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CRITERION

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.
Cast:
Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Earl Rowe, Olin Howland, Stephen Chase, John Benson, George Karas
Writing Credits:
Theodore Simonson, Kay Linaker, Irvine H. Millgate (original idea)

Tagline:
Indescribable ... Indestructible! Nothing Can Stop It!

Synopsis:
A cult classic of gooey greatness, The Blob follows the havoc wreaked on a small town by an outer-space monster with neither soul nor vertebrae, with Steve McQueen (The Great Escape) playing the rebel teen who tries to warn the residents about the jellylike invader. Strong performances and ingenious special effects help The Blob transcend the schlock sci-fi and youth delinquency genres from which it originates. Made outside of Hollywood by a maverick film distributor and a crew whose credits mostly comprised religious and educational shorts, The Blob helped launch the careers of McQueen and composer Burt Bacharach, whose bouncy title song is just one of this film’s many unexpected pleasures.

Box Office:
Budget
$240 thousand.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio:
English Monaural
English Stereo
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 82 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 3/12/2013

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Producer Jack Harris and Film Historian Bruce Eder
• Audio Commentary with Director Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr. and Actor Robert Fields
• “Blobabilia!” Still Gallery
• Trailer
• Booklet


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Blob: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1958)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 18, 2013)

While I don’t profess to be an expert on the subject, my experiences with horror films show that the genre underwent a significant change in the 1950s. In the Thirties and Forties, those flicks were filled with scary but sympathetic monsters; from The Mummy and Frankenstein to The Wolf Man and The Phantom of the Opera, we got characters that the audience may have feared but about whom they cared.

Much of that sentiment appeared to evaporate in the Fifties, when horror movies tended toward less human and sympathetic monsters. Although some claim that the lead in The Creature From the Black Lagoon seems tragic, I don’t see him that way; he seems like nothing more than a fairly one-sided critter who shows little personality.

That tendency becomes even more evident in many of the decade’s other horror flicks. Audiences found mutated insects and other creatures and terrors from outer space. Not all of them lack personality or sympathetic tendencies, but I think most of these monsters are generically evil threats whose actions lack thought or reason.

Such a creature headlines 1958’s The Blob. Somewhat inspired by a similarly-brainless threat in 1951’s The Thing From Another World, this film features an apparently-unstoppable bit of goo that grows and grows and grows as it consumes additional victims. Why does it act this way? Biological needs, I guess; we see no signs of intelligence or rational thought from the monster as it devours every organism that crosses its path.

Was this plot influenced by the fears over the spread of communism? Perhaps. The essay in the original DVD’s booklet feels that the movie acts more as a statement against the rampant consumerism found in the post-war United States, and that impression may be correct. I couldn’t help but think of the communist influence, however, since the generic aggressiveness of the villain seems to reflect American opinions of the apparently-inexorable progression of communism.

Whatever the backdrop, The Blob is strongly a part of its time, and that’s probably the movie’s main charm. It provides such a clear snapshot of its era that it often feels like a look inside a time capsule; The Blob depicts its period in an evocative and convincing way.

As for the rest of the film, it’s a mixed bag of campy thrills. The Blob combines horror with the then-popular “juvenile delinquent” genre, though its sympathies clearly reside with its teenage protagonists. These kids aren’t bad seeds, and they’re presented as more prescient and in-tune with their environment than the adults.

Too bad they aren’t shown as realistic, well-defined characters. Part of The Blob’s claim to fame stems from the fact it was the role that vaulted Steve McQueen to prominence, and while he certainly shows an edgy and vivid presence, his character - coincidentally named “Steve” - is a pretty flat creation. None of the other teens or adults appear lively or distinctive either, and this lack of strong personae is one of the movie’s weaknesses; frankly, I rarely really gave a hoot about any of the participants.

Actually, the film’s most compelling performance came from Olin Howlin as the “old man” who initially encounters the blob. Howlin lives up to his last name with his cries and moans as the creature gloms onto him. The dude provides a fairly harrowing portrait of an elderly guy in a lot of pain and he makes the threat of the monster much more believable than it otherwise might have been.

Otherwise, The Blob provides a fairly campy and goofy experience. Did it frighten audiences 55 years ago? I guess, but it hasn’t aged very well in that regard; it seems too overwrought and silly to provide many modern scares.

