Night has fallen in this rural region around a typical American smalltown, and if you look up at the starry heavens you may see a shooting star or two. Or maybe something more substantial. A meteorite falls from the sky this evening, spotted in its path by a few of the local teenagers, but is found by an old hermit who beats them to its location on his small farm. On investigation, he rock breaks open and a clear, gelatinous organism slithers out onto the hermit's hand - and begins to eat him alive...
This low budget sci-fi horror was written by Kate Philips and Theodore Simonson, whose premise, instigated by producer Jack H. Harris who wanted a basic - and inexpensive - concept for a fright flick, was a classic of its kind. Its main selling point is in its monster, the ever-growing, blood red blob of the title, red thanks to the way it devours everyone in its path and has an absolutely insatiable appetite as well as having no apparent means of its destruction. The only people who are awake to this danger are a bunch of small town teenagers, led by Steve McQueen making the most of his first starring role.
Well, I say teenagers, Steve doesn't look a day under thirty (he was actually twenty-seven, but always had that slightly craggy cast to his rugged good looks) and his friends are plainly a little mature for their age. But the authority figures, as is so often the case, just won't believe the kids about the all-consuming threat, so you get plenty of scenes with Steve and co trying to persuade the police and the parents that their town is about to be wiped off the map, an ideal way to appeal to the teen audience who could relate to not being taken seriously by their elders and supposed betters who did not appreciate being told what to do by the younger members of their community.
While its strength is in its simplicity, The Blob does feature an awful lot of padding, as if the filmmakers couldn't think up enough plot to fill up even this movie's short running time which lasts under ninety minutes, perfect for a drive-in double bill. Witness the superfluous car race bit (with the cars driving backwards for extra novelty - Rebel Without a Cause it isn't), or the chess playing cops, when what you really want to see is the cast members being ingested by our extraterrestrial enemy. Or at least making some narrow escapes from its rolling terror, like something out of the Joseph Payne Brennan short story Slime, which Brennan noted himself and tried to take the studio to court over (he didn't receive much financial recompense, to his chagrin, though to be fair this was not the only shapeless mass horror film of the era).
The special effects might not be all that special, but they are fun, especially when a lump of red jelly will loom menacingly into view, or slither under a closed door after its prey, no matter the results were largely achieved with a lump of red-coloured silicone set on a photograph of whatever set or location they were using. There's something agreeably nasty about the idea, it's like something out of those notorious nineteen-fifties EC comics, or indeed one of those to the point, brutal little Brennan short pieces, another example of the invention that fright flicks could bring to the concepts in this decade that informed the horror moviemakers of the seventies and eighties. Watch for: the great cinema sequence, where the audience (watching weirdo chiller Daughter of Horror, aka Dementia) are attacked at a midnight show. Listen for: the theme tune, written by Burt Bacharach and Mack David (Hal's brother). The End? Nope - there was a surprisingly good remake marshalled by Harris in 1988 (let us draw a veil over his Larry Hagman-directed seventies "comedy" version).
German-born director and producer in America. A religious film maker, he was best known for directing science fiction movies The Blob, along with 4D Man and Dinosaurus!, all made for producer Jack H. Harris.