If It Had A Mind You Could Reason With It
If It Had A Body You Could Shoot It
If It Had A Heart You Could Kill It
Now, Man Is No Longer The Supreme Being On This Planet
Terror Has No Shape
You’re probably going to see this point mentioned in other reviews, I’ve seen it brought up before over the years, but it’s always a nice, logical, jumping off point to make with a film of this particular ilk from that particular decade, so I’m going to bring it up yet again and say with the exception of the 1978 remake of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (I feel I can get away with a mention of this flick because it’s so damn close to the 80s) there were four other remakes of classic sci-fi/horror movies done in the era that managed to achieve cult classic status that are now just as revered as their original counterparts. I’m talking about The Thing (1982), The Fly (1986), Invaders From Mars (1986) and—drum roll please—The Blob (1988)!
And, for me personally, The Blob remake has become a bona fide “memory movie”because it came out when I was 19 years old during a record breaking hot summer not to mention while I was also in the process of getting my driver’s license and learning to feel what it was like hanging out without my best friend from high school. He had left to join the army back in the spring and I always considered him the brother I should have had. It was very odd to go bike riding by myself; we used to do a lot of that up here in the country and then either head off to my house or his for a session of Dungeons & Dragons or a possible sleep over. Sometimes both.
I was keeping track of this movie through the pages of Fangoria and even though I had never seen the original, or even wanted to, I was dearly looking forward to this new version. This was the 80s and FX technology was light years beyond 1958 when the original came out and the creature they were creating, according to the coverage in Fang, was going to be a wondrous sight to behold.
I even managed to locate the novelization of the movie. Back in the day this was a habit of mine. If a movie was coming out I was dead set on seeing, I wanted to find it’s novelization and read it. I did this with The Thing (1982), Aliens (1986) and many years later Species (1995). I remember trying like hell to find one for The Sword And The Sorcerer (1982) but couldn’t. To this day I still don’t know if one was ever made for that flick.
I had major plans to see this. I still didn’t have my license; I believe I was a month off from actually getting it, so I was going to need someone to get me to the movie theater, and without Gerry being around his younger brother, Toney, stepped in as a kind of temporary “best friend” replacement. But this very brief “alliance” was highly unusual, for reasons I’ll never know he showed up out of the blue one day that summer, knocking on my door, and asking if I wanted to go see Die Hard. This also led to he and I seeing Young Guns weeks later. In the end, though, The Blob never ever reached my neck of the woods, nor do I have any recollection of it coming to the theater at the mall. There was one other theater deeper in the neighboring town all of us on rare occasions went to, mostly when we were all up for a long ride, but even that one didn’t get the movie.
I remember Gerry returning home briefly that year, in September or October, after basic training was over and he came up to the house with Aaron. I remember this day well. Aaron was in the desk chair, I was relaxing on the bed and Gerry was leaning against my bureau telling me about The Blob. He had seen it already. I was envious. But every time Aaron and I glanced at each other we laughed hysterically. I have no idea why. It was just one of those things that tended to happen. Gerry was trying to tell us about the movie and we were just cracking up for no reason.
Fangoria covered the movie in these issues: #76, #77, #78 and Gorezone #3
I remember when Entertainment Tonight (see the video below for a brief behind-the-scenes coverage) did their round up of the best and worst movies of the summer, The Blob came in as the worst, which just bewildered me, even after I finally saw it on cable a year later (and loved it, of course). How the hell did it become the the most hated movie of that summer? To me it had everything a perfect summer movie should have. To this day I still don’t know why everyone didn’t flock to it.
The basic plot of the remake is identical to the original: a meteor crash-lands on earth and out pops an “alien” organism that a bunch of teens from the nearby town have to contend with. Even a few of the iconic set pieces are recreated: the hobo who discovers the “blob” at the crash site and gets his hand engulfed in it, the attack on the movie theater, and the realization that extreme cold is the creature’s Achilles’ heel, but this new “blob” is a whole new animal thanks mostly to the advanced FX of that time. It was no longer a gelatinous, sentient jelly, now it’s a veritable tentacled Lovecraftian menace that also because of the lessened restrictions of the time could be accurately depicted when it came time to seeing it “feed.” Hinted at in the original the blob engulfed and dissolved you into nothing. In the remake we actually see the victims engulfed, and dissolved by its superhuman digestive juices and in one instance we see the poor town sheriff floating within it, half digested, even as it has another victim cornered in a telephone booth.
That’s right where as the ’58 Blob was G-rated, 88’s remake was very much R-rated allowing us to even see what some of it’s “left overs” looked like. Faces and limbs half dissolved and melted away and a poor chap left half undigested on a gurney in a doctor’s office.
