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'The Blob' Marks 50th Anniversary


Fifty years ago, "The Blob" oozed its way into movie theatres. It was one of many science fiction films that exploited the public's fascination with aliens.

And now, reporter Keith Brand looks back and finds that 50 years later, "The Blob" offers a unique view of the psychology of 1950s America.

KEITH BRAND: If you were afraid of the red menace in the late 1950s, communism might not have been the only thing on your mind.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Blob")

Mr. ALDEN STEPHEN CHASE (As Dr. T. Hallen): There's a man here with some sort of a parasite on his arm that is assimilating his flesh at a frightening speed. I may have to get ahead of it and amputate. No, I don't know what it is or where it came from.

BRAND: In "The Blob," the alien lands near a small town and starts dissolving the inhabitants. Films like the "The Blob," "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "It Came from Outer Space" made the most of our fears about an increasingly polarized political world where nuclear technology was out of control.

Professor CHRISTOPHER SHARRETT (Film and Communication, Seton Hall University): I think this is characteristic of the period itself, which after all, was the time of McCarthyism and HUAC.

BRAND: Christopher Sharrett is a professor of film and communication at Seton Hall University.

Prof. SHARRETT: "The Blob" fits into this notion that science doesn't have all the answers because after all, in "The Blob," we don't really know what it is or where it comes from or what its ambition is. All it does is suck things up.

BRAND: "The Blob" wasn't just a science fiction film, it was also a teen pick. In many of these 1950s films, the teenagers were out of control.

Prof. SHARRETT: But here, you've got teenagers as pretty benevolent forces.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Blob")

Mr. STEVE McQUEEN (Actor): (As Steve Andrews) The least I could have done is thank you for coming out tonight.

Ms. ANETA CORSAUT (Actress): (As Jane Martin) You didn't need to.

Mr. McQUEEN: (As Steve Andrews) I knew I needed to talk to him before as much as I do now.

BRAND: The producer of "The Blob" was Jack Harris. He saw the young Steve McQueen the beginnings of a remarkable screen talent.

Mr. JACK HARRIS (Producer, "The Blob"): We had a guy that was about to become one of the biggest stars right ahead the movie business, Steve McQueen.

BRAND: In "The Blob," he's the first one to encounter the alien and tries to warn the unsuspecting town.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Blob")

Mr. McQUEEN: (As Steve Andrews) This town is in danger. Now, several people have been killed already. Now, we had to make this noise, we had to make it so you'd listen to us, so we could warn you.

BRAND: At first, nobody except the teenagers believes McQueen. But by absorbing the bodies of its victims, the creature grows enormous. Finally, it's Steve McQueen who discovers its weakness and is able to stop it cold.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Blob")

Mr. McQUEEN: (As Steve Andrews) What are you going to do with that thing, Dave?

Mr. EARL ROWE (Actor): (As Lieutenant Dave) Oh, the Air Force is sending a globe master in. They're flying it to the arctic.

Mr. McQUEEN: (As Steve Andrews) It's not dead, is it?

Mr. ROWE: (As Lieutenant Dave) No, it's not. It's just frozen.

BRAND: At the close of the film, we're led to believe that the blob's reign of terror might not have come to a permanent end. Mary Foote is the director of BlobFest, a yearly celebration of "The Blob."

Ms. MARY FOOTE (Director, BlobFest): He ends up being shipped out to the arctic and the movie director put a big question mark at the end.

BRAND: Why do you think it's a he?

Ms. FOOTE: I guess I just assumed trouble.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: It's that troublesome disposition that leads the audience with a clear moral choice in these films. It's a them or us. Just as the politicians of today took advantage of our fear of evil empires, so did the movies. But the science fiction films of the 1950s both exploited and allayed those fears. In "The Blob," the alien is defeated, a small suburban town triumphs over adversity, teenagers are redeemed, and our way of life is preserved, at least until the 1960s.

For NPR News, I'm Keith Brand.

SIEGEL: Keith Brand, by the way, grew up in the town where "The Blob" was filmed. You can read his essay about "The Blob" and Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, on our Web site, npr.org.

(Soundbite of song, "Beware of the Blob")

THE FIVE BLOBS (Band): (Singing) Beware of the Blob. It creeps and leaps and glides and slides across the floor right through the door and all around the wall. A splotch, a blotch. Be careful of the Blob.

SIEGEL: One last note about "The Blob," this theme song, a young unknown songwriter was commissioned to write "Beware of the Blob" and it went to number 33 on the Billboard Pop Chart. The songwriter was Burt Bacharach. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Keith Brand