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Old 06-20-2004, 01:12 AM
 
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Default Blob, The: Criterion Collection




Reviewer: Styx
Review Date: December 6, 2000

Released by: Criterion
Release date: 11/14/2000
MSRP: $39.99
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.66:1 | 16x9: Yes



Made in 1958, The Blob is one of those cheesy science fiction films from the 50s complete with campy acting and special effects. Criterion Collection has now released this cult film on DVD with the same results they have had with Carnival of Souls. However, The Blob DVD is not nearly as comprehensive as Criterion's 2-disc set of Carnival of Souls, but nevertheless features some insightful commentaries and a great looking transfer.

The Story

inline Image Young Steve Andrews (Steve McQueen) and current main squeeze Jane Martin (Aneta Corsaut) are stargazing atop a hill when suddenly they witness a flaming comet zip across the sky and crash land in the nearby woods. Steve decides to go take a look at it and together with Jane they hop in Steve's car and search for the crash site. Meanwhile a local resident who lives right next to where the meteor landed goes and investigates the strange phenomenon. He finds the crashed space rock and inside he discovers a round squishy ball. The old man proceeds to poke "the blob" with a stick but it grabs onto the stick and begins to slide down it and onto the man's arm. The old man screams in horror and runs out into the road where he is nearly hit by Steve and Jane driving in their car. The man claims to be in severe pain and Steve quickly drives him to the nearest doctor.

inline Image Dr. Hallen (Alden Chase) takes a look at the strange blob like creature that has now engulfed the "old-timer's" lower arm. Having never seen anything quite like it Dr. Hallen is quickly convinced that the only alternative is to amputate the poor guys arm before it spreads any further. He calls his nurse, Kate (Lee Paton), to help assist him and Steve and Jane leave the office. Outside they are greeted by some fellow teens that seem none too happy about being blown by on the road earlier. The two decide to settle their differences in a race driving backwards. The incident attracts the attention of on duty police officer - Lieutenant Dave (Earl Rowe) - who stops Steve and lectures him on the virtues of behaving like a respectable youngster and, most importantly, driving forward instead of in reverse. Afterwards Steve meets up with the teens again and he convinces them to go along with him back to the comet's crash site and have a look. They discover the debris from the crash but no evidence of the horrible creature that lied within. Meanwhile back at the Doctor's office Dr. Hallen discovers that the blob has consumed the old man entirely and soon both he and his nurse find themselves at the mercy of the blob.

inline Image Steve and Jane return to Doctor Hallen's office only to find the place abandoned. As Steve looks around the building he spots Dr. Hallen through the window being consumed by the blob. At this point Steve decides to go to the police and explain what has happened. Needless to say the police don't believe a word Steve says and the blob continues to roam around town consuming it's oblivious denizens while increasing in mass. Lieutenant Dave calls Steve and Jane's parents and they are both taken home while the police try to figure out what kind of prank the kids are pulling. Realizing no one will believe them on their word alone, Steve and Jane decide to meet later and go out and look for proof of the blob's existence. However, time is running out for the town as the blob continues to grow and becomes even more unstoppable.

inline Image Though The Blob is considered by many to be a classic I wouldn't be so quick to call it that exactly. There are several things missing from The Blob that would have given it that kind of status but it merely falls short and limp when lumped together with other classics from that period like Carnival of Souls and Night of the Living Dead. Most probably it's the high amount of camp and dull dialogue that seal its fate as an overwrought bore. The film which opens with a meteor crash and an interesting scene depicting the blob making its escape on some poor "old-timer's" arm quickly turns to tedium with the usual scenario of adults and scientists not believing the wild stories told by the teenage eyewitnesses until it's too late. The dialogue sequences are too long and uninteresting to the extent that one begins to forget a man eating Blob is roaming around the neighborhood. Near the climax of the film a bewildered Lieutenant Dave explains that the blob has likely consumed 40 people yet we are only made to witness about 4 or 5 of those. Of course none of it is very graphic either, but that is probably for the best since I doubt the effects would have been entirely convincing anyway.

inline Image What's worse is the fact that the actors and actresses playing the teenagers were anything but teenagers. They are clearly far beyond their teenage years. What makes this even more bizarre for a viewer from my generation is that these adult actors's are playing teenagers from the 1950s and are trying their best to look and act the part. The result is quite jarring and prevented me from getting into this film at all. Throughout The Blob I kept expecting Rod Serling to pop out of a bush and explain how these teenagers became trapped in adult bodies like in some twisted episode of the Twilight Zone.

