Tag Archive: The Blob (1958)

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Anti-Film School


Today, a little over three hundred drive-in movie theaters remain sprinkled throughout the United States. This means that many Americans are not lucky enough to have a drive-in movie theater close by their home. In the drive-in’s heyday, small production companies would release B-movies tailor-made for the drive-in audience. There was everything from angry extraterrestrials to hip-shaking teenage beach parties, all of which are now enjoyed for their campy special effects and corny performances. Today, many of these films are available on DVD, Blu-ray, or Netflix, and can be enjoyed from the comfort of your couch. If you’re someone without the luxury of a drive-in theater nearby, you can create your own drive-in movie night right at home. Just grab any one of these out-of-this-world flicks, pop some pop corn, cook up a few hot dogs on the grill, grab a date or the kids, throw open the living room…

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PosterAfter Cinema Catharsis mentioned The Flesh Eaters (1964) as an October 2013 quick pick, I knew I had to check it out.  It’s a nice early period gore flick that stands the test of time as a decent thriller.  Originally released in 1964, even though it was made in 1960-61, it was one of the follow-ups to box office smash The Blob (1958).  The behind-the-scenes lore of The Flesh Eaters also seems pretty well documented, and recapitulating some of that story seems like a nice way to celebrate its 50th anniversary: The Flesh Eaters’s premiere was 50 years ago yesterday.

First though, the film:

Arnold Drake wrote the screenplay for The Flesh Eaters

Arnold Drake wrote the screenplay for The Flesh Eaters

It would seem the most detailed, first-hand account of the making of this film comes from its screenwriter, Arnold Drake, who gave a lengthy interview in Tom Weaver’s book, Eye on Science Fiction: 20 Interviews with Classic SF and Horror Filmmakers, published in 2003.  Drake was most renowned as a comic book writer–as a dyed-in-the-wool DC guy I am most fond of his creating “Deadman.”  Arnold passed away in 2007 at the age of 83.

A couple fun stories from the interview are worth paraphrasing: first, the film was funded in part with $70,000 acquired from producer-director Jack Curtis’s wife won on a rigged game show, High Low, in 1957.  It would appear that this would have been Curtis’s first wife, whom Drake named as “Terry,” not his later wife, Paulette Rubinstein, whom Curtis married in 1964.  The fact that the show was rigged in advance was a tightly kept secret by the Curtises for a number of years, even from Drake.

On a side note: Rubinstein apparently did some of the voice dubbing for early Godzilla films, including Godzilla vs. The Thing, which IMDB fails to mention.  Also, Jack and Paulette’s daughter, Liane Curtis starred in 16 Candles, Critters, and more recently in a one-off in season one of Sons of Anarchy.  

Barbara Wilkin, was little more than a pretty face in The Flesh Eaters, according to Drake.

Barbara Wilkin was little more than a pretty face,  according to Drake.  She apparently called it a career in 1968, and left film and television after only a decade.

Anyway, the second interesting tidbit from this interview was the story about how Frank Sinatra almost got into the movie–or not.  After they had cast Barbara Wilkin the fimmakers found an unnamed woman whom Drake says was much more attractive than Wilkin who had no acting experience, but she said her boyfriend would put up whatever funds were necessary to finish the film.

Following the money, Drake and Curtis meet the boyfriend–someone named “Chester”–in Chicago, where he was putting them up in a swanky hotel right on Lake Michigan.  After pitching the film–and emphasizing and re-emphasizing that this was a low budget film–Chester was convinced and announced “Frankie owes me, from way back,” and said it was settled–he’d call Sinatra and convince him to be in this picture, and the two filmmakers would be hearing from Chester’s people. This caused, as one would imagine, a huge panic: Sinatra was obviously a huge star, and this was not the movie for him or his entourage.  A full union crew would be needed for an A-lister like him, coming at the cost of an extra half-million dollars or more.  A few days afterwards they heard from Chester’s accountant who said: “We’ve decided not to go with this venture.”  No kidding.  They never heard from the beautiful wannabe actress again.  In any case, Wilkin did a fine job, though Drake wasn’t terribly impressed with her.

