Halloween Scene: The Blob (1958) & Dinosaurus (1960)

It’s fun how these Halloween Scene double features have been coming together. With yesterday’s entry, one movie (Murder Party) reminded me of another movie I had seen, but not reviewed on the blog (A Bucket Of Blood). Today’s entry started off with The Blob, a classic monster movie I actually bought on VHS in my younger days from a closing-down Suncoast video. I never got around to watching the whole thing until today when I watched the Criterion DVD from Netflix. Anyway, I dug the flick, checked out director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. on IMDb and then looked on Netflix Instant to see what else he directed. Two of his movies–Dinosaurus and The 4D Man–were on instant, so then it was just a matter of choosing one or the other.

Anyway, back to The Blob for now which I keep misspelling as The Blog, which I’m sure will be a direct-to-DVD horror movie soon enough). After a really catchy, poppy theme song in the beginning written by Burt Bacharach (check out this list I did on Topless Robot for more weird horror movie theme songs) the film goes from what seems like a pretty normal monster movie to a fairly dark moment at the very end. See, the idea is that the blob landed on earth in a small town thanks to a meteorite. A hermit finds it, it attacks him and Steve McQueen and his girlfriend take him to the doctor which actually helps it get closer to more people it wants to eat. Steve sees the doctor get killed and tries to tell the police, but there’s no proof, so he gets sent home. Eventually Steve encounters the thing again, gets the town’s attention and they try to stop the thing with some of the townspeople, including Steve (it’s his character’s name too) get caught in the diner as the blob engulfs it (as you can see on the poster).

There’s a lot to like about the movie. Though he’s supposed to be a teenage and doesn’t look like one at all, the 28 year-old McQueen comes off as a stand-up hero trying to save his town from getting killed like the doctor was. There’s a lot working against him, like no proof of the doctor’s death aside from a tossed office and the fact that he was going out of town anyway. There’s even a great moment where he doubts all the craziness he’s trying to warn people against and his girlfriend, who didn’t see anything, convinces him to believe in himself. I also liked that not all the cops thought Steve and the other “teens” were just yanking their chains. Sure, there’s one, but the top cop believes Steve, even when things look bad for our hero. An extension of that that I liked is that the people in the town actually all get together to fight the blob. Sure, it’s after some of them actually see it, but you’d expect the old to think the young are crazy. Oh, and the effects are pretty cool, though you can see some bad editing cuts here and there. The blob itself looks pretty cool, except when it’s engulfing the diner (they should have used a miniature diner and surrounded it with the blob in my opinion instead of using, what I assume, is a matte painting). This is a great example of a monster movie, which I guess explains why it got the Criterion treatment.

Dinosaurus, on the other hand, isn’t so great. I haven’t seen a lot of monster movies from this time, but I chose this movie over 4D Man because I was curious to see how they did the dino effects. It’s a lot of stop motion, which looks pretty good, and whatever it’s called where they have people acting in front of a projected movie. That effect works pretty well when the little kid in the movie tries to touch one of the huge dinos, but looks pretty pointless when the main man and his lady standing in front of people working on the beach.

I guess I should explain the story: main man is on an island somewhere working on a project. Exactly what isn’t very important, but it involves whatever piece of equipment you see in the poster on the left and underwater blasting which somehow uncovers two perfectly preserved dinosaurs. One’s a nice Brontosaurus, the other’s a mean T-Rex. Oh, a caveman also washes up on the island who befriends the kid in the movie. It’s not the effects that make this movie pale in comparison to The Blob, and frankly other movies in general. There’s almost too much going on with a human villain terrorizing the kid and also trying to make money on the unearthed discoveries. So you’ve got his plot with his two thugs. the kid who’s running around with the caveman after a while (who, for some reason he thinks is a house guest yet still a prehistoric caveman), then the girl and the hero and all the villagers who are taking refuge at an old fortress on the island. For a short movie, it feels rushed, muddled and lacks a coherent tone thanks to the combination of kid-friendly humor with the caveman (him discovering a mirror and putting on a dress was pretty funny, I will admit) with the really sinister human villain and all the monsters.

I think the biggest nail in the coffin for the flick for me is that whoever wrote it didn’t really do their research. I would imagine that back in the late 50s/early 60s knew that cavemen didn’t live with dinosaurs. I know you’ve got to suspend disbelief for these kinds of movies, but this is the same movie where the kid goes on about which dinosaurs did what, so it’s already supposed to have some basis in reality. There’s also the questionable reality of two dinosaurs being so perfectly preserved without anything covering or surrounding them. It looked like they were just sitting in the water. Sorry filmmakers, I just can’t suspend my disbelief that long. Maybe I should have watched 4D Man instead.

