1910s & 20s * 30s * 40s * Pre-50s * Frankenstein * Atomic Angst * 1950 * 1951 * 1952 * 1953 * 1954 * 1955 * 1956 * 1957 * 1958 * 1959 *
1960 * 1961 * 1962 * 1963 * 1964 * 1965 * 1966 * 1967 * 1968 * 1969 * 1970 * 1971 * 1972 * 1973 * 1974 * 1975 * 1976 * 1977 * 1978 * 1979

Friday, January 25, 2013

Beware The Blob

Producer Jack Harris saved 1972 sci-fi moviedom from depression. He brought audiences the first blob movie in 1958, but in 1972, he put together a sequel/remake/spoof. Beware The Blob (BTB) is sometimes also known as Son of Blob. BTB is the only feature film directed by Larry Hagman (of I Dream of Jeanie, and Dallas, fame). The two central stars are Robert Walker Jr. (who played the tragic & immature Charlie in the Star Trek original series episode "Charlie X.") and Gwynne Gilford. BTB tends to get panned by many movie critics who expected something more serious. The film is, on the one hand, a sort of sequel. On the other hand, it's a self parody, not to be taken so seriously.

Quick Plot Synopsis
Arctic pipeline worker, Chester Hargis (Godrey Cambridge) lounges around his suburban home drinking large amounts of beer. His wife finds a metal jar in their freezer, which Chester says is a sample of some thing they found in the arctic. He planned to have it analyzed. They both get busy elsewhere, so the jar thaws. The red mini-blob ingests a fly, then the couple's kitten, then Mrs. Hargis. It lurks on Chester's easy-chair. Meanwhile, some local "hip" youths plan a surprise party for Lisa's boyfriend Bobby. Lisa goes to pick up the gift Mrs. Hargis made, only to find Chester being absorbed by the blob. Lisa drives fast and crazy, upsetting stolid citizen Ed Fazio (Richard Stahl). Lisa brings Bobby, but there's no sign of anyone. A comic non sequitur involves Dick van Paten as a scout troop master and scouts on a nature hike. Meanwhile, a couple of Lisa's friends are getting stoned in a big drain culvert. A sheriff's deputy busts them, but he's eaten by the blob. The stoners are too, presumably. A comedy skit ensues with a pompous barber and a "hippy" seeking a haircut. The blob oozes up through the barber's sink drain, eating the hippy and the barber. The blob ingests three wino farmhands (including cameos by Hagman and Burgess Meredith) The bumbling sheriff and his equally bumbling deputies are mystified at the large number of missing person reports. Perhaps they're all down at the bowling alley! They to go see.  The blob eats the scout troop leader. The blob tries to eat a fat turk in his bathtub, but the naked turk gets away. A smirking deputy arrests him. Bobby and Lisa are surprised by the surprise party. The guests are all stereotypic stoners and morons. After a bit of cake and merriment, Bobby takes Lisa home. He finally gets Lisa to calm down and think about important things, like necking, when the blob envelops their Chevy Blazer. It oozes through cracks. Lisa flails, accidentally turning on the A/C. The blob retreats, but they don't connect the dots. Bobby and Lisa try to alert their friends to the danger, but they're too stupid. One, then another, are eaten by the blob. All the action converges on the bowling alley. Bobby tries to alert everyone to the danger, but none listen. The blob eats some comic maintenance guys, then attacks everyone. Pandemonium. Chaos. Running. Screaming. Being eaten. People flee into a skating rink (with no ice yet). Bobby, Lisa and Mr. Fazio take refuge in the DJ's booth. Others are eaten. The blob works it's way up to the booth. Meanwhile, after a few more comic vignettes, the sheriff and his men surround the rink. They plan to burn it down. Inside, Bobby accidentally spills some ice and cold beer on the blob. It leaves the booth. The dots finally connect. It doesn't like cold. Bobby has to climb some ropes to get to the big switch that turns on the rink's floor pipes. He does. The blob freezes. Bobby stops the sheriff from burning down the building. The town is saved! However, a TV crew interview the sheriff, atop the frozen blob. A badly (but obviously) laid floodlight, thaws a bit of blob, which oozes onto the sheriff's boot. Just as he notices, freeze frame. Text-on-screen: "The End?"

