THE MONOLITH MONSTERS, 1957
Director: John Sherwood
Starring: Grant Williams, Lola Albright, Trevor Bardette
Review by Kevin Johnson
A meteorite piece grows endlessly when contacted with water, which solidifies everyone it comes in contact with; two geologists must figure out how to stop it.
The Monolith Monsters has one of the riskiest and outlandish premises that you will ever see, even in B-movie standards. The title is rather misleading; it would probably be more accurate to call it “The Monolith Threat” or, to keep the alliteration intact, “The Monolith Menace”. The term “monsters” implies something organic, creepy and/or crawly – some kind of being or creature that stalks its victims in some manner. But really, the threat are rocks.
Grant, the rocks grow immediately when they come in contact with water. The rate they grow is exponential, and they have the power to remove silicates from the skin – ie, “turn you into stone”. But, ostentatiously, we’re dealing with deadly rocks. It’s hard to really feel any kind of tension from this scenario, and to be so invested in this threat, even at a campy level, asks a lot of the audience’s willingness to suspend disbelief. Also, there’s a ton of question: couldn’t a couple of missiles filled with “the solution” solve this problem? How come water vapor doesn’t effect it? And why is everyone running from ROCKS?
Specifically, the plot is thus: a meteor crash lands on Earth, shattering into a ton of pieces. When a couple of local geologists inspect said pieces, especially when found in conjunction with a stone-cold-dead person, they have to work to discover how to reverse the stone-transformation process, as well as disrupt the rocky enlargement before it “grows” out of hand.
I should comment on the pseudo-science more when it comes to these B-movies, mainly because it’s rather disconcerting how much these films emphasize them. Blockbuster sci-fi films tend to gloss over the explanations, or utilize metaphors to “explain” phenomena, or just straight-up ignore them; these low budget works spend an awful amount of time postulating, detailing, speculating, hypothesizing, and theorizing. But why? These over-explanations tend to bring up more questions than answers; opening that scientific door, while informative, pretty much invites the nerdiest among us to pinpoint the flaws in such arguments. It’s clearly just a way to pad for time, although it’s weird that researching mumbo-jumbo is preferred over even the most cliched of character developments. Dead father? Coming of age? Pining for a loved one? There’s plenty to choose from.
Still, there are some rather interesting effects. I was somewhat impressed with the smooth growth of the rock monoliths. I’m not exactly sure how they achieved it; it looks to be some sort of crude mechanic mixed with a clever camera angle. What ever it was, it didn’t look too cheesy, and was rather cool as it towered over miniature mountain ranges.
The female role was pleasantly handled as well. While it started off precociously glaring, with a young girl outing the relationship between Albright’s character and Williams’s character in that “why are kids paying attention to this!?” sort of way. But there are only a few scenes that harp on the romantic elements, and it seems natural to the beats, instead of random or throwaway.
But even with the solid elements the film purports, The Monolith Monsters has a hard-to-swallow premise that never quiet pushes its way out of Unbelievable Town. But the attempt is there, and the flow and style works, so you can’t fault its B-movie shortcomings in its execution. The idea of killer rocks may be lame, but at least it application was not wholly unbearable.