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The Surprising Inspiration Behind The Blob

Before bursting on to the 1960s Beautiful Bad-Boy scene in John Sturges' "The Magnificent 7" (or tunneling free from Nazi captors in Sturges' 1963 war thriller, "The Great Escape"), Steve McQueen was making his feature film debut in director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.'s surprise sci-fi-horror hit, "The Blob."

The premise was simple: A mysterious, gelatinous, amoeba-like-thing from space crash lands onto earth via meteorite and proceeds to expand rapidly as it consumes terrified citizens of small town America. (Maybe that explains why Ben Affleck's Batman was so immediately suspicious of his Kryptonian-born, Earth-crashing frenemy?) While a number of contemporary critics assumed producer Jack H. Harris was making a political statement about The Cold War — a giant, unmistakably red blob consuming all that's good about the USA was just too on-the-nose to ignore — Harris apparently wrote the interpretation off as "hogwash" (via New York Times). But if the film wasn't a Red Scare mega-metaphor, from where, exactly, did "The Blob" story creator and co-writer Irvine H. Millgate derive his inspiration? As it turns out, the resourceful idea man snagged his unique monster from, of all places, the news. Or, a form of it, anyway...

From police report to screenplay

According to a 2011 post on Mysterious Universe, in the fall of 1950, The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a local story that was equal parts laughable and terrifying, unbelievable yet unforgettable. At least, Millgate (who, like Harris, was from PA) never forgot it, and when Harris asked him to come up with "...a unique monster," but one that could be killed using "something that grandma could have cooked up on her stove" (an anecdote Millgate recalled to Cinemafantastique in 1987), it appears he turned to the bizarre headline for an assist. 

The headline, which read, "Flying 'Saucer' Just Dissolves," told of a baffling experience that local officers John Collins and Joe Keegan had while on patrol the evening prior. The officers claimed that upon inspection of an unknown object they'd originally thought "parachute"-like in shape, (via anomalyinfo.com) they came face-to-face with a mysterious, "purple jelly" that ultimately disappeared before their eyes.  

"According to reports," writes Ruemorgue.com's Patti Pauley, "one of the officers ended up (with) tiny, pulsating globules stuck to his skin that later evaporated completely." Of course, like "The Blob" itself, this bizarre origin story tended to change shape as it grew. In true urban legend fashion, reports vary to this day as to what, exactly, the officers saw, and how what they saw "behaved."  What is known, for certain, is that on the night of September 26th, 1950, two Philadelphia patrolmen claimed they encountered a substance they'd never seen before; less than a decade later, that substance would transform into an all-consuming monster that audiences had never seen before, either. 

Beware! The Remake

That same monster was reimagined by director Chuck Russell in the film's less financially successful 1988 remake. And although we're over-due for another three decades-later incarnation, it could be a while before we see the malevolent amoeba in theaters (or eating theaters) ever again. While a remake has been in the queue for some time now, a feud over franchise rights coupled with Covid-19 delays has it set firmly on the back burner. 

In the meantime, fans of the original version of "The Blob" (as well as fans of its campy, occasionally cringe-worthy sequel, "Beware! The Blob,") can get their amorphous fix at Phoenixville, Pennsylvania's annual Blobfest. The town is home to the real-life Colonial Theatre featured prominently in the film, and although Blobfest 2021 has come and gone, attendees can still gear up for next year and read more about the myth-vs-the-reality behind The Mass at thecolonialtheatre.com