JF Ptak Science Books Post 1814
The Blob is probably not a "science fiction" movie because, well, it has very few science-y bits to it; it is also probably not a "monster" movie, either, as the Jell-O-like gelatinous character moved like an ancient stub-legged fat-dog that a person could slowly out-crawl to make good an escape. Maybe it really wasn't so much a "movie" at all, but more like a tonic, a slight refresher enjoyed only at the film's ending when you've realized that a cool 75 minutes was had in a refrigerated environment scooped out of a hot August day in 1958.
It was about a creeping fear of some sort. I doubt that the screenwriters had anything more to say about fear than that they would fear if their movie didn't generate some human monies. But fear was big and very creeping in the United States at that time--the fullness of the Cold War was really just coming into its monumental and grinding play, with nuclear catastrophe lurking at every other corner. Literally--city life was festooned with traffic signals and Civil Defense signs, the later showing the way for folks to crowd into underground or moderately protected areas to outweigh the cold heat of radioactivity and protect them from megatons of explosive sewage. Children at school were to take refuge from the
giant fireball under wooden desks1, families built bomb shelter (complete with food and weapons to ensure the food stayed in the family), orderly evacuation plans for millions of cars were devised to empty out NYC and Boston and Chicago so that the even/odd license plates could be distributed properly into the countryside, plans were made to de-centralize cities so that the entire country would be a massive suburb, and on and on, into the empty nuclear night.
Nuclear annihilation was the great, arching fear above the still-massive supporting fear of Communism, the destroyer of decency and morality and god and individuality and everything else that there was to lose. Overt fear coming from the USSR; covert fear coming in the form of Fifth Column folks, infiltrators, screenwriters, conning actors, deviant milkmen, mischevious politicos, liberals, artists: everywhere from anything. Spot the Red/or Make me Dead.
Creeping Communism was everywhere and from everywhere the battle of fear must have been fought, which partially explains America's growing involvement with the doomed French as that country strained against all reasonableness to maintain control of the country of Vietnam. Fighting Ho Chi Minh since the end of the Second World War, the French finally ran out of themselves at Dien Bien Phu, which also marked the real beginning of U.S. involvement there (having already spent some billions in an ill-advised support of the cancerous French occupational effort). Among the first American casualties in that long war would be an Army officer whose last words before being killed were in French: "Je suis Americaine". (The first true casualty in that war--as Goethe has said--was truth).
There was much in the science fiction world that suggested this fear, utter and complete devastation via aliens invasion or runaway nuclear strikes, all of which could be read about or seen in the movies, all supplements to the Great Fear going on outside. Television would occasionally address these issues but in far lesser numbers than cloak-and-dagger great-goodness of the pathology of nice that was seen going on throughout America, the stuff that makes many people nostalgic for those times--Leave it to Beaver and such. June Cleaver never had to deal with her boys getting burnt to a crisp at school under their desks.
The Blob's monster wasn't as fantastic as others, and its arrival was never really a question for consideration. The teens depicted in the movie (including the lead-teen, played by just-shy-of-30 Steve McQueen) weren't really rebelling against anything except for a ruffled deputy sheriff, and at he generations managed to pull themselves together with much fuss to fight the strange invader.
There were of course no Black people in this movie. Perhaps to white America, Blacks were another creeping fear coming in the guise of desegregation in the great and powerful landmark case of Brown v Board of Education. And Elvis. Elvis, as the personification of early Rock and Roll, was seen as subjugating the morality of youth and corrupting culture in general with his music, much of which owed its existence to Black people.
Back to The Blob: the cure to the terror of its creep was easily found; and, once so, its disposal was just a matter of short time. It was a ridiculously easily solution. Cold. The great creeping terror was frozen immutable by cold, and dropped (by parachute) somewhere near the North Pole, where it was to stay frozen forever. Not so much with Slim Pickens/Major Kong riding his "Hey John" nuke down the throat of the Russkie first strike capacity, which in Dr. Strangelove found fire fighting fire, with everything ending up in flame. In the simple The Blob, perhaps the feel-good message was the Cold War being won in the cold? Well, I doubt that highly--int he end, it was just a not-good film, signifying nothing. But the rest of all the other fears were very real.
It is remarkable though that one of the greatest fears invented by humans in the 20th century--nuclear annihilation--is today pretty much abandoned, save for the rogue elements here and there trying to deliver a dirty bomb to some populous place. Certainly discussions of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doesn't pop up anymore except in history classes. And so fear comes and goes. Such a fear was created with the adoption of equal (Voting) rights for women, and the equalizing of human rights for Black people. The consequences of these changes were enormously fear by the status quo; a few decades later, the fear and its representations look silly (as in "how-could-that-possibily-have-been?) to our children. It makes me wonder what that Great Fear that beguiles so many today will be an embarrassment in 2030? Gay marriage? Immigration? Both are excellent candidates. Problem is, there are many others.