Monday, June 29, 2009


WHAT THE MONSTER TAUGHT ME: First chance I get, I’m burning all my refrigerator magnets.


Richard Carlson: Chubby Chaser, a bossy Phoebe Dinsmore, A-men that also come after a prayer, science failing us yet again, attack of the killer push-mower, suggestive footage of airplanes refueling, the friggin’ Canadians saving our ass again, and one badass MF-ing EMF.

More details here.


Funny stuff is happening at the hardware store and I’m not talking about the “hoe” jokes. Clocks have stopped running, washing machine doors are opening by themselves, lawn equipment threaten to decapitate, and hand mixers are making terrible cupcakes. The culprit is a malicious field of electro magnetic energy that’s emanating from a mysterious source upstairs. So the panicked storeowner calls in the 50’s answer to the Geek Squad in the form of the Office of Scientific Investigation’s A-men. The “A” is for Atomic, because it’s the 50s and that is somehow cool. Head A-man Dr. Stewart (Richard Carlson) and his intrepid assistant Dr. Forbes (King Donovan – best name ever, BTW) arrive at the store and discover the source of the magnetic malfeasance – a radioactive corpse on the 2nd floor! Using data collected from the dead man and an odd canister, they conclude that the magnetic force is not only killing people, it’s also emitting radiation that is growing at a geometric rate. After some scientific detective work, they are able to track down the source of the phenomenon – a renegade scientist on a plane with a suitcase full of the dangerous material. The A-men stop him from inadvertently crashing the plane and find him close to death. The scientist confesses he was experimenting with a new isotope and exposed it to heavy radiation resulting in a sentient element that sucks the energy out of the atmosphere and then emits deadly radiation. Kind of like yours truly at an enchilada brunch. After intense study, Stewart and his team conclude that the “monster” is the embodiment of energy transforming into matter and could possibly consume all the power on Earth, growing so large that it could knock the planet off its axis. Our last hope is to overload this Beast from the Big Bang with all the energy at our disposal and hope that our 50s haircuts survive the climatic battle.


The Magnetic Monster is somewhat of an obscure Sci-fi treat, a unique marriage of hard science and a convincing storyline in a 50s paranoid monster movie. With the exception of Richard Carlson, an unsung icon of B-movie legend who is his usual calm and assured as Stewart, the acting is a little flat, the script nothing to write home about, and the attempts at humor D.O.A.. But on the other hand, the movie has a tight pace, a fascinating if unverifiable scientific premise, and an unusual approach to the “science gone awry” angle. Directed by Curt Siodmak, writer of the better sci-fi flicks of the time, the movie is cleverly pieced together with footage from an old German film called Gold and smartly-utilized non-cheesy stock footage. But perhaps the best part of the film is its straight-forward approach which never devolves into hokey melodrama and is sustained with believable suspense. Then there’s the strange subplot which involves Stewart’s pregnant wife unable to gain weight despite his every obsessive effort to fatten her up. Perhaps one can question the parallel between Stewart’s domestic dilemma and his ultimate solution to kill the magnetic monster by overloading it with energy? Some subtextual jab at the nuclear family by Curt and company? Nuclear! Get it? Yes, well. Oh, and the supercomputer that helps the scientists analyze the creature is named MANIAC, another clever poke at the scientific community. Or maybe it’s just a funny opportunity to spout dialogue like “We’ll have to consult the MANIAC”. To my knowledge The Magnetic Monster, an entertaining and attractive combo of Sci-Fi suspense and quick physics lesson, is not available on DVD as of this writing, which is a shame because it really is a decent offering from an era of fantasy film so filled with corny fare.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

holy crap! where did you see this?