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‘The Blob’ On The Big Screen, Film Night at The Grant Museum

By James M Heather, on 16 December 2011

Without a doubt, Film Night at the Grant Museum was the most entertaining event that I’ve attended at UCL. On 6 December, they screened the 1958 sci-fi/horror cult classic, The Blob.

Dr Joe Cain holds court. A senior lecturer at UCL by day, he is an avid film fan by night. And possibly by day at weekends.

This is the first ‘On The Big Screen’ event at UCL that I’ve attended, despite this being the 21st showing. However, it’s clear that the event attracts a regular following, and by the time I arrive the large Darwin Lecture Theatre is almost full. All ages are represented in the crowd, and the mood is both jovial and excited.

In what seems to be a regular feature, Dr Cain gives a short but engrossing introduction of the film we’re about to watch. He’s clearly done his homework, as he talks us through the background of the production, the foibles of the film, and gives us tips on what to look out for.

The film was both as hoped and described: it’s bad, but in a great way. The cinematography is poor, and the audio is laughable, but as Joe points out, this was made for couples to watch at a drive-in cinema; people weren’t really going for the film.

In the movie, a small town in quiet Philadelphia is subjected to an improbable threat by a mysterious gelatinous alien, which unswervingly consumes its way through rows of unconvincing extras, and the only people who are trying to fight it are the town’s teenagers. Teenagers played by people in their late twenties.

The film is hugely entertaining, and all the more so for the community that has come to pay homage to it. With an atmosphere bordering on pantomine, audience participation is encouraged (and, importantly, not abused). A brief technical interruption is filled by jokes from the audience, and more pop-trivia from the host.

What’s more, after all the fun of the screening is done, most of the crowd decant back to the Grant Museum itself, for a stroll around the exhibits. This is another of the gems of UCL, a fantastic collection, where preserved organs, blasé skeletons and about one Ark’s worth of stuffed animals are jammed in together as high as the ceiling. Sipping wine and chatting about the film over a jar of pickled moles was the perfect end to the evening.

This film night was a lot of fun, and Dr Cain was an immensely engaging host, so I shall certainly be going to future shows. I especially loved the film, despite it having, as Joe put it, “only one actor, and even then you have to ask if he really did any acting”.

James Heather is a PhD student in UCL Division of Infection and Immunity.

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