Gelatin Lover

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Confession: I’ve never properly watched the original THE BLOB nor the Larry Hagman-directed belated sequel, which I must admit I’m very curious about. But curiosity finally prodded us to run Chuck Russell’s 1988 remake, mainly on the strength of Frank Darabont’s co-writing credit, and a surprisingly respectable piece of work it is. Set in a small town in the northwest US (though filmed in Louisiana, presumably for the more comfortably warm nights), it has trace elements of Twin Peaks, and even features a brief spot by Jack Nance (always welcome) — and the casting director was Eric DaRe, not only the son of Aldo Ray, but Twin Peaks’ resident domestic abuser Leo Johnson.

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The special effects, mostly under the supervision of Lyle Conway (DREAMCHILD, RETURN TO OZ, LINK) are surprisingly consistent, effective, imaginative and nasty — there are a few clunkers very late on, but by then the film has established its credentials and you’re willing to forgive. The script keeps giving people characterful things to do — if it’s a shame that we lose two of the grown-up characters early on, one has to admit that Darabont and Russell came up with a strongly emotive way of doing it. The pity is that Kevin Dillon, looking like a drunkenly assembled identikit of his brother Matt, and blandly attractive but underwritten Shawnee Smith, can’t compete with the grown-ups for screen value. The script gives them a little more meat than is usual in this kind of thing, and we also get anticipations of the superior Darabont flick THE MIST, as shady government doings start to play a role in the narrative, deepening and darkening the original’s “sinister meteor” gimmick.

Also: Del Close. I’m always glad to see Del Close. I knew he’d played a small role in the Hagman movie, because I remembered a comic strip he wrote about the experience in the very weird anthology comic Wasteland, but I didn’t realize he was in this, nor that he’d actually commemorated the experience in another autobiographical cartoon ~

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Close was high as a kite when he filmed his BEWARE! scene, having had his eye scratched by his beloved cat, Grapefruit Head, causing him to take a large number of prescription painkillers including some intended for veterinary purposes.

 

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In the remake, Close plays a preacher who ends up with the film’s coda, implying a distrust of militant Christianity which seems even more appropriate to the Reagan years than the paranoia about satellites and germ warfare.

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Confession: the first thing I ever directed, a little project at art school, was an adaptation of a strip from Wasteland adapted by Close from a Severn Darden routine. Maybe one day I’ll put it on YouTube…

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2 Responses to “Gelatin Lover”

  1. Close was a disruptive influence in movies like The Untouchables — I wish he’d been turned loose in more of them.

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