Every year around this time, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania takes its turn in the cult-film-celebration spotlight by way of their annual Blobfest. In case you didn’t know—is there anyone who knows The Blob who doesn’t, though?—the town’s Colonial Theatre plays a starring role in the monstrous mayhem of the 1958 monster mini-classic, when the titular creature creeps and leaps and glides and slides across the floor, right through the door, and all around the wall(s) of the quaint little movie palace, which even today retains much of its vintage charm.
They really make a weekend of it at Blobfest, cordoning off the street where the theater is located in order to free fun-seeking filmgoers from car traffic—all the better for them to peruse the wares on display from street vendors on hand to hawk their (mainly) movie-related merchandise. A monster kid could wind up spending a mint here, even if the actual stretch of merchants is rather on the smallish side. Comic books? Check. T-shirts? You betcha. Indie artists with their own unique tilts on monsters, superheroes, and sundry other pop culture fixtures? Sure: Buy local!
In addition to the usual Blob-related remembrances (which this year included appearances by Keith Almoney, who as a child played oh-so-cute, cap-gun-totin’ Danny in the film, plus the son of director Irvin S. “Shorty” Yeaworth, Jr.), there were special guest slots for Cinema Insomnia’s horror host Mr. Lobo and two members of the chiller-themed comic trio Ghoul A Go-Go; multiple screenings of The Blob took place as double-bills alongside other goofy classics of the “giant bug” subgenre, including Them!, Tarantula, and The Deadly Mantis.
Blobfest is also special in that there’s a commemorative re-filming of the movie’s famous “run out” scene. Buying a ticket guaranteed you the opportunity to run screaming out of the front entrance of the Colonial and being filmed for, uh, posterity. No, I didn’t…but here’s an excellent amateur videographer’s appropriately jittery record of what I imagine to have been the chaos and good cheer of the event, taken from the inside:
For me, The Blob is really all about Uncle George. My late uncle George Karas played Officer Ritchie in the film—a character given his own unique little quirk of playing long-distance chess with another policeman over the station radio. In one scene, Ritchie is left to watch over things while his colleagues join “teen” Steve McQueen, venturing out in search of the ever-growing, cherry-red menace. That’s when his “big” moment, and his most memorable line, arrives:
Today, viewing the film in a theatrical setting with a big crowd proves to be a mixed experience. I own the Criterion DVD, and watching it on occasion at home, I’m usually struck by the film’s golly-jeepers sincerity and how, if you’re in just the right mood, it can still be kind of creepy…in spots. The mood in the Colonial at the screening I attended, it must be said, took on a little more of the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 feel, as exhibition on a giant screen can’t help but pull the film’s hokier qualities out front and center. At various times, we were either laughing with or at it. A sustained closeup of McQueen reacting got a raucous howl; Uncle George’s sheepish dialogue when the other cops discover his chess set, when he confesses that when you’re alone you gotta do sumthin’, got a big laugh that sounded to me a little on the dirty side.
The best and most relevant modern-day moment screening The Blob comes, happily enough, with a massive payoff at the very end, when it’s determined that the best thing to do is to get the military in there to pick up the now-frozen beast and drop it where its parasitic powers will remain locked in ice forever…or…
“As long as the Arctic stays cold,” says McQueen.
Big, big, big laugh.
Beware of The Blob!