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Blob Movies and Monsters, Part II

Last installment, we introduced blob monsters, and we listed the three British movies that initiated the blob movie tradition.

This installment we’ll list the first American blob films, plus several from other countries as well (nine films total):

 

UNKNOWN TERROR

(USA, b&w, 1957)

Here’s the first American blob movie.  Actually, the “terror” is really a jungle fungus created (or augmented) by a mad scientist in a cave.

The picture had a minuscule budget, and so the blob (fungus) effect is just a tub of soap suds (!) poured down a cave wall.  It’s hard not to laugh when the Latino actors playing the helpless natives scream and writhe as soap pours down on them from above.

Still, we have to give the independent production some credit, since Unknown Terror precedes the Steve McQueen Blob.  Some of the cave scenes are well lit and well filmed.

Bonus: Calypso singer Sir Lancelot (from I Walked with a Zombie) composes a sweet song about the old cave and sings it from 7:00-9:00 in the film.

 

THE BLOB

(USA, color, 1958)

Here’s the first color blob movie, and the blob is a bloody red color, a perfect choice.

It’s not the best blob movie (most British ones are better), but it created the archetype and had the widest influence.

It’s regular folks rather than military or scientific authorities who are menaced by the creature and must find the One Thing that will beat it.  Steve McQueen and the other “teen” actors (actually in their 20s) make it a lot of fun.

Bonus: Burt Bacharach (“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”) wrote the jazzy theme song.

 

THE H-MAN

(Japan, color, 1958)

Here, the blob seems to be Earth-born, an apparent side effect of a nuclear explosion.  Radiation mutates people into blue-green blob monsters that attack businessmen in Tokyo.  Each victim turns into a new blob monster, and so the menace grows.

The plot is weak and the characters are a bunch of annoying gangsters.  But the effects are excellent, perhaps the best out of all 1950s blob movies.

Solidifying the tradition of making a blob movie into a gore movie, The H-Man offers several excellent “dissolve” effects, including one where it appears an actual frog is dissolved into blue bubbles.

Blob crawling effects – the kind used also in The Blob, The Stuff, and others – are done by rolling the blob substance down a wall but filming it sideways so that, when shown upright, it looks like the blobs are crawling across floors.

At one point, a news headline reads “Liquid Monster Dissolves Human!”

 

SPACE MASTER X-7

(USA, b&w, 1958)

You’d expect this to be an imitator of The Blob since it’s an American film from 1958… but actually it’s a belated imitation of The Quatermass Xperiment.  It even has an X in its title.

As in that British film, a spacecraft returns to Earth, bringing with it a deadly alien blob.  It’s more of a fungus than a blob, but it’s sure a more menacing fungus than the one from Unknown Terror a year earlier.

An early scene in a lab is pretty scary, where a scientist can’t find anything that will slow the fungus down.  After this scene, the blob-fungus is on screen less often than you might wish, but the picture is at least average considering its low budget.

Bonus: Moe Howard plays a comic relief cabbie!

 

THE FLAME BARRIER

(USA, b&w, 1958)

If you thought Space Master X-7 was low budget, wait until you see The Flame Barrier.

Again, a satellite falls to Earth and brings with it an alien blob-fungus.  Again, The Quatermass Xperiment is the obvious precursor.  Again, the monster is on screen less often than it should be, but here its best moments come at the climax, as is fitting.

Like the blobs in The H-Man, this blob has a glowing appearance.  Also like the blobs in The H-Man, this blob apparently possesses rudimentary intelligence, as when it produces an electrical field to defend itself.

In the standout gore scene, a jungle native gets caught in the electrical field and burned to a smoldering skeleton.

The actors, including Arthur Franz from Invaders from Mars as the star, is surprisingly strong.

 

THE ANGRY RED PLANET

(USA, color, 1959) 

This silly but lovable space adventure is like EC’s Weird Science or Weird Fantasy come to life.

It’s got a simplistic script and unrealistic characters, like the sexist womanizing captain who tries to romance the lone female crew member right in the spaceship cockpit.

But we’re watching for the monsters.  Its most famous Martian monster is the enormous “rat-bat-spider” but its second-most-famous is the giant amoeba: a blob.

Unlike all previous cinematic blobs, this one has distinctive organs, including a rotating eye.

Note: the fuzzy red effects in the clip below were the film’s attempt to disguise cardboard sets.  A minute later in the film you can see the green plantlike blob body.

 

CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER

(Italy/USA, b&w, 1959)

Co-directed by the famous Mario Bava, the unusual Caltiki features the toughest-looking blob monster of the 50s.  It almost seems to have leather skin.

Archaeologists in Mexico uncover and defeat one of the blobs rather quickly… but you won’t be surprised when a fragment of the defeated monster reanimates and grows.

It combines elements from American predecessors (like the guy who gets some blob gunk on his hand like in The Blob) and British ones (like the eaten-away face from X the Unknown).

Characters could have been more distinctive, but the plot is surprising and the blob effects improve as the movie progresses.

 

MUTINY IN OUTER SPACE

(USA, b&w, 1965)

Technically the monster is a fungus, but it is obviously bloblike.  It kills one person and starts a panic on a space station.  Unfortunately for blob fans, the space station drama becomes the focus of the movie, as the title suggests.

Of note are a brief gory image of a corpse head and an early shot when the stringy fungus drips down in front of the camera, obscuring our view.

It’s also notable, though perhaps disappointing, that the fungus attacks the space station more than the people on it.

It’s a bad movie in any case and certainly the weakest blob movie on our list.

 

ISLAND OF TERROR

(“Island of the Burning Damned,” UK, color, 1966)

This independent British production is directed by one Hammer regular (Terence Fisher) and stars another (Peter Cushing).

It continues the mid-60s trend where blob monsters attack a small group of people trapped in isolation.  It also continues the British trend of intelligent science and developed characters, so it’s about as close as a blob movie has ever been to an “A” movie.  Yet it has plenty of action.

The multiple “silicate” monsters are dog-sized blobs with single tentacles.  They look good in most scenes, and they look excellent in one key scene where they divide by fission.

Weird blob sound effects might be overdone, and the coda is too campy, but these are minor flaws.  It’s one of the best blob movies ever made.

 

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