Why is this movie fun?
As a horror/comedy hybrid (with the bias mostly towards comedy) BTB was intended to be fun. Granted, some of the skits are juvenile, but some are somewhat funny. The barber skit, while a bit dated (dirty hippy stereotype as prerequisite) is pretty good. Shaggy youth: "I want a…a…haircut." Barber: "I don't cut hair, I'm not a barber. I am an artist. I sculpt hair. Do you want a…sculpt?" (It's funnier in the movie).

Cultural Connection
Parody. It wasn't new to sci-fi in 1972. Abbott and Costello Go To Mars was parody of sci-fi when the genre of saucers and aliens was only a few years old. BTB ramps up the cluelessness of the authorities (witness the witless Sheriff), but also the protagonists and their circle of youthful friends, into air-heads, jerks and stoners. Would a serious sci-fi/horror film start with footage of a cute kitten frolicking in a flowery meadow? (No). Sci-fi parody and a genre, would recur, of course. Mars Attacks! in '96 was a big one. Others, by smaller studios, such as The Lost Skeleton of Cadabra, etc. would poke good-natured fun at Classic Era sci-fi.

Starring: Blob and Beer -- Although uncredited as a co-star, the blob itself has, perhaps, the only serious part in the film. It gets more screen time and all of the tension. It's co-star was BEER. Chester guzzled it b the pitcher-full before he got eaten. Mr. Fazio was forever driving around boxes of it in his station wagon. Bobby and Lisa run over more of Fazio's beer en route to the rink. A mini-fridge full of cold beer in the DJ booth is what alerts Bobby to the blob's weakness. The prominent role beer plays in BTB lets the viewer know what the writers figured their audience was interested in.

Cameo Blob -- Before he is eaten by the blob, Chester Hargis is watching TV. On his TV is a clip from the original 1958 blob. It's the scene outside of the grocery store. This little bit adds humorous irony to the fact that neither Chester, nor anyone else, seem recall the original blob events from 14 years earlier. How stupid can they be?

Planet Stupid -- The first Blob movie had the traditional formula of smart-kids-know-the-truth, while the adults-are-clueless, Blob 2 has everyone clueless. Part of the humor in BTB is that everyone is stupid -- almost too stupid to live (and many don't). The adults are stupid, of course, but all of the "youth" are too. All of them except Bobby and Lisa are too self-absorbed in drinking, toking or acting like idiots, to recognized mortal danger. Even Bobby and Lisa, who come across as the least stupid, are able to forget (in just a few minutes) that an unstoppable murderous monster is loose nearby and get down to a little necking. Seriously? All this stupid is intentional. It's a parody of ALL the customary roles.

Death Isn't Funny -- One might object that all the death in BTB is patently un-funny. However, the audience knows that no one really dies (it's just a movie). Note that almost all 'deaths' occur off camera. There is no gore to make death look serious. People just get run over by the blob, or absorbed, etc. and disappear offstage cleanly. There is an air of absurdity about such "deaths" that keeps them farcical, rather like the 1974 comedy Rhinoceros, in which the characters turn, one by one, into Rhinoceroses.

One. More. Time. -- Jack Harris would not be able to let go of the blob story, even after spoofing both his original blob film, and his sequel. In 1988, he would remake The Blob. The special effects in Blob 3 would get a lot more attention, but the urge to mix in humor was apparently not sated in BTB.

Bottom line? BTB is a difficult movie to categorize. It is a horror-comedy hybrid (and odd duck category anyhow), but the mix is mostly comedy. This throws a great many viewers who expect mostly horror (and don't get it). Most of the skits are dated humor, but a few of them are somewhat funny. The blob special effects are, at times, ultra cheesy (red plastic wiggled near the lens, or a red balloon), but other times look pretty cool (like when it pours out onto the bowling lanes). BTB is not great cinema. It's passable B-grade entertainment. Watch it as a spoof. It helps.

1 comment:

fast ed said...

Just wanted to let you know that this blog is one of the very few exclusively Sci fi movie review sites out there. Plenty of horror, not enough sci fi. please continue to post as often as you can and thanks for your efforts. Great job thats much appreciated!!!