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You don't know how many of the afternoons of my misspent youth involved having me glued to the television set, while one on the local stations aired that minor sci-fi classic THE BLOB ($40) for the umpteenth time. When I was a kid, I really loved this movie- Just imagine it, unstoppable squishy goo from outer space hits the ground in a small town and begins to devour the populace. Did sci-fi movies get any better than this? As I grew older, I became aware of the film's flaws, which included thirty-year-old teenagers and some preposterous dialogue. However, nothing could diminish my love for this childhood favorite- a movie that I think is still a whole lot of fun to watch.

THE BLOB stars Steve McQueen as teenager Steve Andrews, who goes in search a meteor that crashes in the woods outside of his small town. With his girlfriend Jane Martin (Aneta Corsaut) in tow, Steve almost runs over the elderly man (Olin Howlin), who was unfortunate enough to have the first encounter with the meteor. When they find him, the old man's hand is covered with contents of the meteor- something that is causing him tremendous pain. Steve and Jane take the man to see Dr. Hallen (Steven Chase), who determines that the strange goop covering the old man's hand is a parasitic organism, which has begun to devour the man's flesh. Just as Dr. Hallen is about to amputate the elderly man's arm to stave off the parasite, he discovers that the creature has already entirely consumed the old codger. Now much larger, the creature attacks and consumes the doctor- then disappears. When Steve and Jane go to the local police with their story, the cops assume that it is an adolescent prank, since they can find no evidence of the doctor, the old man or the creature. With the authorities unwilling to believe them, Steve and Jane alert the other teens to danger, and then set out the creature before it devours the entire town. The cast of THE BLOB also includes Earl Rowe, John Benson, George Karas, Lee Payton, Elbert Smith and Robert (Tony) Fields.

THE BLOB comes to DVD under the auspices of The Criterion Collection, and I must say that Criterion has done a fantastic job with this little science fiction film. Criterion has given THE BLOB a new 16:9 enhanced wide screen transfer that frames the film at 1.66:1. Personally, I marveled at how good THE BLOB looks on this DVD. The image is usually very sharp, except for a few slightly soft looking shots, which appear to be the result of optical processing. This new transfer really brings out all of the detail in the image, with very few flaws. There is a mild film grain that becomes occasionally noticeable during the unspooling, as well as a few errant blemishes on the film elements. However, these are only minor quibbles, when one considers the age of this film and the beauty of the presentation. Colors are pretty spectacular for an independent film from 1958 that wasn't processed by Technicolor. The majority of the hues are quite vibrant and almost have a glowing property. Flesh tones have an appealing quality that one generally associates with a studio makeup department, yet the actors never appear overly made up. Color reproduction is very clean, with no signs of chroma noise or bleeding. Blacks are pretty accurate and the picture provides a good level of shadow detail for a movie of this vintage. There are no sings of digital compression artifacts on this cleanly authored DVD. The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack isn't as good as the picture, but it doesn't have any significant flaws. There is a mild bit of background hiss, but it isn't too bothersome. Dialogue reproduction is crisp and the film music is cleanly rendered. Of course, there are the expected frequency limitations one associates with films of this age, but this is still better than THE BLOB usually sounds on broadcast television. Subtitles are provided in English on the DVD.

Music and animation have been added to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection feature, as well as some nice supplements. For this release, Criterion has included two separate audio commentaries, the first features Producer Jack H. Harris and Film Historian Bruce Eder, and the second is with Director Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr. and Actor Robert (Tony) Fields. Both commentaries provide a good deal of detail into the production of this forty plus year old film, as well as being quite enjoyable. Fans of the movie will definitely find investing time in both commentaries a rewarding proposition. Also included on the DVD is a collection of stills from BLOB-abilia collector Wes Shank, which includes photographs, poster art and press materials. A theatrical trailer fills out the disc's supplements, however a replica of the theatrical poster from THE BLOB has been included inside the packaging.

THE BLOB is a childhood joy that I am glad to be able to own now on DVD. Criterion has done a truly wonderful job transcribing the film to DVD and die-hard fans will find the disc well worth acquiring.


The Blob - Criterion Collection


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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