Thursday, January 22, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: BALL OF FIRE (1941)

In Howard Hawks' Ball of Fire (1941), Barbara Stanwyck turns her tough dame persona to comedic purpose, a feat she also performed that year in the Preston Sturges comedy, The Lady Eve (1941). Both are terrific examples of the screwball genre, but while the Sturges picture relies on biblical allusions, the Hawks film ventures into the world of fairy tales. The ball of fire that Stanwyck plays in this movie is a street savvy Snow White, a little drifted perhaps, but still sweet enough to charm seven reclusive professors and one very inexperienced Prince Charming, represented to great effect by Gary Cooper. With Hawks' lively direction, a brilliant screenplay by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, and winning performances from Stanwyck and Cooper, Ball of Fire has plenty to offer already, but it becomes a veritable treasure trove of delights thanks to a supporting cast that includes Dana Andrews, Dan Duryea, Henry Travers, Oskar Homolka, S.Z. Sakall, and an utterly unrecognizable Richard Haydn.

Stanwyck plays nightclub singer and mobster moll Sugarpuss O'Shea, who has to hide out from the district attorney's office when her boyfriend, Joe Lilac (Dana Andrews), is pinned for a murder rap. A perfect spot conveniently appears at the home of a group of professors working on an encyclopedia. The grammarian, Professor Potts (Gary Cooper), needs a consultant about modern slang, and Sugarpuss certainly knows her way around a colorful phrase. Sugarpuss takes up residence in the house, much to the delight of the seven elderly professors and the bewilderment of the much younger Potts, and soon enough the bashful scholar falls for the duplicitous dame. Joe Lilac, however, has his own plans for Sugarpuss, and the mild-mannered academics must take on a crew of gun-toting gangsters to help true love conquer all.

Cooper is surprisingly hilarious as the straight arrow Potts, but Stanwyck gets all of the best lines, thanks to a plot that hinges on her character's knowledge of slang. Always a great talker, the actress gets dialogue that really zings in this picture, although the modern viewer might sometimes be as befuddled as Professor Potts about what it all means. Slinging slang from "corny" to "yum yum," Stanwyck's character teaches Potts a previously unknown physical vocabulary, as well, making the kissing scenes especially fun. In gowns designed by Edith Head, Stanwyck is truly radiant, particularly in a spangled number that catches the light just so to throw sparkles onto the screen and stardust into Cooper's eyes. Cooper makes a perfect match for the actress; his Potts is a dynamic character, stuffy and focused at first, then suspicious and confused, and at last a head over heels romantic driven by love. He ends the picture a yodeling, boxing man on fire. It turns out that kisses can wake up Prince Charming just as well as they work on Snow White.

The supporting players are all winners, from Dana Andrews as the scheming Joe Lilac to Allen Jenkins as the garbage man, but the actors playing the professors are some of classic film's most beloved characters. They give the animated dwarfs of Snow White (1937) plenty of competition for cartoonish appeal with their quirky passions and odd bodies. Familiar faces abound. S.Z. Sakall and Leonid Kinskey are both remembered by most viewers for their roles in Casablanca (1942), while Henry Travers is best known as the bumbling angel of It's a Wonderful Life (1946). Oskar Homolka, who had played the heavy in Hitchcock's Sabotage (1936), proves a scene-stealer among the group, especially when his character attempts to drive. The most memorable of the bunch, however, turns out to be Richard Haydn, heavily made up as Professor Oddly and employing the same bizarre voice he would later use as the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland (1951). A widower and a botanist, Oddly trades laughs for sentimental tears in his best scene, in which he recalls his love for his long dead wife. It's almost impossible to recognize the actor known today as Max in The Sound of Music (1965), but Haydn it is, making his second big screen appearance at the age of 36, four years younger than Gary Cooper.

Take a moment to appreciate Kathleen Howard and Mary Field as the movie's other women, and be sure to notice Elisha Cook, Jr. in a bit role early on. Ball of Fire earned four Oscar nominations, including a nod for Stanwyck as Best Actress, but went home empty-handed. For more comedy from Howard Hawks, try Twentieth Century (1934), Bringing Up Baby (1938), and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). Survey Barbara Stanwyck's remarkable career with Baby Face (1933), Double Indemnity (1944), and The Furies (1950). Gary Cooper won Best Actor Oscars for Sergeant York (1940) and High Noon (1952), and he also stars with Stanwyck in Meet John Doe (1941) and Blowing Wild (1953). Get a better view of Dana Andrews in Laura (1944), and don't miss Dan Duryea in Scarlet Street (1945).

