V for Voluminous: The Blob [Crestwood House, 1982]

The Blob
by Ian Thorne, based on Jack H. Harris' production of "The Blob" from the motion picture starring Steve McQueen
Crestwood House | 1982
Paperback | 48 pg.
"Monsters Series"


At some point in the late '80s, while I worked for the Book Cache in Anchorage, Alaska, I ended up with a couple of slim volumes from a series from Crestwood House called the Monsters Series. Ostensibly created to spark children's interest in the classic monsters of yore, the rather squarish books are under 50 pages in length, printed in quite large type, and have pictures entirely in black and white. A spartan affair to be sure, and one would not be faulted for believing this was just some throwaway series by a publisher that really had little in the way of importance to the world.

And yet, a brief look at the internet will find numerous tributes to the Crestwood House Monsters Series, and their influence under young minds of the late '70s and throughout the '80s in turning them into lifelong fans of the horror and science fiction genres. I am not one of those kids, for I was a twenty-something when I encountered the books, and only a handful of them, and was formed more traditionally through the usual route of Famous Monsters of Filmland fandom, TV midnight monster show worship, and then a gradual crawl into a Fangoria addict for many years once that magazine appeared in 1979, just in time for the video revolution.

However, that did not mean, as a twenty-something, that I didn't want a couple of kids books about monsters added to my collection. Besides, I had a nice discount on books due to my employment benefits, so why not? Now, I remember that we pretty much carried the full line of these books (the orange series, though; I don't ever remember the later purple series in our stores), and I am now miffed that I did not pick up more than the two books that I did: The Blob and The Phantom of the Opera.

Considering that they promoted the entire series on the back cover using the star of my very favorite film of all time, King Kong himself, it was pretty lax of me to not have saved a copy of that particular book for my library. I have been kicking my own booty for many years over that book, mainly for one very good reason: if you go on Amazon and look up the King Kong book, it goes for around $90 (for a book that was about four bucks in the first place). Even worse, the Godzilla volume, in hardcover on Amazon, goes for $100 or over, but the paperback (inexplicably, though maybe it was printed in lower quantities) goes for over $300 from several sources.


I am pretty certain "getting cute" is not about
him manhandling her face...
I do remember it was really important for me to get a copy of the Crestwood House volume of The Blob at the time. For reasons that I have never fully been able to fathom, I am unreasonably obsessed with the 1958 version of The Blob starring Steve McQueen (and also its 1988 remake by Chuck E. Russell, which still has excellent special effects), and so it seemed a naturally cool thing at the time that I should pick up the book from this series dealing with that film. While some volumes of the Crestwood House Monsters Series are more about the histories of the character or films in which they appear (such as Frankenstein or Godzilla) and less about telling the full story as it is portrayed in the film, this one is an example of the latter. The Blob as a book is many ways almost an outline – or even a highlight reel – of the original movie. The story seems to drift from major scene to major scene, stopping on the more important lines of dialogue from the screenplay, before moving forward.

This, of course, leads to an interesting crossroad when creating a book for the children's market. In the very first chapter (there are five), The Meteor, we meet the teenaged hero Steve Andrews (played by a then-28-year-old Steve McQueen in his first lead role) as he picks up his date Jane Martin (Aneta Corsaut). It is refreshing in an age where parents have to explain to their kids why the angry racist orangutan running for president is talking about grabbing women by the private parts that the worst Jane is worried about on her date with Steve is about him "getting cute". But there it is in a kids book nonetheless, and it is pretty clear the reference is about him getting handsy in the car.



Of course, most of the films that are featured in solo turns in the Monsters Series were produced using black and white cinematography. Not so with The Blob, which is one of the few examples of 1950s monster movie that actually was released in color. As a result, the photos in this edition are not nearly as dynamic as others in the series, and leads to an odd result in reproduction quality upon the page in at least one example. For the climactic battle against the Blob, the cops and teens use their fire extinguishers to freeze the creature. Using a shot from the film that is spread against the expanse of two pages, the left hand page (pg. 44) is comprised almost entirely of the chiefly white exhaust from the extinguishers, save for the heads of three of the extinguisher horns sticking into the page from the middle of the spread.This means most of the page looks fairly blank, an effect which might have been mitigated had the book been published in color, with perhaps some variance in page shade (though that would have greatly added to the pricing of the book).

Boy, when is shaming like this going to go out of style?
I thought we were beyond such petty insults...
As an adult, there is not a lot to be gained from reading a straightforward, simplified rehashing of the screenplay of already pretty dumbed down storyline (and I am saying this as a bona fide fan of the film). I really am more interested in other books in the series that tried to teach kids more about the history of each character or the films, but alas, those are the not the examples in my collection. I have ones that feature straight story adaptations. (The Phantom of the Opera book does have a brief one-page introduction referencing the original novel and Universal's silent version from 1925 starring Lon Chaney, Jr., but then settles into a recap of the 1943 Universal remake featuring Claude Rains.)

I would really love to find other editions of this series, but in reviewing the pricing on Amazon.com and other book sites, the steepness of picking up a set is just too out of bounds for me now. Honestly, there are other monster-related items that would be far cooler that I would rather have for the same amount of money. It does, however, mean that I am going to become more proactive in scouring used bookstores for these titles in the future because sometimes you can get really lucky. If I can at least find the King Kong, Godzilla, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon volumes, I would be a very happy guy. I am also extremely interested in what they had to do to adapt the 1932 version of The Murders in the Rue Morgue to book form, since Robert Florey's movie starring Bela Lugosi is far more violent and kinky than most of the other stories in this series.

RTJ


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Refilling the Flagon of Chuckles (or at Least an Extra Tall Improv Glass)...

Before We Take Off...

The Monster's on the Loose!!! Non-Chaney, Pt. 2: Werewolves Along the Wall

Ignoring the Ignoramus...

Guillermo Del Toro: At Home with Monsters at LACMA 2016, Pt. 2

Parallax