In a small Pennsylvania town in 1957, a teenager named Steve Andrews (Steve McQueen) and his girlfriend Jane Martin (Aneta Corsaut) are making out on Lover’s Lane when a meteorite crashes beyond the hill, and Steve decides to look for it. An old man living nearby, Barney (Olin Howland), is the first to find it. He pokes it with a stick, and it breaks open, revealing a jelly-like blob that attaches itself to his hand. Unable to shake it off, he runs into the road, where he is nearly hit by Steve’s car. He and Jane take the old man to Doctor Hallen (Stephen Chase).
He anesthetizes the man and sends the kids back to check out the impact site. The doctor has to amputate because the creature is devouring Barney’s hand, but Barney is consumed entirely, followed by nurse Kate (Lee Payton) and the doctor. It grows larger and redder as time goes on. Steve returns in time to see the doctor engulfed as he tries to climb out the window. The youngsters call in Police Lieutenant Dave Barton (Earl Rowe) and Sargent Jim Bert (John Benson), but there is no sign of the creature, and the police send them home. Later, Steve and Jane sneak out.
The alien amoeboid consumes a mechanic. At the Colonial Theater, during a midnight show of Daughter of Horror, Steve talks Tony (Robert Fields) and other friends into raising the alarm. Steve notices that his father’s grocery store is unlocked, and he and Jane go in to check it out, to find the janitor missing. The creature corners them and they lock themselves in the freezer. It oozes under the door but recoils from the cold. They go out and set off the fire alarms and air-raid sirens in town, but the police still do not believe them. But the creature enters the theater and engulfs the projectionist, then oozes out of the wall and sends people out into the street in a panic.
Jane, her little brother Danny (Keith Almoney), and Steve are trapped in a diner with the owner (Vince Barbi) and a waitress named Sally (Julie Cousins) as the creature tries to engulf the whole building. They hide in the cellar as the police cut down power lines to try to electrocute it, which sets the diner on fire. The owner tries to douse the fire with an extinguisher and the creature recoils again from the cold. Steve yells out to the police and the firemen to use extinguishers but they don’t have very many of them.
Jane’s father Henry (Elbert Smith), the high school principal, breaks into the school and a brigade of teenagers with twenty-odd fire extinguishers march on the creature, driving it from the diner and attacking it from all sides. Dave calls the Air Force to send a cargo-lift plane to transport it to the Arctic. Steve drops a little warning about global warming, which is a nice retroactive unintentional joke.
The film was Steve McQueen’s first movie role and the first movie produced by Jack Harris. It was directed by Irvin Yeaworth and written by Kay Linaker and Theodore Simonson. It was apparently inspired by a discovery of star jelly, a gelatinous substance found on grass and in trees in Pennsylvania in 1950. It is the remains of frogs or toads or worms, or the by-product of cyanobacteria, but reports as far back as the 14th Century attribute it to meteors. The movie was first called The Molten Meteor, then The Mass, then The Glob after a cartoon book by Walt Kelley of Pogo fame, and finally The Blob.
The movie cost $100,000 and was the second film directed by Irvin Yeaworth. Steve McQueen, at 28, was paid $3000 for the starring role. He refused a lesser offer that contained 10% of the profits, thinking it would not make any money and he needed to pay his rent. But it made four million bucks. Nevertheless, McQueen did all right in his career with The Magnificent Seven, Wanted Dead or Alive, The Great Escape, Love with the Proper Stranger, Baby the Rain Must Fall, The Cincinnati Kid, The Sand Pebbles, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Reivers, Papillon, The Towering Inferno, and the wet dreams of countless females of all ages.
He also appeared on Richard Nixon’s hit-list though he was seriously conservative, the top of Charles Manson’s kill-list, and Bruce Lee’s pallbearer team. He threatened to break Howard Hughes’s nose if he didn’t stop harassing Mamie Van Doren, whom McQueen was dating. Hughes backed off immediately. McQueen was a tank-driving war-hero but went AWOL, and he blew out his neighbor Keith Moon’s bathroom light with a shotgun because it kept him awake.
Burt Bacharach and Mack David (Hal David’s brother) wrote a silly ditty theme song which became a hit for a group called The Five Blobs, though there was only one Blob who was recorded five times to sound spooky. The soundtrack album by Ralph Carmichael was a hit as well on the Monstrous Movie Music label. The movie premiered on a double feature with I Married a Monster from Outer Spacer to terrible reviews. But it was part of the great success of cheap and cheesy teen movies shown at the drive-ins. It is one of Neil De Grasse Tyson’s favorite movies. A Son of Blob was made later and Beware the Blob in 1972, with Larry Hagman, then a gross and creepy remake in 1988. A remake by Rob Zombie was never made.
In Phoenixville, PA, there is an annual Blobfest in which people run screaming from the restored Colonial Theater. Steve McQueen had the poster of the film on his bedroom wall until he died. You should look for smoke coming up behind his back because he’s holding his cigarette there. His car in the movie is a 1953 Plymouth Cranbrooke blue convertible. The movie shown in the theater was real—Daughter of Horror, narrated by Ed McMahon. Dick Powell saw The Blob and cast McQueen in Wanted Dead or Alive, but McQueen hated the movie and wouldn’t talk about it. He was so difficult on the set that Jack Harris decided not to cast him for the 4D Man (1959) and Dinosaurus! (1960), which he later regretted. One reviewer referred to the Blob as “Interstellar Snot.”