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: SORRY, WRONG NUMBER (1948)

Adapted by Lucille Fletcher from her own original radio play, Sorry, Wrong Number (1948) successfully translates its tale of murder and hysteria into the new medium without losing its connections to its radio roots. Anatole Litvak directs this tense noir thriller, which cranks up the suspense as Barbara Stanwyck's invalid anti-heroine becomes more and more unhinged, convinced that someone is coming to kill her at 11:15 pm on a lonely, hot night in the middle of New York. Great performances from Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster drive the film, which offers an ironic commentary on the way in which a domineering woman's constant manipulation pushes her husband toward increasingly desperate criminal acts.

Stanwyck stars as Leona Stevenson, a wealthy invalid left alone in her New York home when her servants, nurse, and husband all manage to be out at the same time. Needy and irritable, Leona hunts for husband Henry (Burt Lancaster) by repeatedly calling his office and complaining to the telephone operators, but then she stumbles into a conversation in which two men plot to kill a woman at 11:15 that very night. Leona is horrified, but her anxiety only increases as other callers begin to fill in the details of a complicated plot involving Leona, her husband, and the extent of their marital discord.

Stanwyck's performance dominates the picture, and it earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress (she lost to Jane Wyman for Johnny Belinda). It was the fourth and final Best Actress nomination of her career, though she never actually won. Still, the role of Leona shows why Stanwyck remains such an icon among classic Hollywood's leading ladies. She can be good, she can even be funny, but she is always most delightful when she's very, very bad. Like Stanwyck's other noir characters, Leona is a combination of strength and weakness; she goes after innocent Henry like a tiger on the prowl, then blackmails him with her tantrums and physical frailty to keep him tied to her and her father's company. She discounts Henry's need to accomplish anything for himself and makes him so addicted to her upper class lifestyle that his original integrity dissolves into base, ugly greed. She loves him and destroys him; the story unfolds to us in flashbacks that reveal how she poached him from a rival (Ann Richards), made him a captive of her father's company, and drove him to crime. At the same time, Stanwyck manages to make us feel bad for Leona, whose terror is very real as the moment of the killing draws near. She wants to save the unknown victim, and she wants Henry to love her. We'd have to be heartless monsters not to pity the sick woman, hysterical and heartbroken, sobbing into the phone as her world comes apart.

The story's origins as a radio play help to explain the way the narrative is constructed, with a single character confined entirely to telephone conversations and flashbacks as actions. There are moments in Sorry, Wrong Number where you can close your eyes and experience the very auditory nature of the events. We constantly hear trains passing, phones ringing, lines disconnecting, and other sounds that add to the mounting tension. Leona communicates with people from her past through the telephone, first her father (Ed Begley), and then Sally Hunt Lord (Ann Richards), and these conversations trigger memories that fill in the years between her first meeting with Henry and their current state. A late revelation from her doctor (Wendell Corey) devastates Leona, while the mysterious calls from Waldo Evans (Harold Vermilyea) make no sense to her but clarify the awful truth to the viewer. The last moments of the picture revel in dramatic irony, since we know something that Leona never figures out. Henry, too, has his moment of poetic justice, with the last line of the movie, "Sorry, wrong number," dripping with the implications of what has just happened. Time is up, and nobody has any more nickels. Such is the very essence of noir.

For more of Barbara Stanwyck's fatal women, see Double Indemnity (1944) and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946). Burt Lancaster's other noir films include The Killers (1946), Brute Force (1947) and Sweet Smell of Success (1957); he won the Oscar for Best Actor for Elmer Gantry (1960) with four career nominations in all. Anatole Litvak also directed City for Conquest (1940), The Snake Pit (1948), and Anastasia (1956).