New to this remake was the blob’s origin. In the ’58 movie you could pretty much consider it an alien organism, but for Director Chuck Russell’s version looks can be deceiving. For a while it too appears alien in origin until the government shows up and pulls the meteor out of the ground. It’s then revealed to be a satellite and as time goes on we learn it was a biological warfare experiment the military created and has mutated into pretty much what they expected and wanted—a biological weapon. Only problem is it’s running amok on earth, but, hey, whats a little collateral damage among friends as long as they can contain it and get it under control, which is easier said then done.
Kevin Dillon takes over for Steve McQueen playing our delinquent hero, Brian Flagg (incidentally we had a kid in my high school class with that exact name), who’s always getting into trouble and is on the verge of turning 18, which means if he fucks up again it’s the big leagues, while Shawnee Smith plays our heroine cheerleader, Meg Penny, who really steps up to the plate in the final act when Flagg needs saving. Along the way we get Jeffrey DeMunn as Sheriff Herb Geller (second memorable role, Captain Esteridge in the original The Hitcher), Candy Clark (Micheal Moriarty’s main squeeze in Q, The Winged Serpent) in a small role as doomed waitress Frannie, and Paul McCrane as Deputy Bill Briggs (better known as Emil from the original RoboCop and that cancer feeding freak, Leonard Betts, from that episode of The X-Files (1993-2002).
You may also recognize Ricky Paull Goldin and Erika Eleniak playing doomed, horny jock and doomed potential one night stand in that attempted make out car scene the blob crashes. For horror fans you may, or may not, recall Goldin was a player in Piranha II: The Spawning (1981), his first appearance ever in a theatrical movie. After The Blob, I think, he made a name for himself on daytime soaps. As for Eleniak she got famous afterwards on a little show called Baywatch (1989-2001) and somewhere in between showed off her goodies in Playboy.
I can’t recall if I saw The Blob before or after I reading Dean Koontz’s 1983 novel, Phantoms. I know it wasn’t in ’83 when it first came out. I didn’t discover Koontz until somewhere around ’88 or ’89, but once I finally had both novel and movie in mind I noticed something interesting. The Blob bears a little bit of a passing resemblance to that novel. Even though the “Ancient Enemy,” as it’s referred to in Koontz’s book is a shape shifter on par with the thing John Carpenter sicced on a bunch of men in an Antarctic research station back in 1982, The Blob in Chuck Russell’s remake could be rightly perceived as a close relative, just without the shape-shifting ability, at least to the point of perfectly mimicking other living beings. The “Ancient Enemy” in it’s natural form is a kind of immense, sentient amoeba, an amorphous thing, that uses it’s sulphuric acid-like digestive juices to reduce it’s prey to nothing. Tentacles are also employed to deliver that “acid” to select body parts of its victims. Sound familiar?
There are two key scenes in the movie that resemble a pair of scenes in Phantoms (eventually made into a movie itself in 1997). In the book the “Ancient Enemy” slithers through a drain into a locked room, grabs a dead body, crunches it all up and pulls it back through the drain. In The Blob we have a scene where a cook is trying to unclog a sink, the creature lashes out and in bloody fashion pulls the man right into that small drain with it.
Later in Koontz’s novel the “Ancient Enemy” erupts out of a manhole in the middle of the street, rises as high up as it can get and assaults everyone’s sanity with a horror show of transformations. In Russell’s movie the mutant germ erupts out of a manhole as high as it can get before slamming its bulk down onto the street. I also seem to recall a scene in Phantoms where a tentacle sneaks out of a manhole and attacks a man in a hazmat suit, just like the Blob does in the movie, but at present I can’t be sure this scene exists in the novel or not.
In Phantoms the main characters are a doctor and local cops, which are then joined by the military and scientists all adorned in hazmat suits. In The Blob we have some local cops who are supporting characters, which are then joined by the military and scientists all adorned in hazmat suits.
In the novel there are a few scenes set in the sewers as the “Ancient Enemy” hunts a couple of the soldiers sent down for reconnaissance and in the Blob we get some extensive sewer scenes that do involve some ill-fated soldiers.
I have no proof, nor have I ever read any interviews with any one connected to the movie that might suggest Phantoms subconsciously or consciously influenced the plot of this remake. This is just a working theory I’ve had for a while and I thought it might be worth mentioning.
The ’58 Blob got a sequel titled, Beware! The Blob (1972), the ’88 Blob set itself up for a sequel too but it never happened. I even recall reading in Fangoria one was going to get made.
