Special Report: Daughter Of The Blob
My father introduced me to The Blob. When I was a toddler, he would pick me up and bounce me in his arms as he sang the Beware of the Blob song. My dad was a bit rusty on the lyrics, so he kinda made up his own words in spots. To this day I'm predisposed to croon my dad's custom lyrics instead of what's heard in the actual tune. My father's croaky rendition always made me writhe with laughter. It became my favorite song as performed by my dad.
(CLICK HERE TO ENJOY THE BLOB SONG. MP3 FILE: 400 KB)
By the time I reached kindergarten my father was entertaining me with epic bedtime stories ... all based on B-movies he saw as a child. He told me his own versions of War of the Worlds, The Day The Earth Stood Still, House on Haunted Hill, and many others long before I ever viewed the movies he described. My favorite bedtime story was The Blob. My father's side of the family has a flair for the dramatic, thus he wove his Blob tale as if it were a Wagnerian opera. Every time he told it I was riveted. I could visualize the story so clearly in my head -- the hurtling meteor, the red jelly villain, the frightened moviegoers, the Blob taking over the diner. My mantra became, "Tell me The Blob story again, Dad," and my father always politely obliged.
I didn't see the movie (or hear the real song) until I was eight or nine years old. Inspired by my father's bedtime stories, I became a Saturday afternoon B-movie junkie as soon as I was allowed to watch such fare. Every weekend I tuned into our local UHF's Creature Double Feature show, and whenever I spied a former bedtime story scheduled to air I'd warn my father in advance so he could watch it with me. The first time I viewed The Blob, the classic aired back to back with its sequel. It was like spending four hours in heaven. Seeing my dad's Blob story spring to life on the television screen was pure magic.
With time, my obsession with B-moviedom far surpassed my father's affection for the genre. My love burns so strong that I've traveled to Louisville, Kentucky to learn about a certain cult filmmaker. During my Kentucky visits I've suggested that Louisville should wildly celebrate its homegrown hero. I've boasted that if MY hometown spawned such a maverick, it would sing his praises forevermore.
I can say with understandable pride that I was correct! My town would and does indeed revel in its B-movie roots!
I moved to the Phoenixville area a few years ago, though I actually grew up some 45 miles away (in Bucks County). To be precise, I live in the Spring City region, which is roughly ten minutes from Phoenixville, PA. I don't keep up with the local media and I'm not terribly familiar with the area's history. So it was a twist of fate that informed me of the annual BLOBFEST. I received an email on July 9th from a kindly webmaster who operates a site about The Blob. A mutual acquaintance gave her my email address and told her to drop me a line.
I knew that The Blob filmed in Pennsylvania but I hadn't realized it was shot in my own backyard until I read the website. I recognized most of the structures depicted on the site as things I see every week. I learned that Irvin Yeaworth, director of The Blob, filmed several other cult films in this region including 4D Man and The Flaming Teen-Age (the latter I haven't seen).
Most of all, I was really moved to see the "tour" described on the website. I was highly impressed that people came to Phoenixville just to visit Blob landmarks. The site described a BLOBFEST weekend, and the webmaster informed me that another BLOBFEST was scheduled for July 13, 2002.
How could I not attend?
Phoenixville's BLOBFEST couldn't have fallen on a nicer weekend. The muggy, oppressive summer heat gave way to a clear spring-like day. The heart of BLOBFEST is the Colonial Theatre, the very movie theater famously featured in The Blob. Phoenixville shut down the entire town block and lined the street with antique 50s cars to set the mood. There was food, music, balloons, a sidewalk sale, and even a goofy guy dressed up as a Blob. The theater also hosted a Blob Hunt: a quiz about the Phoenixville locations used in the film. The prizes were all Blob-related -- DVDs and the like.
By 1:30 PM the street was packed with people and a long line had formed outside the theater for the 2:00 Blob show. I wasted some time snapping pictures of the crowd. As I approached the line for the theater, a man with a tape recorder tapped my shoulder and asked if he could interview me for a radio station. My heart sank when I looked over at the ever-growing line, but I obliged him. If nothing else it was an opportunity to talk about my father. He fired off several no-brainer Blob queries. But then he threw me off me by asking, "What do you think of the idea of 'the kids saving the town?'" Weird question. Because I never really thought of Steve McQueen and friends as "kids." I mean, they look as old as I do now! And I remember they looked particularly grown-up to me as a child. I ended up saying something stupid about how the theme of kids saving the day for grownups is so timeless and appealing it carried over to modern flicks like Goonies. Meanwhile, the ticket line was swelling down the block. My enthusiasm for the interview waned with each new body added to the line.
