The Films of Jack H. Harris, Part 1: The Blob and its unlikely spawn

December 1, 2014 | By

JackHHarris_picIt’s impossible to separate producer Jack H. Harris from a series of classic and cult sci-fi and horror films which continue to endure if not remain pivotal stepping stones in the careers of several important genre filmmakers.

His first production, The Blob (1958), was fun B- movie with all the right cult elements to make a classic: a great hook (alien glob eats people and grows to massive, deadly scale), Steve McQueen playing an aw, shucks teenager, blazing (if not a little overlit) Technicolor cinematography, clever special effects, and finale that left the fear of the blob’s return in the hearts of fans who revisited the film on TV and video, or hoped a sequel would do it justice.

Blob1958

Ported over from the KQEK.com archives is a lengthy review of Harris’ original The Blob (Criterion). Harris was blessed with a skilled cast & crew, especially composer Ralph Carmichael, who really, REALLY should’ve had a bigger career scoring any genre, but later focused on songwriting.

Back in 2008 I interviewed record producer and film & film music historian David Schecter, who released Carmichael’s superb score on CD. I’m still waiting for Carmichael’s jazzy score for the underrated sci-fi thriller 4D Man (1959) to one day emerge on CD, but check out the score review & interview as Schecter’s efforts and huge knowledge base add more info on this classic film production.

I’d also suggest visiting Schecter’s Monstrous Movie Music website, as fans of classic horror & sci-fi films may not be aware of the great work Schecter and his wife Kathleen Mayne have put into releasing music by forgotten maestros.

BewareTheBlobHarris entertained a sequel to his indie box office hit, but the results in 1972 were beyond poor in Beware! The Blob / aka Son of the Blob (Image), a godawful, unfunny mess directed by Larry Hagman who was reportedly Harris’ neighbour, and suggested he tackle a tongue-in-cheek sequel. Even if their intentions were honest, it’s a terrible, sloppily made turkey that most blob fans wish didn’t exist.

Blob1988_BRThe good news is that when Charles Russell negotiated the rights to remake The Blob, his efforts were more than adequate. His 1988 film (new on Blu from Twilight Time in a great special edition), co-produced by Harris, is an underrated classic that also happens to rank among the best sci-fi remakes around. Gory, gooey, fun characters, snappy dialogue from Russell and co-writer Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead), and great special effects done with practical rather than full digital.

See, the blob absorbs you alive, and you digest ever so slowly in its translucent pink muck. Lovely stuff!

I’ve added my 2011 Rue Morgue review of La-La Land’s excellent CD release which features a fairly solid score by Michael Hoenig.

CaltikiR2Also added is a review of the best riff / early Blob rip-off ever made – Mario Bava’s ridiculously fun Caltiki – The Immortal Monster (1959), which has gore, bad English dubbing, and great visuals and miniature effects. Using little sources materials for his creature, Bava’s blob is disgusting, and he adds a few interesting twists to a film originally started by Riccardo Freda but surreptitiously ‘given’ to Bava to get this own directorial on the go.

Freda tried to push Bava into the director’s chair with I Vampiri, but something clearly clicked with Caltiki, because a year later Bava made his gothic classic, Black Sunday (1960).

I’ve also ported over from the archives my review of the excellent 2-disc soundtrack set, produced by Italy’s DigitMovies, which also features music from I Vampiri (1957) and Lisa and the Devil (1973).

In a future installment I move on to some of the debuts of more established filmmakers which Harris produced or presented, but at 95 Harris sits on a modest but influential legacy, and he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this past February:

 

 

Coming shortly: soundtrack reviews; improper child-rearing in the cult films The Baby (1973) from Severin on Blu + Sonny Boy (1989) from what else, VHS; and Twilight Time’s new Blu-ray edition of Richard Fleisher’s Che! (1968) plus related soundtrack reviews and a pair of Lalo Schifrin performance videos.

Cheers,

 

 

Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com

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Category: EDITOR'S BLOG

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