Running Time: 82 minutes
MPAA Rating: NR, probably PG
Format: Widescreen 1.66:1, 16x9 enhanced
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
Region: 1
MSRP: $39.95

Own It!
The Blob - Criterion Collection (1958)

A meteorite plunges to Earth, disgorging the titular creature - a protoplasmic mass that is not only carnivorous, but seemingly indestructible as well. As the creature cruises about the night-shrouded town, consuming the unwary and growing larger and larger, two teens attempt to warn the authorities, but hey, what do they know? They're just teen-aged troublemakers, right?

In the wake of Rebel Without A Cause, Hollywood was falling all over itself to incorporate the new filmic fad, juvenile delinquents, into their product. This cheeky little independent film, while not the first to combine teens and monsters, is easily the most enduring, due in no small part to it's being filmed in color, and to its star: some young fella named Steve McQueen, earnestly trying to play a teen at 27 years of age.

This movie - produced by then-distributor Jack H. Harris in collaboration with a firm that had, to that point, only produced short religious films - had been turned down by most of the majors, until Paramount picked it up with an eye toward relegating it to the B position under their big-budget sci-fi thriller, I Married A Monster From Outer Space. When The Blob tested stronger in previews, it became an A-list film, playing solo to packed houses, eventually becoming an icon; when comedians use you as a punchline, you know you have arrived.

Criterion caused a minor stir by announcing it was issuing deluxe editions of this movie and Fiend Without A Face (though I seem to recall a Criterion Blob from my laserdisc days...). Though the inclusion of Fiend is still something of a head-scratcher, The Blob certainly deserves the Criterion treatment: like it or not, it is a major film on the pop landscape - almost everyone seems to have fond childhood memories of it.

The transfer is of the usual Criterion quality, with strong blacks, a crystal clear image (I can finally see the doctor's demise) and absolutely scrumptious colors. The print itself shows some minor scratching and speckling, but you have to consciously look for it. The sound is of a similar, squeaky-clean quality.

Criterion's taken care with its interactive menus, too - the Main Menu uses the title animation as a background, with the deliriously goofy theme song (penned by another young fella named Burt Bacharach) playing. Chapter menus feature clips of Blob attacks framed by lava lamp-style globs. Somebody had some fun with this project.

There is the mandatory theatrical trailer, which is showing its age, and unwittingly or not quotes the theme song - "It creeps! It crawls!" And, like all publicity after the film's first run, a close-up of McQueen is obviously edited in with the inserted vocal: "Starring Steve McQueen...and a cast of talented young people!"

There are two commentary tracks - one by producer Jack Harris & film historian Bruce Eder; the other by director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. and actor Robert Fields. These worthies were obviously taped separately, and the results edited together. They can nonetheless be enragingly spotty, and almost never have anything to do with what is occurring onscreen at the moment. But taken together, they do provide a fairly complete picture of making a movie with nearly no budget - at least when they're not telling Steve McQueen tales.

The final extra, "Blob-bilia!" is a collection of production and publicity stills, and photos of the Wes Schank Blob Collection. Especially revealing are the forced perspective miniatures, built especially for Blob manipulation - they look like non-Euclidian architecture when shot from anything but their intended angle.

Though the extras seem to suffer in comparison with its sister disc, Fiend Without A Face, The Blob still has all the earmarks of the Criterion Collection, a scholarly approach and a quality presentation - and here they seem to be applied to (arguably) a more deserving film. But any Criterion disc is worth at least a rental, and most Cinephiles have at least one or two on their shelves - those of us with a more macabre taste in their entertainment can just be glad that Criterion has turned their eye to material that can charitably be described as existing on the fringe, if not in the ghetto, of cinema.

Dr. Freex, 5/8/2001