Don’t Open That Door! #61: 'The Blob' (1958)

This week in our ongoing field guide to '50s horror and sci-fi movies and the creatures that inhabit them: those crazy kids save the world from marauding grape jelly in The Blob.

The Blob

Director: Irvin Yeaworth
Cast: Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Earl Rowe, Olin Howland
MPAA Rating: NR
Studio: Paramount/Umbrella
Year: 1958
UK Release Date:
US Release Date: 1958-09-12

Alternative titles: Steve McQueen’s Blaze of Glory; The Young and the Boneless


*“Beware of the Blob” theme song by Burt Bacharach

*Breakthrough role for “Steven” McQueen!

*Cool old guy (Olin Howlin) with wonky rooster-hair

*Chess-playing police officers! Drunk, uncaring parents!

*Effective juicy-red space-amoeba effects and some nail-biting suspense


*A little too much cool teen bonding

*60+ seconds of The Most Annoying Child in Movies (and that’s saying something)

*Not enough onscreen monster time

SYNOPSIS: When a gray-haired old fella—last seen as an entertaining drunk providing comic relief in 1954’s Them!—gets himself wrapped up in a piece of ambulatory space jell-o that drops out of the sky one night, he’s lucky that teenagers Steve and Jane are busy making out nearby. The kids take him to Dr. Hallen (you can tell he’s a doctor by his glasses), which just shows they’re decent enough at heart when they’re not trying to drag race or get each other pregnant. Evil cop Sgt. Bert, however, has it in for them, but the kids aren’t worried. They don’t care whether the adults listen to them or not—it’s not like they’re trying to save the world or something, right?

Pretty soon, though, things start to get icky—and slimy—when the old fella’s arm, then body, get as gelatinous as, well, gelatin. A few gooey incidents ensue, involving the doctor, a nurse, and a car mechanic, and then we’ve got an aggressive and rapidly expanding ball of cosmic raspberry jelly bustling through town, lookin’ for action on a Saturday night. The obvious place to go is: the movies! But not before taking a little detour through the throbbing heart of downtown’s mercantile district.

Meanwhile, displaying a degree of alertness rarely observed in real, three-dimensional teenagers, Steve and company do a little investigating of their own and quickly glom on to the fact that there’s a monster from outer space causing people to disappear. Typically, the cops don’t listen—evil Sgt. Bert is downright rude about it, though friendly Lt. Dave is willing to cut the kids a little slack. This stalemate is overcome only when jellyroll-boy hits the packed movie theater and sends the audience rushing into the street, terrified and shrieking—or in some cases, grinning broadly. After that, kids and cops declare a truce as humanity joins hands to confront the deadly extraterrestrial menace. Or something like that. Don’t worry—nobody actually, physically joins hands. This was the '50s, after all.

What gets reduced to protoplasm: an old guy; a nurse; a doctor; a mechanic; and, reportedly, “40 or 50 people” but sadly we don’t see this.

Best line in the movie: “Hey, what gives? I thought you cats didn’t dig spooky shows.”

Most creepily prophetic exchange in light of melting polar ice caps: Lt. Dave: “I don’t think it can be killed, Steve. But at least we’ve got it stopped.” Teenager Steve: “Yeah, as long as the Arctic stays cold.” (Better check on that again, fellas.)

This reminds me of… …The 1988 remake, which starred Kevin Dillon and was a pretty nifty blend of campy and creepy that nicely retains the spirit of the original. Besides, it features a hilarious couple of scenes involving a pharmacist and a teenager buying condoms.

Did you notice? The poster at the movie theater (min. 52:30) advertises something called The Vampire and the Robot, but man, it sure looks like Forbidden Planet to me.

Did you know? Other titles considered for the movie included “The Glob,” “The Glob that Girdled the Globe,” “The Molten Meteorite,” and “The Night of the Creeping Dead.”

Unlikely as it may seem: This movie has enjoyed a Criterion Collection release. Take that, Seven Samurai!

Somehow their careers survived: One of the cinematic giants of the 1960s and ’70s, “Steven” aka Steve McQueen (Steve) would become known for blistering tough-guy performances in The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963), Bullitt (1968), Papillon (1973), The Towering Inferno (1974) and many other films. Aneta Corsaut (Jane) would appear in 1978’s The Toolbox Murders, while Earl Rowe (Lt. Dave) would appear in 1980 TV movie Attica. Steven Chase (Dr. Hallan) aka Stephen or Guy or Alden, started his career with 1933’s in Chance at Heaven; he also appeared in 1951’s When Worlds Collide, and his long career included over 90 other films, plus TV work. But even this career was nothing compared to Olin Howlin’s; the old man at the start of the movie here concludes an acting career which had started 195 films earlier, in Hick Manhattan (1918). His role as a colorful drunk in 1954’s Them! might be familiar to readers of this column.

BOTTOM LINE: A goofy good time, full of hot rods, teen heroes and sinister creeping Grape Jelly From Planet Neptor-X.

NEXT TIME: Donovan’s Brain (1953)


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.