Those who actually know something about movies occasionally complain that Hollywood seems to provide us with diminishing returns. How many movies have been remade? Can anyone even count all the sequels, prequels, and just plan quels? A similar trend is evident in publishing. A teen-vampire novel takes off and every publisher faces a twilight of the profits if it doesn’t spin off its own version. Sometimes I end up becoming familiar with a movie through its remake before ever viewing the original. The Blob is one example of this. I’ve seen the thirty-year remake 1988 version a few times. Just this weekend I saw the original 1958 version for the first time. It seems to me that teen movies of the late fifties and early sixties tried a little too hard to get the snappy, sassing dialogue of teens on the brink of the incredible cultural changes that were about to take effect after the extreme conservatism of the McCarthy Era. At times it is so hip that I can hardly stand it.
The Blob falls into that category. A young Steve McQueen trades ripostes with his chums who think a drag race and a Bela Lugosi movie with your gal are pretty daring behaviors. Buried in all that innocence, however, I found a hidden warning tone. When I watch scary movies, I always keep an eye out for religious themes. Sometimes they fail to materialize. The Blob is about as secular as they come. I didn’t even spot a church or a priest (unlike the 1988 remake) in the typical American town. Just a bunch of kids that, Archie-like, try to convince the adults that they’re serious. A blob from space really is loose in town, and nobody has an idea how to stop it. All the adult men wear ties and the ladies all wear dresses. It is a world that follows the rules.
What of this warning tone I mentioned? Well, the blob itself is, apart from its disruptive raison-d’être, hardly more threatening than the stifling culture it attacks. It can’t be shot or burned, and nobody has any other ideas. It is unstoppable. Except for cold. And here’s the chilling part. As the carbon-dioxide drenched blob is airlifted to the Arctic by the military, Lieutenant Dave declares the world safe once more. Steve (Andrews, i.e., McQueen) chimes in with, “Yeah, as long as the Arctic stays cold.” The film ends with a trademark horror question-mark (this one literal) as the blob is parachuted onto a snow-covered landscape. Global warming was a future monster in 1958. The optimistic world could see nowhere but forward. Now, over 50 years later, our future looks a lot less cold. With politicians and some religious leaders decrying global warming as just another liberal myth, we might do well to remember The Blob. Something up there on our melting ice caps is waiting for us to return to the 1950s to begin its sequel of terror.