Part of this problem relates to the presence of the titular monster, who disappears from the story for substantial segments. While I agree with the premise that such a creature should not be overexposed, we periodically need to be reminded of its existence. That doesn’t happen here; substantial periods pass without involvement of the blob, and I think the story suffers because of this.

Frankly, your enjoyment of The Blob will depend on your interest in dated old horror movies. I think the monster movies from the Thirties and Forties hold up better than most of those from the Fifties just because they seem more timeless. Even the biggest fans of The Blob can’t claim it hasn’t become a period piece, and while that adds some charms, it causes some problems as well. Ultimately, The Blob is a mildly-entertaining experience but it doesn’t do a whole lot for me.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio C-/ Bonus B

The Blob appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This turns into a satisfying visual presentation.

Overall sharpness was good. Occasional soft shots appeared, but I felt those came from the original photography and resulted from lackluster attention to focus. Not exactly a big-budget flick, I suspected that the producers didn’t worry if the image occasionally lacked the usual precision.

Despite those lapses, overall definition was fine, and I saw no of jagged edges or moiré effects. The image lacked edge haloes or signs of digital noise reduction; the movie showed a natural grain structure. Print flaws weren’t a factor, as the flick remained clean.

Colors looked fine. The film came with a bit of a yellow feel, but the tones still seemed peppy and bright much of the time. Blacks were dark and tight, and shadows showed good clarity; except for a couple of “day for night” shots, the low-light elements were smooth. The issues with focus meant the image lacked consistency, but I felt the Blu-ray represented the source well.

I felt less satisfied with the movie’s monaural soundtrack, though I suspect it was a product of its age and budgetary restrictions as well. Speech usually came across as harsh and sibilant. The lines could be distorted and they also often seemed poorly integrated with the action; it appeared that some bad dubbing occurred, and this problem exacerbated the already-iffy quality of the dialogue.

Music sounded tinny and shrill, and effects were somewhat rough as well. A little noise crept into the track at times, but the audio usually came without those distractions. Although the sound wasn’t terrible, it had too many concerns for a grade above a “C-“.

How did this Blu-ray compare to the original Criterion DVD from 2000? Flawed as it remained, the audio was a little cleaner and better developed, and visuals showed nice improvements. Actually, the added resolution of Blu-ray made the soft focus more obvious, but I couldn’t fault the transfer for that, and most of the movie showed much improved delineation. The Blu-ray was a good step up in picture quality.

The Blu-ray duplicates the DVD’s extras, and we start with two audio commentaries. The first involves producer Jack H. Harris and film historian Bruce Eder. Both men were recorded separately and their remarks were later edited together; the same went for the second commentary as well.

The first track mainly provides statements from Harris, who provides a lot of terrific information about the creation of the film. He covers the project’s genesis and a lot of elements about its shoot plus its afterlife and facts related to the world of low-budget horror flicks in the Fifties. Eder adds some additional historical perspective, but it’s really Harris’s show. All in all, I enjoyed the commentary and it added to the experience.

The same goes for the second track, which features director Irvin S. Yeaworth and actor Robert “Tony” Fields. We get essentially the same mix of subjects found in the first commentary, but we hear alternate perspectives in this piece and get a lot of different details.

I think we find a good balance between the two participants; Yeaworth probably dominates the track but not to a tremendous degree. I especially like their various comments about Steve McQueen and his effect on the set. It’s another strong commentary that provides a lot of fine information about the film.

In addition to these two commentaries, we find the movie’s theatrical trailer plus a section of “Blob-abilia”. The latter features 63 frames of images. (That total doesn’t count title cards that describe what we see.)

Most of the stills offer shots from the production, but we also see some close-ups of props from the film and a gallery of movie posters. I found some of the foreign ads most interesting. The French poster is especially amusing as it depicts McQueen with his shirt torn open to display his muscular chest; clearly this release of the movie was done to capitalize on McQueen’s subsequent fame, especially because he looks much older than his appearance in The Blob.

In the package’s booklet, we find a decent little essay from critic Kim Newman. It alters the booklet from the original DVD – and also drops a mini-poster from that release.

The Blob stands as an example of horror movies from the Fifties and works well within those limitations. It lacks compelling characters and much fright value, but parts of it can be entertaining. The Blu-ray delivers very good picture and two useful audio commentaries, but audio reflects the limitations of its source. This becomes a solid reproduction of a moderately enjoyable film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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