Beware! The Blob/Son of Blob (1972) -*
It is my hypothesis that the ideal lag-time between a movie and its sequel is somewhere in the range between two and five years. Sure, there are plenty of decent sequels out there that were made the year after the success of the original movie (The Revenge of Frankenstein and Hellbound: Hellraiser II spring instantly to mind), but they are far outnumbered by movies like The Return of Count Yorga, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, and off the top of my head, I can think of but a single sequel that was released less than a year after its predecessor that didn’t suck like Linda Lovelace. And even it (Gigantis the Fire Monster / Godzilla Raids Again / Gojira no Gyakushu) was a significant step down from what came before. What we’re looking at here is the near impossibility of swiftly cooking up a worthwhile way to continue what had originally been intended as a stand-alone story. At the other extreme, an exceptionally long delay between a movie and its sequel is usually a sign of sheer desperation on the part of the people who own the rights to the original film; as evidence of this, I submit The Birds II: Land’s End, King Kong Lives, and It Came from Outer Space II. Beware! The Blob/Son of Blob is possibly the ultimate example of this phenomenon. As near as I can tell, The Blob producer Jack Harris just got bored one day in the early 70’s, and commissioned a script for a sequel from Jack Woods, the writer/director/everything else of Equinox/The Beast, which he then turned over to Larry Hagman, of all people, to direct. The results are disastrous, rather resembling a trial run for Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.
Now when we last saw The Blob’s carnivorous, extraterrestrial jelly mold, it was being airdropped as a great frozen chunk down to the icy wastes of the arctic. This was because the thing couldn’t stand the cold, and the movie’s heroes figured that putting the blob someplace where it would never thaw out was the next best thing to the seemingly impossible task of killing it. Apparently, the heroes of The Blob never figured on the Alaskan Oil Pipeline, however. Chester Hargis (Cotton Comes to Harlem’s Godfrey Cambridge) is a technician of some kind working on the pipeline project, and when he returns home from a months-long stint onsite, he brings with him a canister containing a piece of something strange that his team dug up from under the ice. But Chester’s wife, Mariane (Marlene Clark, from Slaughter and Ganja & Hess) takes exception to his keeping the canister in their freezer while he waits for a chance to take it to his company’s lab, with the result that it is removed for relocation to Chester’s beer cooler, but then forgotten about and left to sit on the kitchen counter. As the frozen whatsit thaws, the top pops off the canister for no good reason, leaving its contents— immediately recognizable to anyone who saw the previous film— free to eat both the Hargises and their kitten.
Meanwhile, two of Mariane’s friends are planning a birthday party for a guy named Bobby Hartfield (who will be played by Robert Walker Jr., from Angkor: Cambodia Express and The Man from O.R.G.Y., when at last we see him). One of these girls— Lisa Clark (Gwynne Gilford, from Masters of the Universe and Satan’s School for Girls), apparently Bobby’s girlfriend— is just on her way out the door to pick up Bobby’s present from Mariane when two more of Bobby’s friends drop by. Oh, Jesus... they’re hippies. This is going to be one of those movies, isn’t it? Okay, fine— we’ll deal. After a short interlude of expository conversation, Lisa makes good her intentions to go to the Hargis place, while the two hippies go off to “discover acoustics” (read: smoke up and play guitar in a concrete drainage pipe).
This accomplishes two things. First, it enables Lisa to witness Chester’s final consumption by the blob, and second, it sets up a chance for the blob to kill a couple more people under such circumstances that their absence will not be noticed for a while. The moment she lays eyes on Chester’s blob-engulfed body, Lisa high-tails it over to the ranch where Bobby lives with a bunch of hippies and winos, and convinces him to follow her back to Chester’s place. On the way to the ranch, Lisa had a minor traffic accident with a man named Edward Fazio (Richard Stahl, from Terminal Island and The Student Nurses), and on the return trip, she and Bobby pass by him again, just as he is trying to explain the incident to Sheriff Jones (Richard Webb, whose career has also included such highlights as The Werewolf of Woodstock and Hillbillies in a Haunted House). Spurred on by Fazio, the sheriff takes off in pursuit of Lisa and Bobby, and is thereby clued in to the disappearance of Chester and Mariane. Fazio’s complaints, apparently, will have to wait; my guess is the sheriff gets around to him about the day after never.
There isn’t a whole hell of a lot of plot to Beware! The Blob from this point on. Basically, Bobby has his surprise birthday party, Lisa tries without much success to convince everyone she sees that there is an amorphous red monster slithering around eating people, and the blob kills one slumming second-string celebrity cameo after another until it’s absorbed enough of the town’s biomass that the authorities have to pay attention to it. The movie reaches its climax in a bowling alley/ice skating rink owned by, of all people, Ed Fazio. (So that’s why the filmmakers were so hell-bent on keeping that seemingly pointless character in the spotlight!) Why a bowling alley with an ice rink attachment, you ask? Well how the hell else are our heroes going to re-freeze the blob once its volume has expanded to encompass several million cubic feet, eh? It’s not like they can just shut something that big up in a meat locker, you know!
Actually, come to think of it, the folks responsible for this movie probably ought to have been shut up in a meat locker. I find it awfully depressing to note that I evidently have a hell of a lot more respect for The Blob than Jack Harris did; if it had been my movie, you can bet your ass a sequel like this would never have been made. It isn’t just my longstanding dislike for “zany” comedies talking, here, either. The worst thing about Beware! The Blob is that it can’t figure out what kind of movie it wants to be. Its more slapstick comedic elements don’t mesh well with its “look at the stupid hippies” social satire facets, and both components seem strongly at odds with the extraordinarily high body count and the movie’s attendant eagerness to introduce whole armies of characters for no reason other than to kill them off at the end of the next scene. But there’s also a muted strain of loving nostalgia for the monster movies of old in evidence here, reflected mostly by means of subtle inside jokes; note especially the scene in which the blob sneaks up on Chester while he watches first Daughter of Horror (the movie that was playing in The Blob’s theater scene) and then The Blob itself on TV. Finally, there are a few moments that just defy explanation. The opening credits, for instance, roll over a seemingly endless sequence of the Hargises’ kitten frolicking in their meadowy back yard. Then there’s the scene in which the blob attacks a big, fat Turk while he’s taking a bath, causing him to flee into the night until he is picked up for indecent exposure by the sheriff’s men. The movie will inexplicably return to this man’s supposedly humorous travails at the police station about every ten minutes thereafter until shortly before the climactic assault on the bowling alley. Call me obtuse, but I just don’t get it.