Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Armed Blobbery

Year: 1972
Director: Larry Hagman
Cast: Robert Walker Jr., Gwynne Gilford, Richard Stahl
Run Time: 1 hour 31 minutes
MPAA Rating: GP

Let's get this out of the way: I love the Blob. But Beware! The Blob is a balls to the wall just plain terrible movie with almost no redeeming qualities. The sort of thing that was made for a miniscule budget because just about anything could make a couple bucks in those days.

All this can be exemplified by one anecdote: Director Larry Hagman (famous for playing J. R. in the hit TV show Dallas) was next door neighbors with the original film's director. After commenting that he'd never actually seen it, they screened the director's personal copy of the film and Hagman decided he wanted a Blob of his own.

This was a TV actor, mind you. Not an actual director.

And that's how we ended up with a Blob movie that somehow manages to out-cheese the opening credits of the original which, remember, contained this song. In what seems to be a straightfaced presentation with no intentional camp value, the opening credits (accompanied by a song that sounds like an ice cream truck on PCP) are... Well, just look for yourself.

Did you see a cat lying in a meadow? So did I. And so did every single person working on the film, none of whom evidently considered that maybe their horror film about an amorphous blob devouring a small town shouldn't open with a kitten lying in a meadow.

The 70's, man.

Anyway, when last we left our Blob, he had been frozen solid by Steve McQueen and his band of fire extinguishers and airlifted to the Arctic. The film opens with a First Twelve Minutes Couple that would be downright slashery if the genre had actually been invented yet, the male half of which (Godfrey Cambridge) has just returned from laying pipe at the North Pole (?). His pipe laying supervisors allowed him to bring back a sample of a mysterious substance they found which he now keeps in his freezer like a regular person.

Guess what happens next.

The Blob (you guessed it) defrosts and resumes his ravenous beasting ways, devouring the man, his wife (Marlene Clark), and their adorable kitten (who actually was a character in the film, which surprised me to no end). 

Champion Dialogue #1: "You are a total dingaling."

I'm just gonna throw those in there from time to time.

The Blob goes on to devour hippies, bowling alley patrons, a weirdly sexual barber, and bumbling comic relief cops and blaxploitation characters that apparently migrated from the set of Foxy Brown Goes to the Movies. All on sets that look like bad pornos with their thin walls, shallow lighting, and unmistakable aura of having once been a gymnasium.

Most of the time, the Blob is played by a pink gel held in front of the bottom half of the camera (although in the shots where is actually has to move, it does so a sight better than the original film - the only compliment you'll hear me giving in this review) and for the first time the idea that having a Blob as a main villain is fundamentally unscary hit me like a ton of bricks.

It has all the makings of a cult classic: kittens, bad actors, kooky setpieces, a silly monster. If only it wasn't so stupefyingly boring. Oh it has its moments, but for most of the running time, I just sat there slack jawed, daring myself not to fall asleep.

Champion Dialogue #2: "Is that motivation for you? Does that activate your glands?"

Maybe the kitten represents the fragility of youth when faced with a complex and unknowable world.

The film is comprised of nothing but bad 70's haircuts and narrative problems. Not the least of which is that in the opening scene, The Blob is playing on TV. Is this a news report? Is there an actual movie of The Blob, meaning that it's fictional? In that case, how did it get to the Arctic? These are all questions the filmmakers don't care to answer, if they're even aware of them in the slightest.

Technical problems abound as well. Permeated by the ever classic juddering camera that is a favorite of low budget horror pictures, this one also gets a remarkably unsophisticated zoom that looks like a toddler was chewing on the camera.

Champion Dialogue #3: "I don't cut hair. I sculpt it. You want a hair sculpt?"

And then there are the points where you just have to throw your hands in the air and say "Why am I watching a hippie get a haircut?" Or cringe into yourself when a girl holding a birthday cake looks directly into the camera and shouts "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" and then walks over to the actual birthday boy who is somewhere behind her.

It's really easy to see why nobody ever talks about this film.

Champion Dialogue #4: "Hey, let's go to your place and get an avocado sandwich, huh?"

It's resolutely unfunny despite the massive spate of comic relief characters. It's xenophobic. It's homophobic. It's hippiephobic. And it has absolutely no reason to exist.

It is redeemed somewhat by the more ridiculous scenes in the way that syphilis is redeemed by having a funny name. These are such unforgettable moments as the time a chicken lays an egg into the Blob or the weird obsession the leading man has with avocado sandwiches. Or the fact that one of the supporting characters is dressed as a gorilla literally the entire time.

So it's not a total bust like, say, an adaptation of The Notebook where every character is played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (which, actually, I'd pay to see), but dear God does it try awfully hard to be the worst film I've ever seen.

Also, this is the only film in the franchise to say the word "blob" aloud and it absolutely does not earn it.

Champion Dialogue # 5: "I like bacon."

This is what happens to your brain when you watch this movie.

TL;DR: Beware! The Blob is a disgrace to the grand name of Blob, but has some miniscule campy value.
Rating: 2/10
Word Count: 1039
Reviews In This Series
The Blob (Yeaworth Jr./Doughton Jr, 1958)
Beware! The Blob (Hagman, 1972)
The Blob (Russell, 1988)

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