The great gelatinous invasion is War of the Worlds reduced to small-town size, just a nice shake-up on a staid Friday night. "A real piece of sky" crashes down in rural Pennsylvania, an astral walnut with a gooey center that "absorbs flesh on contact, like acid." Their necking interrupted, the twentysomething high-schoolers (Steve McQueen and Aneta Corsaut) stumble to the rescue, past skeptical policemen and parents. It all converges on the midnight spook show, a theater where juveniles pelt the frightful screen with guffaws until the rapacious slime oozes into the projection booth. "Am I laughing... or am I scared stiff?" The charming feint is on adolescence as a singularly disbelieved state, stammering through make-out sessions and hot-rod stunts and in dire need of an otherworldly menace to get adults to pay attention. Rimbaud's "mouthless intimate hydra" meanwhile is re-imagined as a malefic mass of raspberry marmalade, draping itself over a blow-up of a diner but foiled by a literal cold war. This is played earnestly but for the wink of Burt Bacharach's ballad ("It creeps and leaps and glides and slides..."), Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. keeps his frames still and oddly aglow like crisp comic-book panels. (Stupefied by his predicament, McQueen describes what might be the key elements of independent filmmaking: "The light was just right, the angle and the imagination.") Later critics have detected an allegorical Red peril, but Cohen's The Stuff knows better. With Earl Rowe, Olin Howland, Stephen Chase, John Benson, and Robert Fields.
--- Fernando F. Croce