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Celluloid Cellulite 

Run away! The Blob oozes onto a screen near you

Wednesday, Oct 1 2003
Late in the 1950s, when The Blob first made it into a movie theater, it devoured the projectionist, then oozed through the wall and descended hungrily on an unsuspecting audience. People gushed from the building, screaming and trampling each other, and the cops finally knew they had a real monster on their hands. As is often the case with these things, someone should have listened to the teenagers.

But it was a naive time for America; now, for safety's sake, the film will be screened outside, in the Presidio, where open space and cool breezes offer a Blob-ready defense. At least temporarily. Hence the second annual Film in the Fog, a joint venture between the San Francisco Film Society and the Presidio Trust.

"We have all talked about wanting to do an outdoor screening. We really think it's a great space," says Film Society Executive Director Roxanne Messina Captor. "And the Trust also wanted to do something for the community."

Together the groups inaugurated the event last year with a screening of 1955's It Came From Beneath the Sea, about an enormous, hostile octopus wreaking low-budget, high-camp havoc on San Francisco. About 1,700 people showed up to watch.

"When it comes up, it eats the Golden Gate Bridge," Messina Captor remembers, gleefully. "People were screaming. It was hugely successful."

That reaction sets a good precedent for a movie about, as she explains, "these teens who have to save their city from a mass of Jell-O," which is putting it mildly. An original movie poster more bravely assessed the Blob for what it really was, a "shapeless man-eating mass growing larger with every victim!"

Retrospectively, the reddening, engulfing enemy has been taken to signify both the fear of communism and the corrosive slither of consumerism. All we know for certain is that the Blob came to small-town America straight from outer space, courtesy of director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr., who met the era's demand for ever-more-threatening monsters with a deceptively simple one. Here was the villain reduced to pure appetite, the engine of suspense becoming that lurid gratification of devouring human flesh. Unlike most of its co-stars, the Blob never had trouble understanding its motivation.

And who could stop it but a 28-year-old Steve McQueen, not at all passable for a teenager, with his famously stony visage already set? "We're gonna find this thing, and we're gonna make people believe us," he says, unbelievably, and one must simply relish the whole lumpy enterprise. Nothing can kill the Blob, and although it's now available on a variously featured Criterion Collection DVD, nothing can beat it on the big screen.

About The Author

Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.


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