The Blob – Friend of the Rapture

Juli Kearns Cinema, Everyday Stories 2 Comments


THE BLOB ATTACKS! Seriously, it does. Look around you, it’s everywhere. That bright light falling from heaven, the meteor that ruptures and spills out amorphic ooze that goes around gobbling up people? Considering the beliefs of the directors and producers of “The Blob”, it’s a safe bet it’s the fallen light of Lucifer deluding and absorbing humanity. Maybe not so confessed but I’d be seriously surprised if it wasn’t the quality inspiriation behind this Sci-Fi, horror flick that, despite poor acting, effects, script and lighting (no, I was never impressed), scared the begeezuz out of untold numbers of children. But for those not destined to be part of the Choice 144,000 reserved for the Rapture, the BLOB may instead remind of the tenacious growth of the ultra-conservative Dominionists and Neo-Dispensationalists, the absorption of millions into their faithful ranks, and their seeming bottomless pits of wrath and hunger.

Actually, there is no consensus among Dispensationalists on whether the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation 14 refers to those raptured, or to saints who are preserved and go around preaching the gospel after the rapture, or if they are raptured and immediately descend again with Christ, or if they are raptured and then immediately thereafter all other believers are raptured. Also, there are many different brands of dispensationalist and what makes a person a neo-dispensationalist or a progressive dispensationalist or this or that dispensationalist is unclear to me and from what I read seems sketchy to many who should be in the know. Rapture terminology is not even found in Revelation and didn’t appear until 1830 when a young Scottish girl, during an illness, had ecstatic visions in which she perceived Christ coming not once but twice. Or maybe not. Maybe instead it was a preacher in 1832 who originated the notion of the rapture. Somewhere around then, a charismatic revival followed one or the other with its outpouring of charismatic gifts which proved to individuals the end was near. Maybe John Darby picked up on this new doctrine and spread the word on the rapturous secret removal of the church or maybe it was first someone else followed by John Darby. But a man named Cyrus Scofield (not a theologian) eventually put together the Scofield Reference Bible (1909), an end times training kit that followed Darby’s teachings with notes on dispensations and prophecy for the layman. After Scofield’s death, his pupil, Lewis Sperry Chafer (not a theologian), went about spreading the word and founded the Dallas Theological Seminary in 1924 which, along with the Moody Institute in Chicago, became a key dispenser of dispensational theology.

The Rapture? It is said that Ms. MacPherson, the ill girl who had the ecstatic visions had also a friend who shared in her interests. Together they would in states of ecstasy appear as statues barely touching the ground, nearly levitating, such levitation known as the “rapture”. In Revelation, in the Greek, the whisking away is instead harpazo which connotes a powerful seizing, carrying away of something.

Much like the blob, Rapture theology morphed and grew and morphed and grew so that now it is fairly synonymous with Xtian fundamentalism and evangelism and conservative Xtianity in general. Never mind what the theologians believe in their colleges. It’s what the layman believes that’s important here, and I imagine one would be hard pressed to find an American layman Xtian who hasn’t been influenced in some way by Apostolic pentacostal thought (baptizing in the name of Jesus rather than the Father, Son and Holy Ghost) and the rapture theology of evangelicals and fundamentalists. It’s been heavily mainstreamed since the 1970s.