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND (1936)

Like most biographical and historical movies, The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936) takes liberties with its source material, but for the most part it does so in the service of a more compelling narrative. The film's director, John Ford, has always been associated with a certain kind of romanticized historical moment, and Ford's hallmarks turn up in every facet of this period drama, including its themes, its use of music, and its cast. With Ford at the helm and Nunnally Johnson on the screenplay, The Prisoner of Shark Island delivers an exciting story inspired by the experiences of Dr. Samuel Mudd, the physician who set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth and subsequently found himself imprisoned at Fort Jefferson on the desolate islands of Florida's Dry Tortugas. In the middle of the riveting action, classic film fans will find a number of favorite stars, including Warner Baxter, Gloria Stuart, Harry Carey, and John Carradine, whose performance as a vicious prison officer is especially effective.

Warner Baxter takes the lead as Dr. Samuel Mudd, who unwittingly aids Lincoln assassin Booth one fateful night in 1865. Tried by a biased court to appease an angry public, Mudd avoids execution but is sentenced to life in prison at Fort Jefferson, where horrific conditions make any term likely to end in death. Mudd's devoted wife, Peggy (Gloria Stuart), and father-in-law (Claude Gillingwater) strive to free him without success, even though a former slave, Buck (Ernest Whitman), serves as an inside man to assist Mudd in the prison. When yellow fever breaks out on the island, Mudd has the opportunity to save those who have treated him so cruelly and prove himself a better man.

Although most of the movie was shot on sound stages, Fort Jefferson was and is a real location, a perfect inspiration for this kind of harrowing prison tale. In its finest moments the picture captures the desperation of men trapped in such a place, especially when fever sweeps the island and critical supplies run dangerously low. Warner Baxter plays Mudd with vigor and intensity; he has particularly good scenes during his escape attempt and his bout with yellow fever. Whatever we might make of the real Samuel Mudd, this one clearly descends from the Count of Monte Cristo and the Man in the Iron Mask. Such characters require fierce antagonists, and Mudd gets a very sharp one in John Carradine's Sergeant Rankin, who delights in tormenting the doctor at every opportunity. Several shots offer Carradine's distinctively hawkish features in breathtaking closeup to make the most of every line and nuance in the actor's face, where we read his intelligence, energy, and cruelty as only a performer like Carradine can render them. Gloria Stuart makes a lovely sufferer in her scenes of anguish over Mudd's fate, while Harry Carey has a very solid role as the island's commandant, a good man who ultimately corrects the injustice done to Mudd.

Race ultimately proves a thornier problem for The Prisoner of Shark Island than historical fidelity, and the movie's depiction of black characters may explain why it is less celebrated today than other Ford films. Ford tries to show Mudd as a humane former slave owner and even a faithful friend to Buck, but at the same time he populates the screen with stereotypes who reinforce racist assumptions. In the picture's worst scene, Mudd approaches a mob of terrified black soldiers who have holed up together to avoid the yellow fever outbreak. Even though they are armed, the soldiers obey Mudd because they perceive him as a Southern master due to his voice and bearing. The encounter suggests that Mudd possesses an authority over the black soldiers that his Northern, non-slaver captors lack. It's not a particularly surprising attitude, given that Gone with the Wind (1939) and other movies about the Civil War South engage in the same tactics, but for the modern viewer such material can be very hard to take. In spite of those issues, the movie has enough going for it that it deserves some serious attention, especially from Ford fans, and it might usefully serve in a thoughtful discussion about Ford's engagements with race in his later, better known films.

Be sure to note the brief appearance of Frank McGlynn Sr. as Abraham Lincoln; the actor portrayed the president at least a dozen times, and you can also see him in the role in The Littlest Rebel (1935) and The Plainsman (1936). For contrast, try Ford films like Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) or the much more progressive Sergeant Rutledge (1960). Silent movie veteran Warner Baxter is not as familiar today as many other leading men of his era, but he won the Oscar for Best Actor for In Old Arizona (1928), and you'll find him in 42nd Street (1933) and the series of Crime Doctor pictures. See Gloria Stuart in The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), and Titanic (1997). If you want to learn more about the real history of Samuel Mudd and Fort Jefferson, visit the National Park Service site for Dry Tortugas, or better yet make a special trip to see the island for yourself.


PS - I was inspired to watch The Prisoner of Shark Island by my own trip to Dry Tortugas National Park. Here are some photos of the real site that you can compare with the film's recreation of it. No, there were no sharks in the moat!




