Wednesday, July 28, 2004

"The Blob" director dies

Irvin Shortess "Shorty" Yeaworth Jr. has died at 78 in a car accident in Jordan. Yeaworth was the director of The Blob.

The Blob is one of the weirdest of the giant monster movies. In fact, it didn't occur to me to put any links about it in the sidebar when I put this thing together. But it truly is a giant monster movie, and a very good one at that (although it has been quite some time since I saw it, but I aim to correct that.)

If you haven't seen it, a small bit of goo comes out of a meteorite and immediately eats a bum. It then precedes to eat anything in its way. Only an angsty teen played by Steve McQueen finds out what is going on. Eventually, after the blob is tremendous size, the town figures out the blob can be stopped by cold. So they freeze it and pack it away to Antartica.

The story has a strong resemblance to a story by Joseph Payne Brennan, called "The Slime," published in Weird Tales magazine in 1953.
Anyway, the film was a smash hit and launched the careers of both Steve McQueen and composer Burt Bacarach. Eventually a sequel was made: Beware the Blob, directed by Larry Hagman(!) in 1972.

I loved the film as a kid. I saw it many times. It was always part of the Monster Week specials on one of the New York UHF channels I could get as a kid. (Those Monster Week movies series, always advertised in TV Guide, was where my love for all these giant monster movies started.) I still remember most of it clearly. The diner covered by the blob, the people running from the movie theater as the blob begins to ooze out and the fight using fire extinguishers against the beast. And that scene right at the beginning of the movie of the blob moving up the stick toward the bum always freaked me out. I always wanted to shout -- Drop the damn stick! -- before it happened again. Pour old wino.

Apparently, Yeaworth wrestled with his feelings about the film. As the article states: "He was not very proud of it," his wife said. He made the movie as an experiment for Good News Productions.

Yeaworth seemed to be much more interested in religious productions. In fact, at his death he was working on "a Disney World-style theme park of Jordanian history" in an effort to ease tensions in the Middle East. Yeaworth certainly seemed to be an interesting guy.

Here's The Blob Site, which contains a tour of all the sites in Chester County, Pa. related to the movie and also some Blob Facts. Here's the IMDB entry and the Rotten Tomatoes entry.

And here's an interesting link, an interview with the Man Who Owns "The Blob." Wes Shank apparently bought a vat of the blob from Yeaworth in 1965.

HW: The big question--do you know what "The Blob" is made from?
WS: The"Blob" is made of silicone. At the time, silicone was made by Union Carbide. It comes naturally clear, which is the way you first see it in the film when it crashes to earth in a meteor and splits open. It did not begin to turn blood red until it began to absorb the old man who discovered it.
HW: Do you have any original production history on "The Blob" to share with us?
WS: The film was shot during the summer of 1957. It was Steve McQueen's third feature film, but his first starring role. He was paid about $5,000 for his appearance in a film that he thought would be quickly forgotten. The film was sold to Paramount Pictures, which was looking for a film to release on a double bill with I Married A Monster From Outer Space. The Blob cost about $125,000 to make, and took in nearly eight million dollars. Not bad for 60 cents a ticket.

Definitely click that link. It's an interesting little interview.

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