Maybe some visitors remember Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” (1970). His book was a prime vehicle of Rapture thought in the 70s and was popular with the Xtian student group that went around capturing high schoolers through veiled means. Young Life. I know I was a naive thing when invited to a Young Life meeting which was presented to me as just some kind of get-together with friends. I was 15 it was the beginning of the school year and I’d never heard of Young Life. Someone played guitar. They sang Bob Denver songs and Kumbaya. I realized immediately that I’d been duped, that the group had an agenda and the agenda was Christ, but a friend promised boys and the prospect of romance was a powerful incentive to go anywhere and my friend seemed to have a great time. I went to maybe three meetings but about the only boy worth anything who kept showing up was an ex boyfriend from when I was 14 who I had dropped and who had not only become quite Xtian (a surprise, he’d not been when we were together), he was also with someone else, and I wasn’t interested in him and I wasn’t interested in anyone else who showed up so I stopped going because it felt weird, and it felt weird being around him, and everyone was always quite normal big happy and singing and stuff and this became very stressful to me after a while as there was nowhere for my angsty self to fit in. So, as angst was a foreign element that just seemed perplexing to all else, and as there were no boys to be had (more precisely, no boys with angst and alcohol or drugs) I stopped going. But what Young Life did do was put “The Late Great Planet Earth” in my hands because I saw everyone else reading it and I wondered what it was about.

The Norton Anthology of English Literature provides a somewhat disarming biography of Lindsey.

Hal Lindsey, formerly a tugboat captain in New Orleans, attended the Dallas Theological Seminary, the heart of American Dispensationalist apocalyptic inquiry, where he studied with John F. Walvoord, author of the 1974 best-seller Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis. After touring extensively with the Campus Crusade for Christ, an evangelic ministry, Lindsey established Christian Associates, a prophetic ministry based in California. Deriving his authority from apocalyptic scripture alone, he has spoken on an impending third world war (as Armageddon) to U.S. military intelligence committees, the American Air War College (an Air Force strategic training center), the U.S. State Department, and the Pentagon itself.

Lindsey’s most influential book, The Late Great Planet Earth (1971), proved immensely popular in the troubled early 1970s. Its publishers claim that it sold over 28 million copies; it was made into a documentary film in 1978, narrated by Orson Welles. The importance of Lindsey’s writing lies in his reshaping and popularizing the elementary apocalyptic scenario into a third world war involving nuclear weapons and a Russian invasion of the Middle East.

Hal Lindsey has a website, with cartoons! Like this one. Which is not satire. And this one. And this one in which all the Republicans are carried off by the Rapture.

But back to THE BLOB!

THE BLOB was directed by two individuals although only one is credited. The credited individual is Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. who in 2004 died in an automobile accident in Jordan where he had been working on the building of a theme park called the Jordanian Experience. Yeaworth was born in Berlin in 1926 but was in Pennsylvania by the age of 10. The son of an ordained minister, in 1952 he founded Good News Productions and began his career of making films for the Christian market. He also headed the Pennsylvani company, Valley Forge Films, which produced noncommercial short subjects on religious themes. Yeaworth had already directed the morality flick “The Flaming Teen-Age” (1956) when Jack Harris, producer of “The Blob” invited Yeaworth to direct it. “4D Man (1959)”, “Dinosaurus!” (1960) followed but didn’t do as well, and Yeaworth returned to Valley Forge Films. In the 60s he directed the Christin comedy “The Gospel Blimp” and “Way Out”, a horrors of heroin addiction film with an “I found Jesus” ending. His mini-bio at IMDB gives his later religious films as a return to his first love, and he apparently made some films with Billy Graham, then later worked on World’s Fair and theme park pavilion design and production.

Jack Harris was a native of Pennsylvania who linked up with the movie ministry of Forge Fillm Studios and is connected also with “4D Man”, “Dionsaurus” and “The Eyes of Laura Mars”. He also directed and wrote “The Unkissed Bride” (1966), a comedy in which a couple’s honeymoon is disrupted by the groom’s childhood obsession with Mother Goose. When the groom is unable to consummate the marraige they go to a psychiatrist where LSD is used as treatment. (Where in the hell is a copy of this film? I’d love to see it!!)