Monday, January 5, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: JUPITER'S DARLING (1955)

Even the novice viewer probably knows to expect some swimming scenes in an Esther Williams picture, but Jupiter's Darling (1955) is less aquatic than the screen star's most memorable outings, and it suffers from other problems, as well. Directed by George Sidney, who certainly was capable of better work, Jupiter's Darling isn't utterly terrible but still belongs squarely in the league of second raters, thanks to a thin plot, an appallingly sexist attitude, and the misuse of Williams' best attributes. For the dedicated classic movie fan, the consolations are plenty of color, some fun dance sequences from Marge and Gower Champion, and the presence of favorites like Howard Keel, George Sanders, and William Demarest.

Williams stars as Amytis, the betrothed of the Dictator of Rome (George Sanders) during a perilous time. Hannibal (Howard Keel) and his army sit at the outskirts of the great city, ready to sack Rome and burn it to the ground. With her personal slave, Meta (Marge Champion), in tow, Amytis sneaks out for a look at the manly conqueror, but she ends up being taken prisoner. Amytis and Hannibal then engage in a frequently violent battle of the sexes, with the fate of Rome hanging in the balance.

The ancient setting provides eye-popping costumes and backgrounds, including a Roman bath where Williams indulges in watery antics, and it even justifies the presence of numerous elephants as part of Hannibal's military equipment. The pachyderms, though not very warlike, make for really unusual dance partners for Marge and Gower Champion in one of the silliest but most amusing musical scenes. Howard Keel also delivers one of his songs from atop an elephant, but that's just the kind of over-the-top moment one expects from him. Nothing about the location is meant to be realistic; this story is more mythology than history. Unfortunately, it also relies on some grossly outdated sexual politics that it wants us to wink at rather than protest. It's hard to see Keel's Hannibal as a desirable mate when he repeatedly attempts to have Amytis executed, and even when they get along their romance has a bestial, brutal quality to it. Really, between him and George Sanders' stuffy Fabius, the Vestal Virgins start to look like a good alternative.

Keel has plenty to do, though Sanders and William Demarest are sadly underused, and Williams ought to spend more time swimming and less singing (dubbed, of course). All of the best scenes really belong to the Champions, who are in their element doing energetic dance numbers that are more interesting than the songs themselves. The tired tropes of Jupiter's Darling signal the end of Williams' heyday; she starred in a drama, The Unguarded Moment (1956), a year later, but her best pictures were all behind her. The type of musical that had sustained Williams, Keel, and the Champions was on its way out, too. Even Keel, the biggest star of the bunch, moved into Westerns and TV appearances as the 1960s dawned.

Look for Richard Haydn, Norma Varden, and Douglass Dumbrille in minor supporting roles. For a proper introduction to Esther Williams, go with Neptune's Daughter (1949) or Dangerous When Wet (1953), in which William Demarest has a much better role as the heroine's dad. Howard Keel, the poster boy for musical battles of the sexes, stars in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), Kiss Me Kate (1953), and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954); the first two movies are also the work of director George Sidney. Keel and Sidney team with the Champions for the 1951 version of Show Boat, but you can also find the Champions in Give a Girl a Break (1953) and Three for the Show (1955).

Jupiter's Darling is currently available for streaming on Warner Archive Instant.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Classic Movie Tourist: The Ernest Hemingway Home in Key West

I spent the week of Christmas this year in the Florida Keys, where the warm weather and bright blue water worked hard to dispel my usual holiday malaise, despite a particularly wretched end of the year at home. As usual, I kept an eye out for classic movie connections during my travels. I didn't make it over to see the African Queen in Key Largo, but I did manage a visit to the Hemingway House in Key West, which bursts with its own significance for fans of golden age Hollywood.


As most cinephiles know, Ernest Hemingway wrote numerous works that were adapted for the big screen, including A Farewell to Arms (1932 and 1957), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), To Have and Have Not (1944), and The Old Man and the Sea (1958). The Hemingway House features nods to the movie adaptations with walls of posters in various rooms, while bookcases display copies of the novels themselves. For an English professor turned classic movie blogger, places like this are pure catnip.


