Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Monolith Monsters (1957)

"From time immemorial the earth has been bombarded by objects from outer space, bits and pieces of the universe piercing our atmosphere in an invasion that never ends".  With these words begins the classic 50s sci fi monster film The Monolith Monsters.  Released by Universal-International films and with the introduction narrated by Paul Frees, the master narrator of countless science fiction films, you already know that you're in for a great time.

The story begins as a meteorite from the depths of space hits the earth creating a massive crater and scattering pieces of it about the landscape of the desert.  "Ben" (Phil Harvey) a geologist from the Department of the Interior picks up a sample of a strange rock and returns it to his lab.  He analyzes the rock but doesn't recognize any of the components.  During the night an accident in the lab causes water to be spilled on the sample which causes the rock to grow out of control.  "Dave Miller" (Grant Williams) arrives at the lab the next morning and finds everything in a shambles and then also discovers Ben's body which seems to have been petrified, turned to solid stone.  Ben is the first to fall victim to the Monolith Monsters.

Meanwhile school teacher "Cathy Barrett" (Lola Albright) takes some of her students on a field trip to the desert where one of the children unknowingly picks up one of the pieces of meteorite and brings it home totally oblivious of the danger. 

As Dave and the authorities begin an investigation they soon discover more destruction.  Homes, farms, people, all crushed under tons of the alien rock, and then they find many more pieces of it scattered about the area as well as finding people who are still alive, but are beginning to turn to stone.  Newspaper reporter "Martin Cochrane" (Les Tremayne) also aids the authorities with the investigation.  Recruiting Professor "Arthur Flanders" (Trevor Bardette) a geologist from the local college, the group soon finds that not only do they need to find a way to stop the monolith stones from growing and advancing towards the town they must also find a cure for the people who have been infected.

Dave and Prof. Flanders venture out in the pouring rain into the desert and find the crater where the meteorite landed and watch as the stones grow and collapse right before their eyes.  They race back to the lab to attempt to solve the mystery.  The clock begins to tick as the rainstorm continues and the pieces of meteorite grow and collapse uncontrollably advancing towards and threatening the town and all it's inhabitants.  The group notifies the Chief of Police "Dan Corey" (William Flaherty) that the town may need to be evacuated.  They explain that the town of San Angelo will be destroyed like "an avalanche sweeps over an anthill" and that "each one that shatters will make a hundred more".  They hurry to find a solution knowing that if they don't, the town is doomed.

This is a great story with an excellent musical score.  There are some pretty tense moments as the monoliths approach the town and the panic starts.  The film also has some really good special effects. and the makeup is done courtesy of Bud Westmore of the Westmore dynasty of makeup artists.  I think this is one of the best of the 50's science fiction monster films, because I've actually seen it quite a few times and I'm never disappointed.  The film is also unique in that it doesn't involve atomic testing, radiation exposure or giant mutated bugs or animals.

To be honest with you, there's really not a lot of action in the film but it seems to keep the viewer interested and on the edge of their seat.  Oh, I almost forgot.  Keep an eye out for one of the hardest working people in film and television William Schallert who appears briefly as a meteorologist at the weather bureau.  So get the popcorn ready because this film is definitely worth checking out.

16 comments:

  1. What an unusual monster! I had never heard of this movie but I want to see it now just to hear the movie scientists explaining more about how the monoliths operate.

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  2. Yeah, it's definitely worth watching. And like I said, it's one of my favorite monster movies from the 50's. When you start watching it, you just have to sit and watch the whole thing. Some other 50's sci fi films are a little tough to get through, but not this one. Enjoy ...

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  3. Great review! It was definitely worth the wait! This film doesn't only sound like a great monster movie...in a bizarre way...it also sounds like a proto-disaster movie. Either way, this is going to be near the top of my "to-see" list.

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  4. Dave, like you, I was always intrigued with MONOLITH MONSTERS because its "creatures" are so different from other sci fi films of the period. Plus, although the dialogue is stilted at times, the cast is pretty good: Grant Williams (THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN); Lola Albright (PETER GUNN); William Schallert (THE PATTY DUKE SHOW); and Les Tremayne (THE ANGRY RED PLANET). Really enjoyed your review!

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  5. This has to have one of the most interesting premises for a monster/sci-fi film. As you indicate, there isn't a lot of conventional plot action, but you really get drawn into the drama and the approaching danger. The acting, script, and special effects are also quite good. Thanks for a great post!

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  6. I saw this many MANY years ago and haven't seen it since. Thanks for a terrific review and reminder of a film I probably will watch again. Now that you've brought it back into my mind, that is.

    Somehow, I had remembered Jeff Morrow being in this. But I was wrong. Oh well, Grant Williams is okay too.

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  8. Thanks for all the comments folks. This seems to be one of those "not often talked about, but must see" type of films

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  9. SEE! The Terror! SEE! The Danger! SEE! The falling... rocks?! Who knew one of the best monsters (and most plausible, really) of this era was nothing more than a bunch of falling rocks.

    Love this movie.

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  10. I love this movie. Sure, it is pretty stupid and really makes no real sense, but it is so strange it is extra fun to watch. Great to see a piece on a film that is usually forgotten during such genre talks as this blogathon.

    Great piece on a really fun movie.

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  11. Dave, as a PETER GUNN fan, you had me at "Lola Albright"! :-) I had heard of THE MONOLITH MONSTERS, but never seen the film. Your excellent review and the sheer surreal strangeness of both the concept and the pictures have piqued my interest, and I'll be on the lookout for it!

    Incidentally, did you know there's a rare disease in real life called Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, which is described as rendering its victims as "turning to stone" because their muscles turn to bone? In case you're curious, here's a link to the Discovery Channel special about it:


    http://youtu.be/uTFbEwaSe8k

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  12. This does sound like a unique entry in the '50s sci-fi rush. And it's another one of those films where I just love the poster and how dynamic it is. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention.

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  13. "...with the introduction narrated by Paul Frees, the master narrator of countless science fiction films, you already know that you're in for a great time." I'm sold! Also, I have to see Trevor Bardette being a good guy, and presumeably, without a cowboy hat.

    I have a feeling I'm going to owe you big time for introducing me to this movie.

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  14. W.B. / Kevyn - Thanks for the kind words ...

    Rachel / Dorian - Hope you get a chance to see it soon ...

    Caftan - Bardette did make over 150 films, many of them westerns and also appeared on television many times including the title character "The Human Bomb" on an episode of "The Adventures of Superman" ...

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  15. You may like our Podcast. We are doing this movie this week.

    Check us out at http://www.bmoviecast.com

    Cheers Vince

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    1. Thanks Vince, I'll try to check it out ...
      Dave

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