May 21, 2010

The Blob

The Blob I was originally worried about was a piece of protoplasmic, shape-shifting Jello that starred in its own movie in 1958. The Blob's co-star was a young Steve McQueen, although they were mortal enemies in the movie. My older brother saw the horror flick at the Third Avenue theater with a bunch of his no-good delinquent friends, then he couldn't wait to tell me about it.

"It leaps and creeps and slides and glides across the floor," he said.

"I'll just close my door," I said, pretty sure that wasn't going to work.

My brother gleefully confirmed this. "It will just slide under the door," he said.

"I'll stack a bunch of books on the floor." I knew there had to be some advantage to voracious reading, even if I hadn't found it so far.

"The Blob will just eat the books." Great. So The Blob also voraciously devoured books. Not that I thought that Tom Sawyer and a bunch of Zane Grey novels were really going to do the trick anyway.

I had my ace in the hole, Sparky, the collie-shepherd mix with known anti-social tendencies who slept under my bed. Sparky had my back, but a monster which dissolved people, cars and Cleveland probably would not be stopped by a dog.

I was a worried ten year old for a while, meaning I would wake up in the middle of the night for about eight seconds before relapsing into the comatose state typical of my age group. Mom's increasingly shrill and repetitive warnings about being late for school were necessary to arouse me from my nightmarish slumber. The one consolation was that The Blob might dissolve me before the social studies quiz on Friday. I hated social studies. What were the exports from Peru? Llamas, cocaine and misery, I guessed. I could look it up in the World Book later. Right now I have to figure out how to cover all that open terrain between the house and school without being sucked into the digestive tract of The Blob.

I usually walked east on Hemlock to Shoreview, then north half a block to Dale, then up about two blocks to Ocean View, where school was. Mike and Bo lived on Dale, and they were tough kids who could help out with The Blob, if need be. By the way, there was really no shore to view from Shoreview, and the Pacific Ocean was 12 miles due west on the far side of the coastal range, so there was no view of that either. The housing tract didn't have much in the way of amenities, other than sweet-sounding, bucolic names, and it didn't have alleys either, which would have shortened my perilous journey to the safety of the class room. I guess it was safer there; my brother told me the best scene in the movie is where The Blob attacks a movie theater and then its silhouette covers the white screen as it eats the projectionist. Nice effect. That actually made me want to see the movie, sort of. So there was no real safety in numbers. Maybe you were better off on your own, or maybe I could take up residence under the bed with Sparky.

The Blob made its debut in 1958, around the same time as a hundred foot tarantula and mutant giant army ants were wreaking havoc in Southern California. My guess is that The Blob was the result of a lab experiment gone terribly wrong. Usually it was radiation or something like that which produced these monsters; I guess people of the day had an early premonition that fooling around with Mother Nature could result in real-life nightmares, and these were their cinematic warnings, as well as ways for big brothers to scare their little brothers. Technogenic disasters, we could call them.

I didn't worry about The Blob for more than a day or two, of course. I would see it myself during the summer, when they ran movies all day long at the show. It wasn't that scary; in fact, it was hokey, just like the tarantula that a young Clint Eastwood fired at from his F-86. It was better when The Blob was on the screen and not in the Gulf of Mexico, which really is the kind of thing that has me up in the middle of the night.

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