Finally, to our current friend of The Rapture, an uncredited director of “The Blob”, who was also associate producer, was a Russell S. Doughten Jr. He has in his list of credits: “The Hostage” (1967 producer, director), “Fever Heat” (1969 producer, director), “A Thief in the Night” (1972, executive producer, story), “Happiness is…” (1975, writer, director), “All the King’s Horses” (1977, producer, writer), “Sammy” (1977, director), “A Distant Thunder” (1978, executive producer, screenplay, story), “Image of the Beast” (1980, executive producer, writer), “Home Safe” (1981, writer), “The Prodigal Planet” (1983, executive producer, screenplay, story), and “A Stranger in the Forest” (1988, executive producer).

Doughten, raised in Iowa, was in the Navy during WWII, studied at Drake University and then the Yale Graduate School of Drama. He must have been interested in the movie ministry because I read he then looked for work among companies that made religious films and was thus he was invited to join Yeaworth’s Good News Productions in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania.

Eventually Doughten returned to Iowa where he founded Heartland Productions and Mark IV Pictures and produced dozens of Christian movies, including the “end of day” series that is so popular and for which the youth of America had been primed by “The Late Great Planet Earth”. Heartland and Mark IV closing shop in the 1990s, Russ Doughten Films was formed. At the website, one can purchase an “End Times Prophecy Chart” for only $11.99, and “A Tribulation Map” tract “written as a guide for unbelievers who miss the rapture. (Don’t miss out on that one!)

Doughten’s “A Thief in the Night” is a rapture film in which a woman wakes up to find millions have mysteriously disappeared, followed by earth-shaking events. This woman, Patty, reappears in “A Distant Thunder”, a fugitive from evil, finally captured by UNITE forces (United Nations Imperium of Total Emergency). “The Image of the Beast” is the third film in the series, in which the anti-Christ establishes a one world government. The 4th in the series is “The Prodigal Planet”, in which a man escapes from UNITE Detention Center and “leads an expedition across the United States with a secret that could scuttle that evil system and bring hope to the surviving believers.”

Doughten appears in all his films as a survivalist preacher, The Reverend Turner, who doesn’t fully believe in the bible but has a chart of the End Times.

Rev. Turner is doomed. He dies in the first movie. Then he comes back and spends the entire series obsessing alternately over his personal tribulation chart and the fact that he’s still around, post-rapture. Turner was a Christian-in-name-only, you see, and he misled all of his parishioners. Because of his this, and the fact that he’d heard the gospel message and rejected it, God will not have him. No matter how much Turner learns and despairs, he is cut off from God’s grace, and boy are you going to hear about it.

Source: http://www.jesus21.com/content/movies/rapture2.html

I read that Patty screams a lot. With a whine. She also, poor dear, buys the farm in the 1981 “Image of the Beast”, a film which opens with her shrieking over the beheaded body of another character who has been doomed not to continue with the contination of the series. She is strapped into a guillotine by the forces of the anti-Christ. An earthquake happens. Her persecutors run. Terrified, Patty pleads to receive the mark of the beast but she has been abandoned in the parking lot where she still lies strapped in the guillotine. She attempts to free herself, but…bye-bye Patty. Main character focus in the series then switches over to bad ass David Michaels who goes about wooing the ladies and sharing the gospel with them, but not sleeping with them.

Dan Raeburn, in his analysis of Jack Chick’s comic books in The Imp, correctly identifies a deep sexual undercurrent to much of the “witnessing” that takes place. While neither Image of the Beast or The Prodigal Planet is quite as blatant as Chick’s work, it’s fitting to see David as a cinematic analog to Chick’s “Crusaders” team of soul-winning studs.

Source: http://www.jesus21.com/content/movies/rapture2.html

I’m going to have to take Jesus21’s word on all this because I’ve not seen any of these movies. Nor do I think I’m up to renting and viewing them. Though I may decide eventually it’s a must if they’ve been such a powerful influence among fundamentalist and evangelical Xtians.

Does Patty make it to heaven or does her lack of faith under the shining guillotine’s blade, her plea to receive the mark, seal her as destined to eternal hell. Had Patty not said, “I’ll do it!” would her head have rolled?

