Get ready for company, because this is the summer of alien invasions. Hollywood headliners such as Prometheus, Battleship, and Men in Black 3 are ushering extraterrestrials earthward in droves, inspiring us to dig up one of our favorite alien flicks, The Blob. This low-budget, 1958 cult classic is as cliché as they come, but its cheesy effects, scrappy costuming, and heart-of-gold commitment to the idea of an apocalyptic blob of space Jell-O is strangely disarming.
The movie takes place in the summer of 1957, in a sleepy, nondescript town. Teenage lovebirds Steve (Steve McQueen) and Jane (Aneta Corsaut) are making out in the woods when a large, glowing orb burns through the sky and crashes off in the distance. At Steve’s urging, the couple goes off to investigate, and soon find themselves fighting for survival against a sentient, gelatinous lump that harbors a sinister taste for human meat.
When your villain is a blob, it’s hard to craft action-packed scenes or move the plot along that quickly, which means we have ample time to check out the fashion in the film. Unlike that other ’50s movie, Grease – which was filmed in the ’70s but set after the summer of 1958 — the high schoolers in The Blob aren’t fashion plates or teen dreams. When Steve and his pals drag race, there is nary a sexy flag-waver in sight, and they only race the length of a neighborhood block. Steve stumbles his way through his makeout session with Jane. The girls wear sweet A-line skirts and poppy red lipstick, while the boys generally dress like my father. They’re kids from Anytown, USA — not particularly glamorous, but very real.
Like Grease and other teen films, however, The Blob does suffer from that Hollywood syndrome where all the teenagers look like they’re in their twenties (indeed, McQueen was 27 when he filmed The Blob). As a result, costumes played a key role in creating contrasts between the teens and adults, with the kids dressed in bright colors and the grown-ups garbed in the uniforms of their professions or age.
This film may not be able to compete with the pounding visual effects of Prometheus in 3-D or the epic musical costumes of Grease, but, like its titular terror, it is what it is. As a vehicle of doom, the Blob is not particularly scary or effective, but it works hard, plays hard, and, most importantly, puts on a good show.
Have you seen The Blob? What’s your favorite alien movie?