The Blob (Blu-ray)
Directed by Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 82 minutes
Audio: PCM 1.0 English
MSRP: $ 39.95
Release Date: Match 12, 2013
Review Date: February 27, 2013
After seeing something fall from the sky into a nearby field, sweetheart teenagers Steve (Steven McQueen) and Jane (Aneta Corsaut) go to investigate only to find an old man (Olin Howlin) screaming for help with a gooey mass attached to his hand. Taking him to nearby Doc Hallen (Stephen Chase) only finds the mass growing eventually absorbing the old man, the doctor, and his nurse (Lee Payton) after the teens leave looking for clues about the mass’s origins. Local police headed by Lieutenant Dave (Earl Rowe) are wary of Steve’s cries for help suspecting the teens are playing another one of their pranks on the police, but with the doctor’s unexplained disappearance, and later Steve and Jane coming upon the ever-growing mass in his father’s grocery store, there’s clearly a monster on the loose that seems frankly unstoppable.
Because money was tight, screenwriters Theodore Simonson and Kate Phillips don’t develop the teen misdemeanor angle much at all (these are the nicest juvenile delinquents you’ll ever meet) and manage to keep most of the monster madness off screen thus making the audience have to use its imagination to picture how the creature is parasitically absorbing the humans it’s consuming. The movie’s low budget look doesn’t always work to its benefit, however, in numerous scenes where obvious models are used to emphasize the Blob’s enormity, and yet it’s so quaint that one doesn’t really care as it becomes part of the fun. Director “Shorty” Yeaworth keeps things simple throughout with no fancy camera shots or elaborate stagings of major moments in the movie. The actors really have to sell the material even with some strained dialogue along the way, but luckily there are enough professionals in the cast to pull it off.
Neither Steven (as he’s billed) McQueen nor Aneta Corsaut are the least bit believable as teenagers, but McQueen certainly has no trouble holding center stage and turning his character into someone the audience will pull for. Corsaut is less successful in her undemonstrative way often fading into the background during scenes where the other actors seem much more dynamic. Earl Rowe does solid work as the police lieutenant who finally makes a judgment call to believe Steve despite no evidence that he’s actually telling the truth. As the police officer who’s been the butt of the kids’ pranks and who mistrusts them inordinately, John Benson is also excellent. Stephan Chase as the doomed doctor and Robert Fields as another teen who stands solidly with Steve deliver very professional performances as well.
The film is framed at 1.66:1 and is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The film’s focus-puller is frequently at fault with shots that are softly focused for no good reason, but most of the movie features sharp and clear imagery free from age-related artifacts. Color is occasionally hot but is generally appealing with realistic flesh tones for much of the movie but occasionally a bit yellow. Black levels vary from fair to very good. The film has been divided into 19 chapters.
The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mix is precisely what one would expect it to be from this era of low budget filmmaking, but even the modern sound engineers couldn’t remove all of the problems with the old sound elements they had to work with. There is occasional scratchy distortion and noise that can be heard during quieter moments, and there isn’t much on the low end of the sound reproduction. But dialogue is understandable throughout and is never overwhelmed by sound effects or Jean Yeaworth’s music. The main title song is by Burt Bacharach and Mack David and sounds quite good in uncompressed audio.
There are two audio commentaries, and they’re both well worth a listen. The first finds producer Jack H. Harris reminiscing about the movie’s production and afterlife occasionally abetted by film historian Bruce Eder’s astute information and observations. The second features director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. and his many tales of the production’s ups and downs with occasional interspersed comments by actor Robert Fields who plays teen Tony in the movie. Both are very enjoyable and informative commentaries, among the best in the Criterion Collection’s archives.
A step-through gallery of stills, posters, and memorabilia from the film from the collection of Wes Shank also contains explanatory text frames.
The theatrical trailer runs 2 minutes in 1080p.
The enclosed pamphlet contains cast and crew lists, a couple of stills, and critic Kim Newman’s analysis of the movie.
The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentaries that go along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Fans of The Blob will undoubtedly be happy to have the movie now in high definition and with uncompressed sound maintaining its place among the most innocent and entertaining of the 1950s outer space horror creature-features.