Speaking of cats, the Hemingway House is also famous for its plethora of polydactyl felines, whose extra toes make them oddball celebrities in their own right. 52 cats currently make their home at the house, according to Rusty, our tour guide. Given Hemingway's importance to classic Hollywood, it's no surprise that many of the resident cats have been named in honor of iconic stars. My perusal of the cat cemetery turned up Kim Novak, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Errol Flynn, Jimmy Stewart, Joan Crawford, and Charlie Chaplin, just to name a few.


While a visit to the Hemingway House encouraged me to rewatch some of my favorite classic adaptations of Hemingway's work, it also made me curious about other classic movies with connections to the Florida Keys. There's Key Largo (1948), of course, but less familiar are pictures like The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936), Mercy Island (1941), and Reap the Wild Wind (1942). I'm especially interested now in seeing The Prisoner of Shark Island, since we spent a day out at Dry Tortugas National Park, where Fort Jefferson once housed Dr. Samuel Mudd, who is played in the movie by Warner Baxter. The John Ford picture also stars Gloria Stuart, Harry Carey, and John Carradine. I have just added it to my Netflix queue, and of course I will write a review here on the blog once I finish watching it!




Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Classic Films in Focus: THE HALF-NAKED TRUTH (1932)

Lee Tracy was a popular star during the Pre-Code era; his fast talking banter made him a hit with audiences during the early days of sound, and he had a waggish quality that perfectly suited the looser moral attitude of the times. In The Half-Naked Truth (1932), Tracy plays the kind of role for which he was made, that of a scheming carnival barker whose ambitions are as boundless as his imagination. With Lupe Velez, Eugene Pallette, and Frank Morgan along for the ride, this corker of a comedy has plenty to offer fans of the Pre-Code period, and Gregory La Cava's direction keeps the action rolling from one ridiculous publicity stunt to the next. Slightly naughty, very silly, and bursting with Tracy's frenetic energy, The Half-Naked Truth aims only to entertain, but it succeeds admirably; it also makes a perfectly good introduction to Tracy and Velez for those who are new to the Pre-Code pantheon of stars.

Tracy plays Jimmy Bates, who starts out hawking the sideshow charms of hoochie coochie dancer Teresita (Lupe Velez) at a second-rate carnival. When one of Jimmy's schemes for publicity causes trouble, the pair head for the greener pastures of New York City with their pal, Achilles (Eugene Pallette), in tow. There they pass Teresita off as a Turkish princess until Jimmy manipulates a famous Broadway show director (Frank Morgan) into making Teresita one of his stars.

As the title suggests, the characters rely mostly on sex appeal and lies to get what they want. Lupe Velez shows quite a lot of skin in her skimpy harem costumes, and Tracy's protagonist couldn't tell the truth to save his own life. Neither one of them is a model of morality, but we like them in spite of that because they have a lot of spunk. Depression era Pre-Code characters need not be exemplars of righteousness to appeal to their audience; they just need to do whatever it takes to get by and have a little fun, and both Jimmy and Teresita embody that unsinkable can-do spirit. If one is a liar and the other a tart, well, who are we to judge?The movie encourages us to see Jimmy as a trickster in the same vein as Bugs Bunny; he's sometimes too smart for his own good, but he has his better nature, too, as the third act reveals. The cartoon sensibility of the picture might not be coincidental, since Gregory La Cava had started his career as a cartoonist.

The supporting players are probably more familiar to modern viewers than the stars, since Eugene Pallette and Frank Morgan both had memorable roles in later films. Pallette, who played the father of just about every leading lady in Hollywood at some point or other, is just as grumpy and rotund as we expect him to be; his character, Achilles, gets saddled with the stigma of being the Princess Exotica's castrated guard. Jimmy tells the staff at the Savoy, "You know, they have them in all Turkish harems. He's very sensitive about it." Poor Achilles doesn't even realize what Jimmy has done until the rumor undermines his romantic overtures toward a hotel maid. Jimmy also bamboozles and frustrates Frank Morgan's overwrought Merle Farrell, giving Morgan plenty of opportunities to bluster and react with his usual comic flair. Farrell is such a self-important big shot that we enjoy watching Jimmy outfox him, and the picture scene near the end really stands out.

