Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Beware! The Blob (1972)

The Blob (1958) was a better than average monster movie that is most notable for launching the career of Steven McQueen, having an absolutely ludicrous theme song (partly composed by Burt Bacharach), and featuring a sentient ball of jell-o as its main antagonist. At the end of that film The Blob is shown to be susceptible to cold and, after being attacked by fire extinguishers, is dropped into the arctic. Not a bad idea.

Apparently attacking red jelly from outer space doesn't make national news back in the 50s, as the characters in Beware! The Blob have to battle the creature without any prior knowledge in this oddly bland sequel. Also known as Son Of Blob, the film was directed by a post-I Dream of Jeannie (and pre-Dallas) Larry Hagman in a flat, static style, but is fascinating for its semi-improvised atmosphere and slew of early 70s, um, celebrities like Dick Van Patten and Burgess Meredith. It also helped launch the career of John Carpenter's regular cinematographer Dean Cundey (Halloween, Back To The Future, Jurassic Park), though it's a shame that his work isn't a bit more evident in front of the camera.

The film starts with Chester, who digs up the titular monster while laying an oil pipeline in the arctic, drinking some beers while setting up a camping trip in the living room of his Los Angeles home. His wife (who babbles on nearly incoherently) leaves the canister containing the blob on the counter and the sucker soon escapes and begins devouring everything in site. Lisa (Gwynne Gilford) walks in on Chester being eaten (while watching the original version of The Blob on television) and soon retrieves her boyfriend Bobby (Robert Walker Jr.) who is hesitant to believe her until the goo attacks them in his car. The films climatic scene takes place in a bowling alley where the couple, along with the dickish alley owner, eventually freeze the creature using the ice machines at the skating rink.

Now, that is the plot. But, add in meandering, almost random scenes of Dick Van Dyke as a cheery boyscout leader, Shelley Berman as a hippy hating hairstylist, and Burgess Meredith as a bum and you have yourself a very odd film that seems to wander in and out of camp territory almost randomly. The lack of consistent tone and the slow pacing of the first hour really hurts the film, which is unfortunate since when the film focuses itself during the last half hour it's considerably more entertaining.

The creature itself is quite active throughout the film, and credit should be given to Tim Baar (The Time Machine, H.R. Pufnstuf) for bringing it to life convincingly. However, even while it's tearing through people in the bowling alley it doesn't feel particularly threatening, particularly with the strawberry-red coloring it's been given. Still, there are some impressive scenes of seemingly rivers of goop flowing towards characters, though violence is certainly kept to a minimum.

The film was shot 1.85:1 but is here presented in a full-screen 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The image quality is rather rough with considerable grain evident and dark scenes seeming rather murky. Still very watchable, but Image usually puts a bit more effort into their picture quality. The audio is a little muddy, but tolerable throughout. There are no extras on the disc outside of a cute animated opening menu.

An amusing throwback monster film that takes a bit too long to get going, Beware! The Blob is certainly a product of the time it was made. Incrementally fun, it pales in comparison to the original film and the 1988 remake.

1 comment:

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