'Blobfest' in Phoenixville, PA, honors 1958 horror film seen as metaphor for 'creeping communism'
This evening around 7:30 p.m., things will be hopping in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. In the normally sedate hamlet, hundreds of people will be screaming and running about -- women, children, and men. Many will be dressed in clean-cut 1950s-era garb.
But, no, this has nothing to do with guns and religion: what inside-the-Beltway liberal sophisticates believe obsesses hayseeds in places like Phoenixville (pop. 16,440) -- situated 28 miles northwest of Philadelphia at the junction of French Creek and Schuylkill River.
This evening, Phoenixville kicks off one of small-town America's wackiest summer festivals: Blobfest. It's been going on for 12 years now, and is inspired by the 1958 science fiction/horror film "The Blob," which was widely seen in cold-war America as a metaphor for creeping communism (in spite of the filmmaker's assertion that it was really a biblical parable). Filmed in and around Phoenixville, "The Blob" starred a yucky and murderous alien glob and a young Steve McQueen, in his debut movie role, playing a clean-cut teenager.
Given "The Blob's" fanciful plot, it's no wonder the low-budget film was seen, in 1958, as a warning against creeping communism -- or perhaps creeping socialism today?
Here's the plot: As Steve McQueen's character and his gal make out in the front seat of a hot-rod in lover's lane, a meteor-like object lands nearby. The couple investigates -- and soon discovers that an alien has dropped from the sky. The Blob creeps menacingly through town -- greedily consuming its hapless victims, incorporating them into its malevolent presence. In the process, it grows bigger and redder and more powerful. Sound familiar?
One of the movie's most memorable scenes takes place at Phoenixville's storied Colonial movie theater. That's where the Blob creeps into the projection room, consumes the projectionist, and then oozes into the theater -- sending hundreds of terrified patrons screaming out the front door.
This evening, residents will recreate the famous run-out scene, part of a stage show at the Colonial. In recent years, the theater has been getting an ongoing restoration led by civic-minded residents who are determined to reinvent Phoenixville, settled in 1732, once an important industrial center and now an increasingly popular bedroom community. The town -- or borough to be precise -- took its name from the Phoenix Iron Co..
After this evening's run-out reenactment, there will be a "retro party" with music from the 1950s. Screaming contests, sci-fi movies, and hot-rod car shows -- all have been among the staples of the 3-day festival over the years. For a full schedule, click here.
Alexis de Tocqueville, the famous French political writer, traveled through Pennsylvania in the early 1800s when researching his remarkable two-volume work, "Democracy in America." No doubt, he would feel right at home in Phoenixville or at a screening of "The Blob" -- for he'd encounter plentiful examples of upbeat Americans, imbued with the sorts of civic-engagement values that so impressed him in the new nation he admired.
How, incidentally, was the Blob finally defeated? Actually, it wasn't defeated -- just put to sleep. After Phoenixville's citizens and police mobilize, the Blob is frozen with blasts from hand-held CO2-loaded fire extinguishers. It's a remarkable example of civil defense, with air-raid sirens wailing. Even a kid with a cap gun takes some shots at the alien. Then, the Air Force transports the Blob to the North Pole.
The movie concludes with the words "The End" - which slowly turns in a question mark. To view the movie's introduction with theme music, click here.
Sorry, but readers who'd like to participate in this evening's run-out scene and retro ball will have to make reservation next year. Tickets are sold out. However, you can view last year's run-out scene below, set to "The Blob's" tongue-in-cheek music by Ralph Carmichael Burt Bacharach. Enjoy the fun.