For Gregory La Cava's best remembered work, see My Man Godfrey (1936), which features Eugene Pallette as Carole Lombard's father. Lee Tracy also stars in Blessed Event (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), and Bombshell (1933). Lupe Velez starred in a series of Mexican Spitfire films beginning in 1940, but for more of her early roles see The Gaucho (1927), Where East is East (1929), and Kongo (1932). Frank Morgan is best known today as the bombastic Wizard (and several other characters) in The Wizard of Oz (1939), but he earned Oscar nominations for The Affairs of Cellini (1934) and Tortilla Flat (1942). Eugene Pallette, with more than 250 screen appearances, is everywhere in classic film. Look for him in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Mark of Zorro (1940), and Heaven Can Wait (1943) for starters.

The Half-Naked Truth is currently available for streaming on Warner Archive Instant.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Classic Films in Focus: THE BLOB (1958)

Science fiction movies of the 1950s offer plenty of strange alien menaces, but The Blob (1958) features one of the very strangest. You wouldn't think an oozy sphere would provide much of a threat, but the title monster of this cult classic is as mindless and unrelenting as death itself, an utterly inhuman being with which there can be no discussion or rapport. Given that it looks a lot like a ball of strawberry jam, the blob might not evoke much terror in an audience, but the movie delights nonetheless, for its weird creature, its imaginative effects, its Burt Bacharach title song, and, last but not least, the odd attraction of Steve McQueen as the blob's chief opponent.

McQueen plays teenaged Steve Andrews, who is enjoying a date with Jane (Aneta Corsaut) when the pair spot some kind of shooting star that lands nearby. They search for the object but instead find an old man (Olin Howland) whose hand is covered in bizarre goo, and their efforts to help him unwittingly provide the blob with more victims. Every time the blob consumes another person, it grows, until it becomes big enough to threaten the entire town. Steve and Jane enlist the aid of their friends as well as local cop Dave (Earl Rowe) to warn the citizens and combat the oozing horror, but nobody knows how to fight such a strange, unstoppable foe.

The Blob has a lot in common with dozens of low-budget science fiction productions of its era, and in many ways it is indistinguishable from them. Its director, Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr., made a handful of other B movies, but only The Blob enjoys much notoriety today. The acting is decent but not outstanding, and the plot depends on all of the usual genre cliches, which by 1958 were already well established as such. Why, then, is The Blob such a perpetual favorite? The answer begins with Bacharach's groovy title song, which tells the audience that the ensuing carnage is just silly fun. Then we get Steve McQueen, doing his best to act like a teenager even though he was 28 at the time. He's obviously much too old for the part but manages to be likable nonetheless. Aneta Corsaut, best remembered as Helen Crump on The Andy Griffith Show, is also more mature than her character but pretty and gentle enough that we let it pass.

As the title implies, however, the monster itself is the real star of this show, and it's primarily the blob that delights audiences decade after decade. Rather than put a guy in a rubber suit, the movie presents us with a creature that never reveals its zippers or strings. Stop-motion work and other tricks bring the creature to life, although the picture wisely avoids most of the actual death scenes for the victims. We know enough to guess at their fates and squirm, especially during the middle segment when the blob consumes the old man, the local doctor, his nurse, an auto mechanic, and a handful of other unlucky folks. The highpoint of the picture comes when the blob invades a movie theater packed with patrons for a midnight horror show. The screaming mob fleeing the theater has become one of B horror's most iconic moments; the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, where the segment was filmed, has re-enacted the scene many times and even hosts a Blobfest to commemorate the movie. There's an uncanny thrill in watching a movie in which people watching a movie are attacked by a hideous thing; we laugh even as we glance over our shoulders to see what might be sneaking up from behind. The Blob understands this and capitalizes on it, which makes it a much smarter picture than one might at first expect.

The Blob was remade in 1988 to celebrate the original movie's 30th anniversary, with all the added gore one might expect. Irvin Yeaworth's other cinematic efforts include 4D Man (1959) and Dinosaurus! (1960), while Steve McQueen is best remembered today for The Great Escape (1963), Bullitt (1968), and Papillon (1973). For more science fiction horror from the 1950s, try The Thing from Another World (1951), Donovan's Brain (1953), Them! (1954), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).