KLAATU YOU (46)
November 11, 2020
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite pre-Star Wars science fiction movies.
THE BLOB | d. IRVIN YEAWORTH | 1958
The first to die is an elderly man. Second are the healthcare workers: the nurse, then the doctor. Then the blue-collar mechanic and the grocery story janitor. The police are divided on whether to take the reported murderous blob seriously; some think it’s a hoax, teenagers trying to undermine their authority. Nor do the townspeople want to believe it. Not until the now-enormous blood-soaked blob bursts out of the movie theater (cheeky!) and envelops a diner do law enforcement and citizenry rouse to action. The destruction of business, not life, is where Americans truly freak out.
In this pandemic moment The Blob feels less like vintage camp and more like blunt allegory, a kinder, more bearable dramatizing of the overwhelming present. As a manifestation of plague, the blob is comforting in its sheer visibility: red and viscous, a carnivorous gelatin, roaming and oozing and seizing. At least you know when it’s coming for you. At least you know when it has you.
Because the movie is from 1958, much of it rolls out as slowly and quietly as those first weeks of lockdown. In dramatic moments the soundtrack leaps dutifully to life, but more often than not, The Blob takes its time, holds a steady gaze, listens closely. The soft crunch of tires on gravel as two teenagers roll a robin’s-egg-blue convertible out of a garage. Creaking desk drawers and background radio in the police office at night. Crickets in the dark. Long steady shots and slow, inconsequential panning across trees.
Also oddly recognizable is the leisurely pace at which the horror unfolds, a steady creep alongside the mundane rhythms of everyday life and interactions. While offscreen the nascent blob is working away on its first victim, we sit through a long, parked conversation between an irritated cop and the white teenage boy who knows he’s not in real trouble. The worst punishment the cop threatens is to call the kid’s dad — no, worse, his girlfriend’s dad. (In his screen debut, Steve McQueen is a decade too old for the role of teenage Steve but gamely sincere about it despite his well-lined forehead.) Kids go to the movies. The nosy neighbor prattles on. The cops talk things through. The parents talk things through. The teenagers talk things through, dreadfully aware before anyone else of the permanent rupture in life as they knew it. (“Yesterday. Good old yesterday,” Steve laments.) There’s a lot of quiet, earnest processing. Meanwhile, unseen, the blob infiltrates, devours, grows enormous.
We still don’t know how to kill the novel coronavirus. The blob can be halted but never vanquished. We mask up and spray bleach to keep the virus at bay. The military immobilize the blob with the cold blast of fire extinguishers and drop it in the Arctic.
Steve: It’s not dead, is it.
Cop: No, it’s not.
Steve: Just frozen.
Cop: I don’t think it can be killed. But at least we’ve got it stopped.
Steve: Yeah, as long as the Arctic stays cold.
Today scientists report that the Arctic climate is shifting from ice and snow to open water and rain.
KLAATU YOU: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Matthew De Abaitua on ZARDOZ | Miranda Mellis on METROPOLIS | Rob Wringham on THE INVISIBLE MAN | Michael Grasso on THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN | Gordon Dahlquist on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | Erik Davis on DARK STAR | Carlo Rotella on THE OMEGA MAN | Madeline Ashby on KISS ME DEADLY | Adam McGovern on SILENT RUNNING | Michael Lewy on THIS ISLAND EARTH | Josh Glenn on WILD IN THE STREETS | Mimi Lipson on BARBARELLA vs. SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | Vanessa Berry on THE FLY | Lynn Peril on ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN | Peggy Nelson on SOLARIS | Adrienne Crew on LOGAN’S RUN | Ramona Lyons on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH | Kio Stark on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Dan Fox on FANTASTIC PLANET | Chris Lanier on IKARIE XB-1 | Devin McKinney on IDAHO TRANSFER | Mark Kingwell on THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO | Luc Sante on THE TENTH VICTIM | William Nericcio on DEATH RACE 2000 | Rob Walker on CAPRICORN ONE | Gary Panter on ANGRY RED PLANET | David Levine on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Karinne Keithley Syers on ALPHAVILLE | Carolyn Kellogg on IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE | Sara Ryan on ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN | Lisa Jane Persky on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE | Adam Harrison Levy on BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES | Gerald Peary on CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON | Susannah Breslin on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE | Seth on WAR OF THE WORLDS | James Hannaham on GOJIRA/GODZILLA | Lydia Millet on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED | Matthew Daniel on FANTASTIC VOYAGE | Shawn Wolfe on ROLLERBALL | Erin M. Routson on WESTWORLD | Marc Weidenbaum on COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT | Neil LaBute on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA | Vicente Lozano on DAY OF THE DOLPHIN | Tom Roston on SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | Katya Apekina on A BOY AND HIS DOG | Chelsey Johnson on THE BLOB | Heather Kapplow on SPACE IS THE PLACE | Brian Berger on THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS | Anthony Miller on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
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