For some idiotic reason I paid close to $30 bucks for Criterion’s Bluray of The Blob (’58). It’s a decent low-budget monster flick, primitive and simple and appealing for that, but I felt seriously burned as I began watching it. The smooth saxophone riff during the opening credits is cool (written by Burt Bacharach and strongly reminiscent of Bill Justis‘s “Raunchy“, which was released a year before The Blob came out) but right away there’s trouble.
It’s not the action or the dialogue, but the hideous lighting on the actors’ faces in nocturnal close-ups and medium close-ups. The trouble isn’t the Bluray (typical Criterion work, smothered in grain…what else?) but the film itself. It’s the most ineptly lighted color motion picture I’ve ever seen in my life.
The Blob begins after dark in a woodsy area. No streetlamps, maybe a little moonlight. 27 year-old Steve McQueen (called “Steven” McQueen in the opening titles) is gently kissing his girlfriend, played by 24 year-old Aneta Cousault. They’re sitting in McQueen’s bright-blue convertible, and McQueen isn’t even trying for second base — his kiss is chaste and courtly, but she’s feeling betrayed and hurt and disappointed.
The look on Cousault’s face speaks volumes. It’s almost in the same realm as the look on Sen. Joseph McCarthy‘s face when he accused this or that lefty of Communist allegiances. You just want to get your hands inside my dress, Steve. I thought you cared for me. I thought you respected me. I thought you were nicer than that. But I’m not going to give you what you want, Steve. I’m not going to unzip your fly and bring you to ecstasy with the gentle caress of my fingers.
McQueen smiles and says he’s sorry, but in a way he’s lucky because one look at Cousalt tells you she’s never heard of any form of sexual activity other than the woman just lying there and waiting for the man to finish. Attempted teenaged intimacy used to be like this. So depressing. Thank God I grew up in one of the greatest nookie eras in world history, the Roman Empire included. But I’ve gotten off the subject.
The lighting in the opening scene and in every outdoor-nighttime scene in the entire film for that matter is terrible. The opening shot looks like McQueen and Cousault are sitting directly in front of 2000-lb. klieg light or a pair of truck headlights.
Director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. and his dp, Thomas E. Spaulding, had surely heard of “day for night” but for whatever reason they just turned the lights on. Every night scene has been flood-lighted to death. When The Blob’s first victim, an old hermit (Olin Howland), steps out of his home at night he’s all lit up like New Year’s Eve. It’s all Howland can do to not squint from the glare.
And yet Yeaworth’s film is more watchable than Larry Hagman‘s Beware! The Blob (’72), which I saw and could barely stand when I watched it on YouTube the other day. And don’t even talk about the 1988 version — garbage.