Beware! The Blob

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I remember that in my youth, the 1958 horror film The Blob was not all that well regarded. Many saw it as a cheapo 50’s horror flick with the novelty of having a major star, Steve McQueen, in one of his earliest roles. Now, we live in a world where this film is spoken of in lofty ways as being an allegory for the red scare. You can ponder that while watching the Criterion release of the movie. How things change. The same glowing opinions, though, have not carried over to the film’s 1972 sequel. Directed by actor Larry Hagman, it’s Beware! The Blob.

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The film begins with an oil pipeline worker named Chester (Godfrey Cambridge) returning home from having spent some time working at the North Pole. He has brought with him a frozen sample of a substance discovered on the job. He’s going to keep it in his freezer for a time, much to his wife’s dismay, before taking it to a lab to be analyzed. However, the couple leaves it out on the counter, so it thaws, eats the cat, then Chester’s wife, then Chester. In fact, a friend, Lisa (Gwynne Gilford) shows up in time to see Chester devoured.

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Now, Lisa is out to warn everyone in town about this gelatinous menace. At first her boyfriend Bobby (Robert Walker Jr) doesn’t believe her, but when the blob tries to attack the two of them in Bobby’s truck, he becomes a believer. Other folks have deadly run-ins with the creature, as well, including a few hippies played by Cindy Williams (before Laverne and Shirley) and Christian singing artist Randy Stonehill. Also meeting up with the monster are Dick Van Patten as a scoutmaster, Burgess Meredith as a hobo, and Shelly Berman as a barber. Before long, Lisa and Bobby lead a final battle against the blob in the local bowling alley.

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Whether you consider the original The Blob to be a masterpiece or a piece of schlock, it at least is a fairly polished production. Beware! The Blob (or Son of the Blob, as it is sometimes known) has a bit more of a crude feel to it. At times it really feels like a bunch of yahoos with cameras somehow stumbled into acquiring the rights to do a sequel to a monster movie from fifteen years earlier. So it’s surprising when you see actual “names” like Burgess Meredith or Dick Van Patten show up on screen. Even though this is the only film ever helmed by actor Larry Hagman, you’d still expect he’d take on a project with a bit higher production value. He wasn’t a nobody at this time, after all, having appeared in many films and TV shows by this point. I’m not sure how much of this is him and how much is just that the film had limited resources to begin with, but the final product is a decidedly sloppy looking film.

Much of the film is pretty boring as it lackadaisically moves from one encounter with the blob to another. The first half of the film is a bit of an endurance test with just a few bright moments injected by some of the previously mentioned familiar faces. The wackiest moment, though, comes courtesy of Cindy Williams and Randy Stonehill playing a few trippie dippie hippies. In an unusual twist, Stonehill, known primarily as a pioneer of Christian rock music, belts out a drug anthem called “Captain Coke.”

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As the film moved into its final act, I admit I had subconsciously given up on it. So it came as a big surprise that the film slightly redeems itself in the big bowling alley finale. There are some great moments as the Blob seeps into the bowling alley and the people flee in panic. I especially love the shot of the blob pouring out of the pin setting area of the alleys in one huge mass. If only the rest of the film had the level of creativity shown in the bowling alley sequence, the end result may have been quite a bit more enjoyable.

There are certainly times when cheaply made productions can have real heart and passion which elevates them to be far more entertaining than what their small budget would suggest. Beware! The Blob, however, is not that kind of film. It is slapped together in a way that makes for a pretty boring end product. I do not see a Criterion release in its future.

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