Sweet old 1950s America could be taken down by only two threats. A looming nervousness of the Cold War with Russia, or a lab experiment that absorbed and consumed anything in its path. Do we fear the invisible enemy or the one that is oozing underneath the doorway? Director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. simply states “both” and merges a fear of the Red Scare with an enemy that audiences can visualise and project their innermost hate upon. A blending of the two is smart for the time, and accessing the All-American styling of this is easily presented and at home with the characters on display.
The Blob is not, however, known for its subtlety. Teenager Steve Andrews (played by a mid-life crisis Steve McQueen) could bleed red, white and blue. Everyone around him could. Yeaworth Jr. presents an iconography with expectedly and exceptionally severe desires to drape itself in the American flag. It is understandable as to why, identify the threat to this God-loving way of life, and stomp it down to preserve it. But these characters are not worth preserving, they are annoying and basic. Primitive, simple beings wander the streets, never quite adapting to the situation unfolding around them. Not that they should, to his credit, Yeaworth Jr. understands that, like many of these science-fiction films of the time, not knowing how to react is somewhat natural. That is not well-realised by the acting, but by the thought process running through some of the technical merits.
Important because of the tropes it brought to the genre, not because of its actual qualities as a riff on the science fictions and horrors that came before it. The Blob needs control over all aspects of its message and is fearful that said commentary will reveal something about these characters. Portraying these heroes as everyday men and women is a tactic, a choice that pushes artistic styling to the back of the mind. We must respect and love these characters solely because we are stuck to them for much of this feature, not because they are interesting or fleshed out. Admire what they stand for, not who is standing there.
To do so is a big ask, and not ever something we are inclined to do. The Blob has no character or charm, it has a message and idea that it presents well. A cultural time machine that takes us back to the days of missile fears and Chryslers. It is a façade that hides behind it bland, emotionless characters. The Blob does its best with them, setting the mould for future science-fiction horror films, but falls short when its own merits are isolated. Rewarding it may be at times to see where the influences and inspiration for modern moviemaking come from, The Blob falls short, because its context and message overtake any real issues. Thankfully, directors and creatives understand that message and meaning must be blurred with entertainment, something truly lacking from this late-50s feature.