I always assumed when this movie finally hit DVD it would be in special edition form, but that wasn’t to be. When it finally came to DVD back in 2001, it was barebones with only its trailer to half qualify as an extra. I kept the faith though and naturally assumed at some point they’d revisit it and do a proper special edition. My faith, however, had been sorely misplaced for that never happened. In the interim Blu-ray was invented and ever since then my faith was reallocated to now hoping Sony would finally rectify that error and give us fans that damn loaded special edition.
Well, back on October 14th we finally got a blu-ray, having come from boutique distributor, Twilight Time, but it’s not that loaded special edition I dreamed of so long ago. Don’t get me wrong it’s got extras, just not the bells and whistles I think it should have. Then, again, if this edition sells out, Twilight Time has been known to re-release their more profitable titles 3 years later and if they wait till 2018 they might load up a new version with features heretofore not dreamt of by man or beast because 2018 marks The Blob’s 30th anniversary!
Video/Audio/Subtitles (Twilight Time): 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English subs only
Extras included . . .
- Audio Commentary With Director Chuck Russell Moderated By Ryan Turek
- Friday Night Frights At The Cinefamily (18:00)
- Isolated Score Track
Video/Audio/Subtitles (Umbrella Entertainment): 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English subs only
Extras Included . . .
- Directing The Blob—Interview With Chuck Russell (17:59)
First, let’s take a look at Twilight Time’s blu: the 1080p 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is a major improvement over the 2001 DVD. I thought the colors were especially good, which boded well for the very colorful blob. The English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, I think, equaled the transfer. There are subtitles for the hearing impaired (English only), which was another plus in my book. Now I can understand the lyrics being sung in Alien’s song, Brave New Love, that runs the length of the end credits. I always dug that song. Still do, actually, and every time I feel the urge to watch this movie I tend to run the end credits over and over for about a half hour or so afterwards so I can listen to it.
Aside from the Isolated Score Twilight Time always puts on their releases, you also get Joshua Miller and Ryan Turek putting director Chuck Russell through a much needed Q&A in the Friday Nights Frights At The CineFamily (18:00) featurette. This happened this past summer and Turek was there to ask among other things if Russell would be interested in doing a commentary for the eventual blu-ray, this is also one of the reasons why that particular showing of the movie and the Q&A was filmed. The one thing Russell shared that stuck with me was how close Richard Grieco came to getting the Brain Flagg role. I’m just going to let that sink in. Yes, that’s right, Richard Grieco was almost the hero of this movie.
The main extra on this release, though, is the audio commentary with Chuck Russell and Shock Till You Drop’s Ryan Turek. Turek moderates asking all the right questions and Russell giving us all the right answers and then some about how the movie was conceived and then made. He also mentions Terry Hatcher almost came close to getting the Meg Penny role, and as I hoped Turek asks him about the Phantoms connection, but I got the impression Turek thinks the 1997 movie adaptation of Koontz’s novel was ripped off from Russell’s version of The Blob, but as I mentioned previously the novel predates the remake by five years, and it’s the novel the Phantoms flick is based on, nevertheless Russell doesn’t know of the movie or the novel and claims there was no influence from Koontz’s book.
Dammit, there goes my theory.
Tony Gardner and crew did the miraculous effects and it’s amazing to see what he created before CGI ever became a household name. I’m pretty sure we’ll someday see another remake and when we do you can count on two things: it’ll be PG-13 and CGI will be used to create the creature. As long as there’s enough money to make it look amazing, and “real,” I don’t have a problem with that.
As for Umbrella Entertainment’s (Australia) release Twilight Time’s has still got the edge in the clarity and crispness department, but the colors in Umbrella’s release pop more. Red’s, blues, purples, and pinks stand out nicely. That scene when Kevin Dillion jumps off the back of that pick-up in the beginning I noticed the blue of his blue jeans pop more than they do in Twilight Time’s version. It’s still a nice looking release and I do recommend it, if you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on Twilight Time’s OOP version from some third party scalpers.
The only extra is an interview with Director Chuck Russell, but it’s a good one. There’s actually things he talks about that he doesn’t mention in Twilight Time’s commentary.
So, if you missed Twilight Time’s blu I still recommend Umbrella’s and if you own Twilight Time’s I also recommend getting Umbrella’s version mainly for the interview. Bottom line, if you’re a big fan of this flick like I am you do need to have both. You can buy it here at Umbrella’s site. It’s also on DVD in case you haven’t gone blu yet.
Below: A couple of theatrical posters which also doubled as VHS, DVD and blu-ray covers here in the U.S.
My work here is done.