Just as the radio interview wrapped, the theater manager came out to the street and yelled that the 2 PM show was sold out. The crowd groaned in unison. I groaned, too. There was another show at 11 PM, but the air was crackling with b-movie electricity, and it was clear that the 2 PM show was THE screening to attend. If only I hadn't been a media whore and had turned down the radio guy ...
Not knowing what to do or where to go I loitered around the theater snapping pictures and sucking down coffee. A group of four or five pink-haired pierced punk rockers approached the Colonial Theatre around 1:55 PM. They winced when they saw the manager tape up a "sold out" sign. One girl told me that they drove all the way from North Jersey to attend and they couldn't stick around for the late show. Just as I went to sympathize, a woman walked out of the theater and asked, "Does anyone need tickets?" I raised my hand, forked over $8 bucks, and in I walked without so much as saying "goodbye" to the disappointed Jersey travelers.
The Colonial Theatre, a former opera house, is nothing short of lovely on the inside. It reminds me of the old movie theater (with balcony) I grew up with in my hometown. I took my seat just as the theater manager jumped onto the stage. He declared that this was the first time BLOBFEST had sold out at the Colonial, an announcement which inspired booming applause from the audience.
The lights dimmed and there, before my very eyes, shone The Blob. The insidious Beware of the Blob tune rang out, evoking giggles from the crowd.
And at that moment, I realized I was finally experiencing The Blob as my father once had. In a vintage movie theater. On a Saturday afternoon. With an audience that wanted to enjoy a simple movie. I wasn't seeing it on TV. Or on VHS. Or all on some sleek DVD. I was seeing The Blob the way it was intended to be shown. Never mind the fact that I was watching The Blob in the very theater that spawned a scene which has burned its way into this nation's collective subconscious. You know what I'm talking about: the scene in which throngs of movie patrons run screaming from the theater is as classic as Citizen Kane's "Rosebud." And I was sitting right where it was filmed watching what was filmed.
I don't think I ever saw an audience have more fun at a movie than the celebration I witnessed at the 2 PM BLOBFEST show. The audience members were young and old. Big and small. Everyone laughed and applauded all throughout the screening (the biggest group guffaw exploded when Steve's pal whined about his 80-cent movie admission). I became aware that the six-year-old kid seated behind me was getting really stressed out halfway through the film. He was completely glued to the screen, worried about the characters and following every story turn. I ducked down so my head wouldn't block his view -- I didn't want him to miss anything. And of course, the kid smiled and cheered at the end when the Blob is airlifted to Antarctica, though with global warming that ending isn't nearly as optimistic as it once was.
The Colonial screened several locally produced Blob videos when the real film was over. The first was a 2002 recreation of the famous Blob/Colonial Theatre run. The second longer video was shot in 2001 and featured a modern re-creation of the Blob phenomenon starring about half of Phoenixville. The Blob itself was played by the same guy I saw running around in the goofy red suit. I heard people in the audience whisper to each other, "Ooh, that's Kathy so-and-so," hence it was the type of homegrown video targeted at locals.
I left to investigate the lobby after Blob 2001 finished up. Wes Shank, caretaker of the original Blob, was the main attraction there. He brought with him displays, posters, photographs, and of course, the real Blob seen in the movie. I was too overwhelmed to engage in intelligent conversation, but I introduced myself and proclaimed my devotion to The Blob. I knelt in prayer before the goo. There was a Blob tour sign-up list nearby that I wish I paid more attention to, but I was too busy trying decide on which items of Blob gear I would grab for Tread's son.
Outside the theater, the winners of the Blob Hunt were being announced with much pomp and circumstance. The goofy Blob guy was lingering around growling at people. It was sort of noisy and crowded once the movie had let out, so feeling thoroughly Blobby, I decided to head home.
It's impossible to describe how heartwarming it was to see an entire town rally around the success of a B-movie. Granted, The Blob is no ordinary B-movie. The film is a b-movie benchmark that has entertained three generations of moviegoers. Like a Wagnerian epic, the tale will never grow old. It doesn't matter if it costs 80 cents or eight dollars, The Blob will always be worth the price of admission.
I wouldn't dream of missing BLOBFEST 2003.
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