Bloody, nasty stuff! Do they show this to all Fundie and evangelical Xtian teens? “Here, role models!” I much prefer the “Rapture” that I saw on television when I was 15, vintage 1965, starring Dean Stockwell as a fugitive with whom a teenager (Patricia Gozzi), whose only previous experience with men is a scarecrow, falls in love. He was in love with the maid but Patricia runs the maid off. Dean and Patricia get together and run off to Paris to set up household together. Tragedy ensues. I sobbed for years.

Patricia Gozzi was a fine actress and Dean Stockwell is a great actor and the story was great and the cinematography was rich and the musical score was wonderful, but how many people have seen “Rapture” as opposed to Doughtsn’s films?

The first Christian filmmaker to turn to prophecy theology was Donald Thompson. Thompson’s four prophecy films spin contemporary action-adventure stories around the apocalyptic events that many evangelicals believe are predicted in the Bible. Although it was never released in conventional theaters, the first film in Thompson’s series, A Thief in the Night, “has been translated into three foreign languages, subtitled in countless others, and its international distribution continues strongly…six or seven hundred prints now circulate, in addition to videocassettes.” Randall Balmer explains that,

“In the United States, where distribution is limited to church groups, camps, youth organizations, and the like, it is difficult to quantify the number of people who have seen the film. When I pressed Russell Doughten [the film’s co-producer] for a figure, he reluctantly estimated that one hundred million people had seen A Thief in the Night in the United States, a figure, he hastened to add, that would include those who had seen it more than once. Even if you slash that number in half to account for hyperbole, fifty million is still a staggering figure, a viewership that would be the envy of many Hollywood producers. ”

Source: Excerpt from: Shaking the World for Jesus: Media and Conservative Evangelical Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2004)

Yeah, no kidding! 50,000,000 people interested in a rapture movie that leaves you with hell and antichrist and guillotines and bad acting and and bad production values and sex as tease and horrendous non-plots and no one interested in a rapture where a confused, emotionally-stunted, Patricia Gozzi and confused, fugitive Dean Stockwell make love in the fields and run off to Paris and try to build a life in a dirty tenament and she loses their money in the gutter and you say, oh no, please, Patricia, don’t leave Paris and go back home but she does and he follows her and…sigh…like I said, I sobbed for years.

Doughten paved the way for the mega-selling “Left Behind” series of Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins who credit Doughten as a primary influence.

Sigh.

I don’t know if this is coincidental. Like the weather balloon, “Rover”, that always prevents Patrick McGoohan, “The Prisoner”, from escaping the parnoia-inducing village in which he finds himself, early shots of the blob are a modified weather balloon. McGoohan says the weather balloon was a stand-in for an idea that didn’t work. But how many people immediately think of weather balloons as cold war, paranoia-ville, people-eaters? No, the balloon doesn’t eat Patrick McGoohan but in a sense that is it’s function, to force his personality and will to be consumed with terror so that he will become a sort of Clockwork Orange.

Some Sources:
http://www.imdb.com
http://www.blogofdeath.com/archives/001117.html
http://irvin-yeaworth.biography.ms/
http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?id=3199
http://www.explore-religion.com/religion/R/Russell_S._Doughten.html
http://www.wwnorton.com/nael/20century/topic_3/crystal.htm
http://www.timlahaye.com/about_ministry/index.php3?p=bio&section=Biography

Comments 2

  1. Joe, good question! I imagine most did.

    Was watching the Monty Python Holy Grail DVD and turns out when it was first shown at Cannes, the point in the credits where the film sputters out, the projector stopped rolling and the fire department came in and evacuated everyone from the building. Everyone thought it was part of the movie because of the timing, when instead it was an actual bomb scare. Everyone was outside laughing about how great this was (prepped by the amusing credits) then went back in with the all clear and the viewing recommenced. At least that’s the story told on the DVD.

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