09 June 2012

BEWARE! THE BLOB/1972

BEWARE!THE BLOB

1972/Director: Larry Hagman/Writers: Jack Woods, Anthony Harri

CAST: Robert Walker Jr., Gwynne Gilford, Richard Stahl, Godfrey Cambridge, Carol Lynley, Larry Hagman, Cindy Williams, Dick Van Patten, Burgess Meredith (uncredited), Sid Haig (uncredited)

I might take this moment, before delving into the mad schlockiness that is Beware! The Blob, to make a confession. There is much being said these days about the evils of sequels and remakes. Most people disdain them with vehemence. I have to admit that I am not only not anti-sequel/remake, but I like them. Now this tends to be in regards  to horror movies and their close cousins like sci-fi, action-adventure and even exploitation type films. I doubt I could accept remakes of films like Annie Hall, The Midnight Cowboy, Apocalypse Now or Lawrence of Arabia. But those are not the types of films we are dealing with here. In many cases people are hostilely denouncing a remake of or a sequel to a horror or exploitation film that was not really that much of a hoot in the first place. There is also a tradition of remakes and sequels in the horror movie world that goes back as long as the films have been made. Way too much lily gilding going on here. Well, I’ve been wanting to say that for a while. And there, I did. Not to say remakes and sequels are not without problems and drawbacks, but in the end I don’t really care. You still have the original film to fall back on, for better or for worse. And when one compares producer Jack Harris’ 1972 Beware! The Blob –directed by Larry Hagman of TV’s I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas fame- to his 1958 feature The Blob –starring Steve McQueen in his debut film role- there, at first anyway, seems to be many valid arguments to support the anti-sequelers position. But that is only if you take the world of horror films all too seriously, and if you do so you will wind up missing out on the fun to be found in one of the true camp/cheese classics of the early 70’s.

And as is the case with many of the uranium enriched films to be found here at the Café I have a personal anecdote about seeing it for the first time. The film was re-released in the early 1980’s with the tagline “The Movie That Jr. Shot”, a reference that many folks of my grim age group will notice as a reference to the TV show Dallas, and in particular to one of the great TV end of the season cliff hangers of the day, or all time perhaps, the “Who Shot Jr.” episodes. I had the chance to see the film at one of the movie theaters over on Zarzamora St. in San Antonio Tx. It was a little safe back then to go that side of town though I don’t think I would recommend it anymore. I sat next to a guy I did not know but who felt compelled to simply spoil every other scene of the film for me. It was relentless but in hindsight it was not like I couldn’t everything that was coming. But the cool thing is I got to see the film in the theater. I guess. So what the heck is Beware! The Blob and what is its relation –if any- to the 1958 film, and to the 1988 remake of that early classic? By the way, I liked the 1988 film except for the “evil government conspiracy” angle.



