It might be easy to read The Blob with contemporary eyes and see it as nothing more than a low budget horror film with little redeeming value. Doing so would mean disregarding the things that make The Blob a modern classic that helped define the entire horror genre. Indeed, had there been no blob films like Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street and I Know What You Did Last Summer might never have been made.
The Blob was shot on a shoestring budget in 1958 by a group of industrial filmmakers who had never produced a feature release. These men, lead by director Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr., became interested in the commercial value of youth-in-rebellion films and decided to try their hands at the potentially lucrative new market. They didn't want to make a typical teen angst film though and in a stroke of genius chose to combine teen drama with monster movie horror. The combination seemed to be a natural, a fact that was born out by The Blob's financial success at the box office. In another strikingly innovative move they turned their backs on the 'man in a scary suit' effect and made their monster an amorphous blob. These elements combined to define a new kind of horror movie that delighted audiences and spawned a host of imitations.
The Blob concerns a teen couple (Steve McQueen as Steve Andrews and Aneta Corsaut as Jane Martin) who discover a strange space rock. The meteor seems innocuous at first but Steve and Aneta soon find that it is in fact some sort of vessel that brings with it a dangerous alien from deep space. The alien blob wastes no time in seeking out victims and the teens are placed in the tenuous situation of trying to convince skeptical adults of the veracity of the threat that faces them. The first half of the film drags a little but things pick up in the second half where we're treated to classic set pieces when the blob attacks a supermarket, a diner and a movie theater.
Nowadays The Blob doesn't pack the kind of punch it did in the 50s in terms of raw scares but it is significant for its innovation and as a modern allegory that plays on our fear of pollution (in much the same way that Godzilla addressed the thread of radioactivity and atomic warfare.) If you can get by the wooden acting, stiff cinematography and plodding editing you'll find much to like here including fairly believable effects and a well rendered story that should stick with you for some time.
Criterion delivers another fantastic restoration with their release of The Blob. The film looks clean and clear throughout with little grain, a stable image and a minimum of dust and scratches. Most of the film takes place at night but thanks to good contrast and shadow detail the picture is very watchable. The saturated colors are particularly vivid the white levels are strong without blooming.
The mono soundtrack for The Blob is handled with the same care as the video images. It's very limited in terms of dynamic range and you can hear the hiss of the medium but there are no pops or other major flaws and the dialogue and music are quite clear. The audio track is suffers more from the original recording technology than from age and transfer to DVD.
There are a number of interesting extras included on this disc. Chief among them is a pair of audio commentary tracks. The first, with Producer Jack H. Harris and film historian Bruce Eder, is a nostalgic look at the production of the film with lots of interesting tidbits on the difficulty of making and distributing a film on an almost nonexistent budget. The second, with Director Irvin S. Yeaworth and Actor Robert Field, covers much of the same ground while adding information on the technical challenges the crew faced and many on and off set anecdotes. Next up is a very interesting photo gallery featuring production images, posters, props and other items. Finally there's a version of the film's theatrical trailer and a nice fold out reproduction of the one sheet poster
Fans of 50s horror will want The Blob in their collections. Criterion did a great job with this release and it won't disappoint those familiar with the film. If you've never seen The Blob you'll probably want to rent it first. The low budget nature of the movie probably won't appeal to everyone. Rating: Highly Recommended.