The Blob

The Blob is an independent horror/science-fiction film from1958 about an amoeba-like creature that terrorizes the small community of Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

Made for $120,000, The Blob was directed by Irvin Yeaworth, who had directed more than 400 motivational, educational, and religious films. This was Yeaworth’s first mainstream movie but it has become a milestone of the 1950s sci-fi/horror genre.

It stars Steve McQueen and Aneta Corsaut and it was the big screen debut for both.

It is also the movie debut of Ed McMahon, of Tonight Show fame. Totally unrecognizable and uncredited, in the first scene of the black & white movie showing in the movie theater, McMahon is the man on-screen walking through the fog with the lantern.

McMahon also does the voice-over “Yes, I am here, the demon who possesses your soul”. A year later McMahon would hook up with Johnny Carson.

When the movie came out, some critics said it featured the world’s oldest teenagers -   McQueen & Corseaut were both 27 when it was shot.  And this is the only film in his career where Steve McQueen is credited as “Steven” McQueen.

The title caught the fancy of several comedians of the day: Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Danny Thomas, Steve Allen and they all mentioned it on their shows, which helped boost awareness of the movie.

Combining sci/fi and teenage delinquency, the film is recognized as one of the quintessential 1950s American sci-fi/horror films.

Originally the producers had signed McQueen to a three-picture deal, with this being the first project. But McQueen spent so much time arguing about the script and was so hard to work with that he was released from his contract for the other two films.

So the future star earned a reputation as a difficult primadonna from his start in this movie, a reputation he kept all the way through his career.

McQueen and co-star Aneta Corsault also did not get along, and by the end of the film, they totally despised each other. The opening kissing scene was the last one shot, so see if you think they look like they’re in love.

The film's tongue-in-cheek theme song, "Beware of the Blob" was written by Burt Bacharach and Mack David and was a nationwide hit in the U.S., climbing into the Top 40.

McQueen, who was dyslexic and partially deaf as a result of a childhood ear infection, was only paid $3,000 for his role. He was offered a smaller up-front sum plus 10 percent of the profits, but he didn’t think the movie would make any money, so he turned it down.

It ended up grossing $4 million at the box office and to-date, with video & DVD sales, it’s up to about $25 million.

McQueen had a troubled youth and at a young age was caught stealing hubcaps and sent to the California Junior Boys Republic reform school. He eventually left Boys Republic at 16.

Later, when he became famous, McQueen had an unusual reputation for demanding free items in bulk when agreeing to do a film, such as electric razors, jeans and other products.

Turns out, he was donating them to the Boy's Republic school.

In 1947, McQueen joined the United States Marine Corps and was quickly promoted to Private First Class. Initially, he reverted to his prior rebelliousness, and as a result was promoted and demoted on seven different occasions.

But he eventually embraced the Marines' discipline and saved the lives of five other Marines during an Arctic exercise, pulling them from a tank before it broke through ice into the sea.

He was also assigned to an honor guard responsible for guarding then-U.S. President Harry Truman's yacht. After leaving the military, he eventually made his way to Texas and drifted from job to job, working as a towel boy in a brothel, on an oil rig, on a carnival and as a lumberjack.

In 1952, through the G.I. Bill, McQueen began studying acting and also started to earn money racing motorcycles, a hobby he continued for the rest of his life. In fact, when filming The Great Escape, the director couldn’t find riders as skilled as McQueen.  So at one point, through clever editing, McQueen is seen in a German uniform chasing himself on another bike.

But contrary to popular belief, he did not jump the barbed wire fence, a good friend and stuntman did that.

McQueen's first breakout role didn’t come in film, but on TV as a bounty hunter named Josh Randall in Wanted: Dead or Alive. It ran for 94 episodes, from 1958 until 1961. He got that role after Dick Powell saw a rough cut of The Blob and cast him in the TV show.

In 1960, McQueen was offered the lead in Breakfast at Tiffany's but couldn’t take it because of his Wanted: Dead or Alive contract.

He also turned down Ocean's Eleven on the advice of his friend, Hedda Hopper, who told him to be his own man, not Frank Sinatra’s flunky. He also turned down Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid because his agents couldn't agree with Paul Newman's agents on who got top billing.

He was very selective in the roles he took, turning down Dirty Harry, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The French Connection.

In 1966, McQueen received an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Sand Pebbles and in 1974 he was the highest paid movie star in the world.

He was actually supposed to go to dinner at Roman Polanski & Sharon Tate’s house the night of the Charles Manson killings, but unexpectedly ran into a old friend that evening and didn’t make it.

McQueen died in 1980 at the age of 50 in Mexico and the only thing on the wall of his room was a poster from The Blob.

McQueen is one of the top 10 of highest-earning dead celebrities.

Aneta Corsaut played in dozens of TV shows but is best known for playing Helen Crump, Andy’s sweetheart, on The Andy Griffith Show.

She got that role partly because former president Eisenhower had seen her and liked her in another TVshow and he wrote a letter to Andy Griffiths recommending her.

The old man who discovers the Blob was played by veteran character actor Olin Howland. This was his final appearance in a career than included almost 200 films, going all the way back to the silent era.

As a young man, Howland loved airplanes and he actually learned to fly from the Wright brothers themselves.

The special effects here are pretty basic but wonderfully ingenious. The Blob was created with a modified weather balloon in some shots, but most were shot using colored silicone gel, recently invented by 3M. In fact, 3M had an advisor on set during filming to help with the gel for the creature.

To get the blob to move, they built models of the sets on a gimbaled platform and attached the lights and camera. So the set could be tilted in any direction and the perspective would stay the same.

They also used some stop-motion photography, hand-drawn animation, the old faithful footage-run-backwards, and even jelly placed on top of still photos of the sets.  To see this effect, look closely when the Blob starts to engulf the diner.

The movie was filmed in and around Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and several scenes were shot in small towns in the area. One of the filming locations, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, holds a "Blobfest" every year.

Activities include a re-enactment of moviegoers running screaming from the town's Colonial Theatre, which is still operating. They call it the Running Out, and you can see it on YouTube.

In that scene, it looks like they were having fun - watch the extras laughing as they run from the theater.

A so-so sequel was made in 1972, entitled Beware! The Blob, directed by Larry Hagman from I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas.

In 1988, a remake was made, co-written by Frank Darabont, who later directed The Shawshank Redemption. In that film, the Blob is the result of a secret government project gone wrong and it was much more explicit and gross.  The Blob violently kills a small child, which at one time was a real no-no in a mainstream Hollywood movie.

But the original movie is light & campy, not-too-scary and totally entertaining. From the weirdly happy opening Calypso-style theme song to the closing helicopter scene, which, by the way, is actually footage from an old Army training film, The Blob is fun the whole way through.

And, pay close attention to McQueen’s last line at the end of the movie - with today’s climate change, should we be afraid that the Blob will return?!??!!

Well, musician-turned-director Rob Zombie announced that he plans to direct another remake of The Blob.So stay tuned......