This piece originally posted at Filmstruck
Captain Al Chester (Terence Kilburn) grabs a glass of water and asks Major Jeff Cummings (Marshall Thompson), “You ever think of trying sleep instead of Benzedrine?” Popping pills freely to keep alert, Major Cummings is investigating the mysterious death of a local man, Jack Griselle, found dead in the woods near his farm. The two military men work at an air force base in Winthrop, Manitoba, Canada. The base uses atomic energy to boost its radar so they can spy on the Russians. But the mysterious death bothers them and the local authorities refuse to allow the U.S. military to conduct an autopsy. The year is 1958 and if you haven’t already guessed that the base’s atomic energy is going to play a big part in all of this, you’re not very familiar with 1950s sci-fi. And if you’re not, welcome to FIEND WITHOUT A FACE (’58), not only one of the best B movies ever made, but a great primer for anyone looking to enter the world of low-budget 1950s sci-fi horror.
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This is a reposting of a piece that originally appeared on http://streamline.filmstruck.com
The credits are Saul Bass lite. Different red shapes, blobby outlines, move forward on the screen while one of the great movie theme songs plays behind them. The song, “Beware the Blob,” performed by The Five Blobs (lead singer Bernie Knee) and written by Burt Bacharach and Mack David, is instantly singable upon one hearing. Finally, the title of the movie, in black surrounded by a glowing red outline, appears. And so begins the 1958 classic, The Blob, starring Steve McQueen in his first major film role (often credited as his debut when in fact he had done both movies and plenty of TV before). The Blob is often pigeonholed into the same category as any other low-budget sci-fi film from the 1950s that most people would now call “cult classics” but it’s actually a lot more than that and deserves better. Better treatment and better direction. It’s a frustrating mixture of all the right ingredients producing a less than optimal outcome but still showing enough promise that it’s a fascinating journey.
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