how horror films change through time.  We’ve had vampires, zombies, body snatchers, even giant robots.  But this is just a blob.  It’s either the most uninspired movie monster of all time or it’s a metaphor.

I once took a class that was a cross between anthropology and technology.  We studied the evolution of tools over time and how that affects… I don’t remember entirely, but we came across the concept of a “blob.”  It was taught as everything in society, more or less.  The idea is that you as an individual are within this blob.  No matter who you are, where you live or what you do, you’re in the blob.  See, the blob isn’t a circle.  It’s a blob, so it’s ever changing and expanding.  Think about what phone you had ten years ago.  It definitely wasn’t an iPhone (I’m thinking 2006).  Now you probably have an iPhone.  The blob has evolved to incorporate the iPhone and everything that represents.  You’re still you though, and though you’re ten years older, there are other people who are currently the age you were ten years ago.  Similarly, you have replaced the people who were your current age ten years ago.  The blob is abstract and hard to define, but it shifts to incorporate trends and changes in the world.  The blob cannot be killed.

But the world depicted in The Blob is so different from the one today.  The world I live in doesn’t feel so communal and perfect.  All the danger comes from ‘out there.’  Whereas in this film, the community is indestructible and it bands together, in many horror films the community is disrupted from the inside.

So the blob is the future, and it’s inevitable, and it’s happened.

And it’s happening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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