Blu-ray Review: The Blob (Criterion Collection) (1958)

Shot on a shoestring budget by a group of industrial filmmakers who had never produced a feature film, The Blob, released in 1959, became the most successful monster film of the decade. Filmed in rural Pennsylvania, the director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr., was an idealist committed to using film to spread his religious faith. His producing partner, Jack H. Harris saw the commercial value in producing features at a fraction of what it would cost in Hollywood or New York.

The story begins when a meteor crash lands in a forest near a small town, prompting an old (Olin Howland) man to do some investigating. Finding an odd, steaming rock, he pokes at it with a stick. The rock splits open, revealing a glob of goo that affixes itself to his hand. Understandably, the old man freaks out and runs out into the road, where two teenagers Steve (Steve McQueen, in his first starring role) and Jane (Aneta Corsaut) nearly run him over. Steve gets the man into the car and rushes off to the office of Dr. T. Hallen (Stephen Chase). As the doctor attempts to treat the patient, the blob becomes aggressive and dispatching of the old man and ingesting the doctor and his nurse. The blob is now blood red and big enough to absorb human beings whole.

The BlobPolice Lt. Dave (Earl Rowe) wants to understand Steve’s claims, but Officer Jim Bert (John Benson) thinks the teenagers crazy story is just a case of authoritarian harassment. Despite lack of faith from adults, Steve, Jane and some of their friends commence their own investigation. Continuing to grow as it eats more people; The Blob traps the teens in a supermarket freezer and then attacks the audience inside a movie theater. Eventually, Steve and his friends are able to stir up enough of a commotion that it convinces the chief of police that he’d better do something — and quick.

Despite being a bit slow and nothing special in terms of special effects, it remains impressive in its own way. Made in 1958, the potential political allegory is hard to ignore. There is a big red menace out to destroy America, but those with the power to stop it don’t want to believe it. Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy did, but he was convinced that the red monster had entered America in 1950. At the same time, The Blob takes a page out of A Rebel Without A Cause, hoping to appeal to teenagers with a message that adults should listen to them.

Shot in stunning Technicolor, the film looks surprisingly bright. Adding to the wonderful atmosphere, Burt Bacharach and Mack David’s legendary theme song sets the perfect campy tone from the start. The Blob is definitely one of the best looking low-budget (approximately $110,000) films of its genre.

Framed at 1.66:1, Criterion’s 1080p transfer is wonderful. Detail is nothing short of stunning, while color accuracy is well defined and consistent. Black levels are perfectly inky from top to bottom. Grain is handled to perfection, leaving the film with a fine glow that fits its B-movie origins very well.

The LPCM Mono track suits the film very well. Showcasing clean, strong dialogue and boomy music and occasional sound effects, this isn’t reference quality stuff, The Blob has never sounded better. This is just a great mix.

English SDH subtitles are included.

The following special features are available:

  • Audio Commentary: Recorded by Criterion in 2000, producer Jack H. Harris and film historian Bruce Eder provide their thoughts on the film. Harris does the bulk of the talking, touching on the obstacles that had to be dealt with during filming, financing the film, how Steve McQueen became involved in the project and more.
  • Audio Commentary: Director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. and actor Robert Fields give their thoughts on the film, with providing some particularly interesting recollections about the film’s budget, production and his relationship with Steve McQueen.
  • Blobabilia! (HD) An extensive collection of stills, posters, behind-the-scenes photographs, publicity materials and special effects props, and the blob itself, gathered by movie memorabilia collector Wes Swank, who grew up near Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, where The Blob was shot. An informative text description precedes each shot.
  • Trailer (HD, 1:56)
  • Leaflet: Critic Kim Newman’s analysis of the film.



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