I haven’t been to an honest-to-God science-fiction convention in several years, but I fell off the wagon today. Two hours behind the wheel and voila, I’m in Phoenixville, PA, to help a bunch of equally deranged filmlovers celebrate the 50th anniversary of the granddaddy of shlock horror flicks: The Blob, starring Steve McQueen. And I’m hooked, friends. This is a great con; small and intimate, certainly, but I fell in love with the resulting “we’re all family” atmosphere. I’ll be very surprised if I don’t go back in 2008.
Blobfest has been going on for the past eight years, and is always held at the (still operating) Colonial Movie Theater, which was so memorably invaded by the Blob towards the end of the film. It’s kindof like visiting Mecca if you’re a fan of b-movies. And watching a gorgeous 35mm print of the flick on the big screen, surrounded by several hundred other fans, inside the *very theater that’s being destroyed right before your eyes*, is a marvelously surreal experience. You need to do this at least once.
Astonishingly, the theater (and indeed, the town itself!) barely seems to have aged a day since the movie was shot. On one hand, I found this to be charming; on the other, it was slightly creepy. Lovely little Phoenixville, it seems, is truly the town that time forgot. I hope it never remembers. Because really, who wants to live through the disco craze again?
Phoenixville is also a town that cherishes its affiliation with the Blob legacy — virtually every shop window contained a sign advertising various Blob-themed sales and promotions. The entire center of town was blocked off to automotive traffic and converted into a big street fair, complete with ’50s cars, ’50s rock and roll bands, and other slices of Americana. Everyone seemed happy to be there, with none of the pushing and shoving I’ve seen at most other conventions. Very refreshing and mellow.
There were only a handful of dealers, but since I only had a handful of dollars, that’s probably for the best. I was actually very good; the only thing I bought was an issue of “Scary Monsters” magazine that featured The Blob on the cover. I’m looking forward to reading it.
The con’s featured guests included Jack Harris (producer of not only The Blob but The Eyes of Laura Mars); Kate Phillips (The Blob‘s 94-year-old screenwriter, who seemed pleasantly surprised — if a little bewildered — to learn that the movie actually has fans); the son of the late director Irvin S. Yeaworth (who was on set for almost the entire shoot, despite being only nine years old at the time); the gentleman who currently owns the actual Blob prop (yes, it was there on display); and several other crew members and extras.
Tom Savini was listed as a featured guest on the con’s web site, but he was nowhere to be found at the event itself (nor did he appear in the program book — looks like someone forgot to update the homepage). Guess I brought my Friday the 13th DVD with me for nothing, as there was no one to sign it. Also missing-in-action was Night of the Living Dead‘s Kyra Schon, who played Karen Cooper, the little girl in the basement. Since both Savini and Schon are from Pittsburgh, I’m curious if Western PA is boycotting Eastern PA for some reason.
Fortunately, Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s Mary Jo Pehl actually showed up, and was as delightful and charming as ever. It was my second time meeting her (the 2000 GatewayCon in St. Louis was the first), and she was just as gracious as I remembered. But I felt just the tiniest bit sad for her, because she seemed to get very little love from the con-goers in general. Seems there weren’t too many MiSTies in attendence, and most of the adoration was heaped upon the Blob guests, which I suppose is appropriate for a convention called, uh, Blobfest. But I found it hard to reconcile the fact that a brilliant actress and gifted writer, from one of the greatest cult television shows of all time, received far less attention than a few anonymous geriatrics who appeared in a fleeting crowd scene fifty years ago, running away from an imaginary silicone monster. Such is con life.
Fortunately, there was an upside to this: since there wasn’t a huge line of people waiting to meet her, Mary Jo had plenty of time to actually *talk* to her fans. At most conventions, the guests shoo you down the line as quickly as possible, so they can sign the next person’s item(s). Not today… Mary Jo graciously gave me (and the handful of other people I saw approach her throughout the afternoon) several minutes of her time, and actually wanted to know a little bit about each of us. I discovered that she has relocated to Texas, and is still freelance writing full-time. Turns out she’s also a fan of The Office, and was amused to learn that I drove down from Scranton. And she signed my DVD of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie for me, and even recorded an audio liner for my podcast as well. Sweet lady.
(And if anyone would like her to come back for additional Rifftrax commentaries, please contact the Rifftrax web site and tell them so. That’s your homework for today.)
I shot tons of video that I look forward to sharing with you, but of course I’ve got to get my computer back first so I can edit it. Grr. Should it really take Apple well over two weeks to fix this? I think not. Think different, indeed.
Well, time for go to bed.
P.S. Jack Harris announced that a big-budget remake of The Blob is on the way for 2008. (I actually thought the ’80s version was quite good, though I haven’t seen it in over a decade, so who knows what I’d think today?) Since Harris has produced both previous versions of the movie, and will be producing the new remake as well, perhaps it’ll be worthwhile. In this time of gratuitous movie remakes, a quality Blob reimagining would be the biggest surprise of all.
But I’ll keep the CO2 handy, just in case.