Weird Mofo Cinema, Episode A: Beware! The Blob

[Okay, here’s the deal with the title of this post. I’d like to do Weird Mofo Cinema as a podcast or vlog, but I don’t have the time right now to make that happen, so it’s debuting as an occasional post on my regular blog. On with the show, but be warned: I will spoil decades-old movie plots without hesitation.] 

ImageYou know something weird is going down when the opening credits of Beware! The Blob (1972), ostensibly a horror movie, play over footage of a kitten frolicking in a field. Come to think of it, though, it’s comparable to the light-hearted (and ill-fitting) opening song of the original film, The Blob (1958). But the original overcame its theme song and was an effectively creepy and scary movie, plus a solid introduction for Steve McQueen in his first leading role. By the time the belated sequel’s opening credits finish, however, naming the director as one Larry Hagman—yes, Larry “J.R.” Hagman—the viewer can’t help but wonder just WTF is going on.

Beware! The Blob quickly makes clear that it’s meant to be a comedy. Interspersed, of course, with people being devoured by the giant quivering Blob that fell to Earth in a meteorite in 1958. The end of the original saw the cold-sensitive Blob parachuted into the Arctic; McQueen’s character commented we would be safe as long as the Arctic stays cold (a line which plays differently in the twenty-first century of shrinking Arctic ice). The sequel is set in motion when a pipeline worker by the name of Chester comes home from the Arctic with a small chunk of a mysterious frozen thing dug up during construction. 

While Chester camps out in a tent set up in his living room for no apparent reason, his wife takes the sample out of their freezer and it’s forgotten on the counter. Soon the Blob oozes out of the container and eats the kitten. Aahhh, you see, there was a reason for the title sequence, to make sure you were in love with the cute kitten before it was gobbled up by the slimy ooze. 

Chester falls victim to the Blob after his wife, and while he watches The Blob on TV. Umm, what the meta-fuck is up with that? But things are just starting to get weird, in a six-degrees-of-separation kind of way. Even while he’s still being absorbed, he’s found by Lisa, played by Gwynne Gilford, who happens to be the mother of Chris Pine—Captain Kirk in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot movies. Lisa’s boyfriend, Bobby, is played by Robert Walker Jr., who was Charlie in the original Star Trek series episode “Charlie X.” They eventually tell Lisa’s story to the town sheriff, played by Richard Webb, who was Finney in the original Star Trek series episode “Court Martial.” Whoa. Mind. Blown. 

Familiar faces fill this movie, because Larry Hagman was already well-known, having starred in five seasons of I Dream of Jeannie. According to the producer of both films, Jack H. Harris, in Return of the B Science Fiction and Horror Heroes by Tom Weaver, Hagman said “everybody wanted to be ‘blobbed’ ” and he could “put together a cast for the [movie] but he would like to direct it.” The cast consisted of many hard-working actors who were already recognizable to moviegoers in 1972 and others who are certainly familiar to audiences now. 

In the apparently improvised comedic vignettes that unfold between Blob attacks, all sorts of people turn up. Look, there’s Burgess Meredith playing a drunken hippie-hating hobo. Yes, I just said that. One of the other hobos is an all but unrecognizable Hagman in a full beard. He’s soon eaten by the Blob. Look, there’s future-Shirley Cindy Williams. There’s Carol Lynley, who appeared in The Poseidon Adventure and Beware! The Blob in the same year. There’s Danny Goldman, the med student whose questions vex Gene Wilder’s Doctor Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. There’s Dick Van Patten playing a scout master. There’s old-school comedian Shelley Berman (who would eventually play Larry David’s father on Curb Your Enthusiam) playing a hair stylist. 

The movie doesn’t succeed at blending the genres like, say, An American Werewolf in London did (for the most part). Instead, the horror distracts from the comedy and vice versa, so in the end it’s not that funny or that scary, a rather pointless retread that skimped on the effects budget and let its improvising actors go on far too long. Even producer Harris admitted to Tom Weaver that it didn’t work as a sequel, as “it was too funny and not scary enough.” 

Really the most effective Blob scene plays out between the Blob and the kitten. The film is like several different stories pasted together with the Blob. We won’t talk about the wrestler in the tub wearing a fez. Yes, I just said that. If you love The Blob, you can take a pass on this, unless you enjoy watching weird mofo cinema that makes you say WTF…then, by all means, spin this one up.

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