Producer Jack Harris had long wanted to do a sequel to his hit film The Blog but the project had lain on the back shelves for years. Perhaps too many years for it to really work in a practical sense. And horror/sci-fi films of the 50’s and 60’s did not really spawn immediate sequel franchises the way they do these days, as with the Final Destination films for example and any number of masked killer films. Nearly 14 years had elapses since the Blob was dropped into the frozen Arctic area by a worried military after it had sucked up and absorbed the residents of a small American town. Exactly why they would just drop the Blog off like this always raised questions with me, especially since The Blob scared the crap out of me as a kid. I remember covering the a/c vents in my room at night hoping it wouldn’t be able to get in. Of course I knew it could get me if it wanted to. In Beware! The Blob (or one of its other AKAs) the Blob is returned to small town USA by a unwittingly pipeline employee named Chester (Godfrey Cambridge) who, along with his wife and little kitten, becomes the Blob’s first meal. And as we should all know the more the Blob eats the faster he grows. This opening sequence too sets the tone for the entire film, with its totally cheezy title music and campy acting and dialog. The fact that the Blob’s first victim (after a house fly) is a little kitten lets us know we are in for some ruthless Blob behavior. Chester is discovered in the middle of being absorbed by hippie girl Lisa Clark (Gwynne Gilford) who is coming over to arrange things for a surprise birthday party the gang is throwing for her boyfriend Bobby (the baby faced Robert Walker Jr. of Ensign Pulver and Easy Rider fame). She goes into hysterics and nobody really believes her story of a giant amoeba devouring poor Chester.
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While Bobby –being the really sensitive and attentive sort of guy he is- attempts to placate and soothe Lisa townsfolk begin disappearing in large numbers as the night drags on. Pot smoking hippies (including cute little Cindy Williams from the Happy Days spin off Lavern and Shirley) and alcoholic rednecks bums (Burgess Meredith and Larry Hagman) are consumed by the Blob, showing he is indifferent to lifestyles and beliefs. The attacks show the Blob in different forms of special effects. Sometimes a camera seems to be mounted on the Blob’s “head” as it advances on a screaming victim. If you look quickly in one scene you will the Blob is nothing more than a painted balloon. Many deaths occur off camera and there is no real terror in the death scenes as there was in the original Blob film from ’58. In fact the lighthearted and frivolous mood of the filmmakers comes through in the final product. Much of the film was improvised and the original script was, for the most, forgotten about. Lot of familiar faces from 70’s films and TV, including the lovely Carol Lynley and ultimate father figure from 70’s TV, Dick Van Patten. Sig Haig has a small uncredited role but it slipped past me and I am not sure I will be rewatching it again anyway soon just to catch him, though I do plan on doing some original screen captures soon and maybe will find him then.
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The film culminates in a classic teenage hero vs. monster battle in a bowling ally/ice rink run by the hippie hating Edward Fazio (Richard Stahl). Well, he seems to just hate life and people in general, but really hates hippies, though in the end he has to work together with Bobby and Lisa in freezing the Blob if he wants to get out alive. Hagman was not meant to be behind the director’s chair but this one big screen offering –he did direct some TV episodes of I Dream of Jeannie- is a fine little midnight movie and one lovers of bad cinema will appreciate.

The 1988 remake of The Blob was also produced by Jack Harris. In that film the alien in a meteorite storyline is replaced by the always evil American government and/or military experiment storyline that became more popular in the 80’s and on into the present. The film gets banged around a bit too much and yet it is not a bad movie though I get tired of the conspiracy and cover-up angle myself. There was some idle chatter a while back about a remake of The Blob with Rob Zombie doing the direction. Nothing but negativity on that but I sort of was looking forward to it, but the project has, as I last read, been canned.


BEWARE! THE BLOB TRAILER

4 comments:

Dr. Theda said...

I posted on this film a few weeks past....
Burgess Meredith, who had earlier played the 1860's "the Penguin' on TV's "Batman"......as well as starring a couple of others with more acting performances yet to come ....
I saw this at the "drive-in" theater as a small child....

Bill D. Courtney said...

Thanks Dr. Theda. I love stories about people seeing films either for the first time or later under interesting circumstances. I think people who are a bit older and lived during the era of drive-ins and cheap matinees (as I did) must have seen some cool movies for practically nothing. I used to catch matinee features for .35! Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

I've been hearing claims that the IMAGE release on DVD is CUT. Do you know if this is true??

Either way. A brilliant little camp-fest!

I recently watched the original BLOB the other day. Man, was it bad! Terrible direction. Awful acting, no sense of one's surroundings. I have trouble watching po-faced horror fair nowadays. I mush prefer Hagman's cheese festival, or Russell's excellent remake. The subplot doesn't bother me either way. I just think it's really well made and has a fantasric atmosphere.

Nothing beats Freda/Bava's CALTIKI though...Killer flick!

Bill D. Courtney said...

I do not know about the image situation, sorry. But this is a fun and cheezy flick more people need to delve into. Strange you mention Caltiki, as that is the film I am going to watch for the 1st time later tonight!