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George Worthing Yates
Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr.
Michael York
Robert Zemeckis
Terri Zimmern
George Zucco
 
YEAWORTH, IRVIN S., JR.
(1926–2004). American director and producer.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Directed: The Blob (1958); The 4D Man (and co-produced) (1959); Dinosaurus (and co-produced) (1960); Blobermouth [The Blob, redubbed] (1990).
 
As was the case with Frederic GADETTE, biographical information on Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr. is not always abundant or consistent, but one can piece together a reasonably accurate overview of his singular career. The son of an ordained minister (but never a minister himself, despite some accounts), he was reportedly a radio performer as a child, and a radio and television producer as an adult. He first achieved a modicum of prominence in the 1950s as the head of a small Pennsylvania company, Valley Forge Films, producing noncommercial short subjects on religious themes; he had also by this time been credited as the producer and director of The Flaming Teen-Age (1956), an obscure teen exploitation movie with a devotional spin. One of his works must have been pretty impressive, for it inspired New York producer Jack H. HARRIS to invite Yeaworth to direct a cheap science fiction film for general release. In response to this odd opportunity, the devout Yeaworth surely prayed earnestly for divine guidance, and the Lord, once again displaying His infinite wisdom, advised him to accept the assignment.

For what emerged from the unlikely collaboration of Yeaworth and Harris was The Blob—perhaps not one of the best, but surely one of the most distinctive and memorable science fiction films of the 1950s. Its amorphous, pulsating silicone represented an original variation on the monster-from-space theme, and filming on location in Pennsylvania allowed Yeaworth to effectively employ unusual settings like the railroad-car diner and the small-town movie theatre where the Blob oozes menacingly towards the audience. Yeaworth also had a flair for innovative camera work, as in the scene in a store where stars Steve McQueen and Aneta Corseaut are strangely filmed from a disconcerting low angle; then, relating this to the image of the Blob slithering across the floor, we suddenly realize that we are being given a Blob's-eye view of the proceedings. Most impressively, unlike almost every other teenagers-versus-monster movie of the era, The Blob insists upon treating its youthful protagonists with the utmost respect; the brilliantly cast McQueen and Corseaut may be inexperienced, but they are keenly observant—more so than the film's adults—and they take the responsibilities thrust upon them very seriously. Amidst scores of crudely made films that sought to extract money from teenagers' pockets while portraying them as fools, The Blob almost uniquely imbues its teenagers with a gawky gravitas that would not be observed again in American films until, perhaps, George LUCAS's American Graffiti. Just about Yeaworth's only misstep was his use of Ralph Carmichael's jarringly inappropriate, jazzy score which not only failed to enhance the film but was sometimes at cross purposes to it, as in the scene where McQueen and Corseaut contemplate their impending deaths to the accompaniment of soft, romantic music.

Less heralded, but equally accomplished, was Yeaworth's next production, The 4D Man. The film is again based on a familiar science fiction trope—the scientist who develops immense powers and turns into a homicidal madman—but this time the scientist in question has a perfectly reasonable motive for murder: the boss at the laboratory is unfairly taking all the credit for his scientific discoveries. Just as The Blob projected an authentic vision of small-town America, The 4D Man departs from stereotypes of isolated inventors building contraptions in their basements to offer a truer picture of the ways that scientists actually work and interact with each other. Yeaworth again provided his film with visual panache in its imaginative depictions of a man passing through solid objects, and he was again blessed with gifted unknowns as his stars—Robert LANSING and Lee MERIWETHER. He was also again cursed with a terrible Carmichael score, but it seemed a small price to pay for an otherwise superb production.

Yet the partnership of Yeaworth and Harris took a disastrous turn with their third and final collaboration, the ill-conceived Dinosaurus, which stranded Yeaworth and company on a remote island setting, far from the realistic American social contexts where he excelled, and saddled him with an undistinguished cast, a dull storyline about revived dinosaurs and a caveman, and a script that foregrounded lame attempts at humor, which was hardly Yeaworth's forté. While The Blob and The 4D Man compel viewers to keep watching, Dinosaurus drives viewers away, making it a film that is rarely discussed because so few people can bear to sit through it.

Perhaps taking the failure of Dinosaurus as a omen, Yeaworth then returned to the marginalized milieu of Valley Forge Films, for which he directed one additional feature, Way Out (1967), a streetwise look at drug addiction that, like The Flaming Teen-Age, eventually moves into spiritual territory. While unashamed of his ventures into secular entertainment, as evidenced by his commentary provided for the DVD rerelease of The Blob, and purportedly active at times in design work for theme parks, Yeaworth otherwise kept focusing on expressions of his religious beliefs, such as the Billy Graham television specials that he produced. A lifetime of such Good Works testifies to a deep, genuine faith that undoubtedly, after his recent death in an automobile accident, has earned Yeaworth a place in Heaven. Yet now that he has finally arrived at the Great Screening Room in the Sky, he may be bemused to find that the only Yeaworth productions being shown for the amusement and enlightenment of the Elect are The Blob and The 4D Man—films offering striking proof that the Lord indeed works in mysterious ways.

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