This film also forced the hand of the great George Romero and the titling of his best known film, Night of the Living Dead (1968).  Originally, Romero wanted his film to be called Night of the Flesh Eaters, but a lawyer contacted him to change his film’s name, presumably on behalf of Vulcan Productions, Curtis and Drake’s production company that made The Flesh Eaters.  At any rate, to avoid a lawsuit, Romero changed the name of his classic to Night of the Living Dead, according to Joe Kane’s book on the making of Romero’s film.

The legacy of The Flesh Eaters tends to be overshadowed, mainly by Hershell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast, which came out the year prior to Flesh Eaters–both experimented with being more gory depictions of violence, but Blood Feast was obviously more violent by an order of magnitude.  Also, Blood Feast was a color picture, which made the severed tongues and disembowlings all the more realistic.  Flesh Eaters seems to me to be among the last of the American “monster on the loose” pictures that were a staple of drive-ins of the previous decade, and it seems a fitting end as film straddles that mainly tame and harmless genre and the increasingly graphic horror of the 1960s and 1970s.


Another post, and another blogathon entry!

This time, for some standup folks ambitiously soliciting comments on the Turner Classic Movies summer line-up.  I have the privilege of offering a little something on one of my all time favorite sci-fi films of the 1950s, The Blob:

 “Starring Steve McQueen and a cast of exciting young people! [that we cannot be bothered to name!]

This one will be on–depending on your lifestyle–either very early, or very late–either way something of a gift for me as it happens to be my birthday.  4:30 am on Saturday, August 10.   The plot is pretty basic and was used in many films of this genre and era: there is a monster from space.  It’s coming after us. Some fight and/or flight hijinx ensue.  This film is particularly well covered by other bloggers–and has been for years–so I’m not sure I can add much to the recent posts by Vincent Zahedi; Andres Baca; General Tso’s Revenge; Film Freak Central; and Josh Goller, among others.

Thus, I’ll concentrate on the second part of this blog’s tagline: “B-movies and those who love them  Who loves The Blob more than most? The folks who keep putting on and attending BlobFest, of course!

BLBLocated about 30 miles north of Philly, Phoenixville, PA is where The Blob was filmed. Every year since 2000 they’ve celebrated this classic flick by dedicating a weekend to it, classic monster movies, and street fair activities tangentially related to both.  The highlight of BlobFest is the “run-out scene” re-enactment: in the original flick, the Blob invades the local movie joint, the Colonial Theatre during a movie and we see the theatergoers running out into the street hysterically trying to evade the creeping mucus:

Here’s the re-enactment, from 2012:

That's some serious tin foil hattery, Harry.

That’s some serious tin foil hattery, Harry.

If this doesn’t look like a hoot, I don’t know what does.  I’m embarrassed to say I have not trekked north to attend yet, maybe next year.

But if it ain’t grabbin’ ‘ya, you could try your luck at the tin-foil hat making contest; take the local tour of shooting locations seen in The Blob, catch one of a few showings of The Blob with other classic monster movies of the era, such as Them!, Tarantula, or The Deadly Mantiswatch the Fire Extinguisher Parade, attend the street faire, or ogle over the classic cars on display.  Check out the full schedule here.

I love the idea of film celebration as a destination event, be it festivals like BlobFest, or intrepid fans making trips–more like pilgrimages–to Japan to see Godzilla sites and Toho Studios–there’s a fun creative energy going on here with BlobFest that should not be missed.  I’ve half a mind to try and see what could be done in upstate New York to commemorate I Drink Your Bloodor even across the Potomac to visit the sites of “The Exorcist,” but those are projects for another time.  (But seriously: any takers?)