Everyone has one movie or two that hit them so hard it caused them to develop habits. It could be shaking your shoes to confirm no spiders are in them, counting the seconds after a lightning strike for the thunder, or checking the back seat of your car before you get into it, just in case. Some movies kind of imprint themselves on you in different ways.
Beware! The Blob (or Son of The Blob in some circles) was the most terrifying film I saw as a kid. I watched it in front of my grandmother’s living room tv that had a little alarm clock on the floor beneath it. Unlike Friday the 13th and Halloween, where I could rationalize my fears, Beware! The Blob had me fearing the summer and any open crevice we had. On any visits to our local video store (in the Pre-Blockbuster days), I’d pick out video games to rent and could see the box for the film in the horror section. I’d never walk over there, even in my early teenage years.
Most consider the 1958 original a Classic, and Chuck Russell’s 1988 update often goes toe to toe with John Carpenter’s The Thing on the Best Remakes list. Beware! The Blob will probably never make that list, but it’s not a total loss, given a recent rewatch. The film’s greatest strengths are in the casting and the special effects. From a cinema history/trivia standpoint, the film marks one of the earliest credits for Cinematographer Dean Cundey. Cundey worked as a 2nd Unit Cinematographer for the film, particularly with the animal shots in the opening and later on. That might not sound like much, but Cundey would go on to be picked by Debra Hill to help out on Halloween in 1978. From there, he had The Fog, Halloween II, The Thing, Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future, Big Trouble in Little China, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and Jurassic Park, to name a few.
With 14 years since the first film, there were some tech upgrades to how the blob was made. A large plastic balloon was used for some scenes (particularly the bowling alley sequences). Additionally, silicone was added to a drum to allow for the “blob pov” during the bowling alley sequences. In most sequences, a red dyed powder mixed with water was used. To make sure the audience was aware the Blob was close, a high whistle would sound, giving anyone with even the slightest bit of tinnitus some cause to look over their shoulder. Academy Award Winner Tim Baar (The Time Machine) and Conrad Rothmann worked on the effects, along with Cundey.
In his film directing debut, Larry Hagman (TV’s I Dream of Jeannie, Dallas) weaves a tale of horror lurking through a town peppered with parties, hobos, a boy scout team, an angry bowling alley owner, some dune buggy aficionados and a sheriff (Richard Webb, The Phantom Stagecoach) who’s a little confused about some of the events happening in town. To his credit, it’s amazing to see who Hagman assembled here, as he called in some friends to join in on the fun. Comedian Godfrey Cambridge. Cindy Williams, just a few years shy of American Graffiti. Gerrit Graham, about two years before Phantom of the Paradise. Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects) is here as well. You can even spot Hagman in the film as one of three hobos squaring off with the Blob. It should be noted that the other two hobos with him are Burgess Meredith (Clash of the Titans) and Del Close (Chuck Russell’s The Blob).
The film flows like it’s namesake, with some chapters having little do to with anything – Dick Van Patten’s boy scouts, while funny, could have had one of their scenes cut for speed. It’s not incredibly terrible, but it’s exactly great, either. Most of the script, written by Anthony Harris, was tossed with ad-libbing done on set. Despite all this, it does looks like the cast enjoyed themselves making the film. It has that going for it, at least.
Chester, A construction worker from the Arctic (Cambridge) is getting his camping gear stowed away when his wife, Marlene (Marlene Clark, The Beast Must Die) discovers a thermos in their freezer. He explains he performed some work and brought home a piece of what the found in the Arctic. Setting it on a countertop, the couple forget about the thermos, which pops open. The newly released blob absorbs a fly and a kitten before moving on to larger prey. Before we know it, Chester is having problems with his TV – which happens to be playing the original 1958 movie – as it slithers into his favorite recliner. It’s a sequence that’s burned into my mind. I always check a chair before sitting in it. Some check for thumbtacks, I check for alien goo.
When Lisa (Gwynne Gilford, Masters of the Universe & actor Chris Pine’s Mom) discovers Chester with his new friend, she dashes out and heads to her boyfriend, Bobby (Robert Walker, Easy Rider). By the time the couple return to Chester’s place, they find the house empty. Can the couple convince the cops and the town of the danger ahead before it’s too late? Most of Beware! The Blob‘s scenes are set up in a way where people are completely oblivious of it until it’s touched them, causing said individual to slip and fall into the camera. The climax of the film takes place in a bowling alley, which is actually impressive for the techniques used, but even with the casting, you might spend more time laughing than anything else. Perhaps that’s my way of rationalizing the film years later.
At the time of this writing, Beware! The Blob is currently available to watch on the Plex streaming service. We’re also labeling this an Incident – out of respect to the kitten – and returning the timer to Zero.