Bullitt Time

1:12:10 am

As promised (way back in the first post), here’s my review of Bullitt.

Bullitt (1968)

Directed by Peter Yates

Written by Alan Trustman and Harry Kleiner

Starring: Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Duvall and Norman Fell (Mr. Roper)

Okay, here’s the deal. I was really excited to check this movie out. I’ve never seen a movie that Steve McQueen starred in and I’ve heard a lot about the famous car chase, plus I like movies where the cop has to take matters into his own hands to deliver justice. Now, on the negative side, I’ve also found that my attention span has dwindled pretty significantly and I have trouble staying up past midnight (because somewhere along the line, I turned into an old lady). That being said, a movie really has to grab my attention first, so I won’t go off and look at something shiny and second, so that I don’t fall asleep and unfortunately Bullitt did neither.

About 10 minutes into my viewing experience, I was already turned off by the crummy sound, which is pretty funny considering it was nominated for Best Sound in 1969. The quality’s great, but it’s one of those movies where you have to turn the volume up to hear the dialog and then get your ears blown up by a sound effect or the background music (which was a pretty rad jazz soundtrack).

Anyway, a few minutes after that I realized how atmospheric this movie is. By that I mean there’s a lot of space, the shots don’t get right in on the action necessarily, the music is sparse and there just wasn’t a lot for me to stay focused on.

At some point, I got distracted by an IM conversation, then tried to go back a few chapters to figure out what was going on, quit and went to bed. So, on day two, I was determined to start over and watch this movie. No such luck. I got the basic concept (I think): McQueen plays Bullitt, a cop who’s assigned to get a witness to the court on time. There’s some static from this huge d-bag named Chaumers, but beyond that, I’m not so sure. (Side note, this may be the worst review of all time and for that I apologize).

I did find myself transfixed by Bullitt as an image on the screen. There wasn’t a single point that I wasn’t looking at him like a superhero. He would have made a great Captain America or even Batman back in the day. He’s surprisingly quiet, but there’s a sense of danger surrounding him, making me feel like he would kick some ass at any time, any place (just like Cap). As an added superhero bonus, we even get to see him putting his “costume” (the black turtleneck and holster) on and getting his gear together. I love scenes like that in comics and superhero and action movies.

Which brings us to the car chase, which did not disappoint. From what I’ve read, the chase was a pretty big deal back in the day, one of the first big, awesome chases. I also read that Steve McQueen leaned towards the window of the car while driving so people would know it’s him. How freakin’ cool is that? Anyway, there’s a sense of realism to the car chase that made me stop everything I was doing and just watch. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. It felt like I was watching a real car chase and, for whatever reason, I actually felt like something terrible could happen to Bullitt at any time. It’s a very visceral scene and I highly recommend at least checking IT out, if not the whole movie. After the chase is done, though, it got atmospheric again and I lost interest (and eventually fall asleep).

So, here’s why I don’t think I was able to get into Bullitt. First of all, and this is no fault of the movie’s, I feel like I’ve seen this movie a dozen times over and probably better done. I’m a big Dirty Harry fan, which came out after this and seems very influenced by Bullitt. But the simple fact that I saw it first means that it’s more in my headspace than Bullitt. Also, and again this is not the movie’s fault, but I was so looking forward to the chase scene that I just wanted to get there and skip the story. That one’s my bad, obviously. And finally, one of the aspects that I liked about the chase scene made the rest of the movie feel ultra slow and that’s the realism of it all. Unlike most action movies, I felt like this could all really happen, I mean, we’ve all seen car chases on Tru TV or Cops that look at awful lot like this one. But, the lack of more over-the-top moments made Bullitt feel a lot longer than it actually is.

To defend myself for just a moment, though, I do enjoy movies from this time period. I like seeing how things used to be a few decades back. Like the hospital scene was really interesting because it made me glad I wasn’t alive and sick in the late ’60s. I also like seeing San Francisco as the background. From what I read this was another first and influential element. This one just didn’t do it for me. But it didn’t turn me off from McQueen, I’ve got The Great Escape and The Getaway on my queue and will probably write them up whenever they come through. So, what do you think? I’m not sure how the comment section works, but if you E-mail me, I’ll post some of the messages on here and respond to them.

Also, get ready for another installment of Iron Mongering and a look back at The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles which I’m watching for the first time to get ready for Crystal Skull.