inline Image Visually The Blob looks nice with some excellent photography and use of color but in the end one has to wonder if The Blob would've worked better in black and white. Maybe in black and white the film would've been able to conceal some of the special effects shortcomings and maybe make the obvious fact the teenagers in the film were not played by teenagers less obvious. Still, the last 10 minutes of The Blob were actually good and suspenseful as the film sees Steve and Jane together with some unfortunate restaurant owners trapped in the diner's basement with an extremely bloated blob surrounding the entire building. Still, for me, ten thrilling minutes out of 82 is not enough to save it. I know this film has a cult following but I just couldn't get into it for the reasons stated above. But perhaps like the film's squishy villain the blob will "grow" on me with repeated viewings.

Image Quality

inline Image Criterion presents The Blob (1958) letterboxed at 1.66:1 in a new 16x9 enhanced transfer. Right from the start it's obvious this is a great transfer of a fairly old film. Save for one or two shots that had a slightly softer appearance, the image is very sharp and detailed overall. The colors were also very warm and vibrant and showed no signs of bleeding. Colors were consistently pleasing throughout no matter what kind of lighting. There is some mild grain apparent throughout the presentation but it never becomes distracting. The print used for this transfer was in terrific shape; I didn't notice any signs of print damage throughout the film. Like their recent Carnival of Souls DVD, Criterion has really done an excellent job of showing these old horror and science fiction films in a whole new light. Criterion should be commended here on a job well done.

Sound

The Blob is presented in Dolby Digital Mono. Sadly I wasn't as impressed with it as I was with the transfer. The main problem is the amount of background noise heard throughout the film. Unfortunately I found it to be distracting at times. The score sounded good though and dialogue was clear and without distortion.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Criterion Collection has slapped a $39.99 price tag for this disc but sadly the supplements consist of only two commentaries, a theatrical trailer and a still gallery. The disc has standard Criterion style animated menus, this time featuring a psychedelic type ordeal highlighted by The Blob's wacky theme song. The big supplements on this disc are undoubtedly the two commentaries: one with Producer Jack H. Harris and Film Historian Bruce Eder, the other with Director Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr. and Actor Robert (Tony) Fields. The commentary with Producer Jack Harris and Bruce Eder is very good. Jack Harris starts off by explaining The Blob was his first time making a movie and how the idea of the blob came about. He also explains how he got the idea of the title sequence. Bruce Eder doesn't join into the commentary until chapter 5 but he gives a lot of good background information on the cast. It's a good commentary overall with some great background information. The other commentary with Director Irvin S. Yeaworth and Actor Robert Fields is good as well. Surprisingly Robert Fields has a lot to say about the film and his experiences while making it. Director Irvin Yeaworth explains how Scott McQueen decided that he'd play the role enthusiastically and not necessarily like he was trying to be a teenager. Both are entertaining commentaries and shouldn't disappoint.

Also featured on The Blob DVD is a small still gallery cleverly titled BLOB-abilia. The gallery consists of stills of the cast, promotional photos and some Blob memorabilia including The Blob itself. We also have the obligatory theatrical trailer which looks nowhere as good as the transfer to the film. That pretty much wraps it up but there are also some goodies included inside the packaging, which attribute to the disc's weight. In addition to Criterion's usual booklet with liner notes, this time written by Bruce Kawin, there's also a reproduction of the poster of The Blob. I'd have to say that if it's the inclusion of this poster that kept the price tag at $39.99 I could have easily done without it.

Final Thoughts

Criterion has put a lot of effort into the transfer and commentaries to The Blob, but unfortunately at $39.99 the price tag is a little high for what you're getting. Considering New Line's upcoming Platinum Edition of Seven (a 2-disc set with four commentaries) is coming out with an MSRP of $29.99, the price tag of The Blob is a little tough to swallow. Because of the price I can only really recommend this disc to fans of the film.

Rating

Image Quality - B+
Sound - B
Supplements - B+

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • 19 Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital Mono

Supplements
  • Audio Commentary with Producer Jack H. Harris and Film Historian Bruce Eder
  • Audio Commentary with Director Irvin S Yeaworth and Actor Robert (Tony) Fields
  • Still Gallery Titled BLOB-abilia
  • Theatrical Trailer

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