Monday, January 28, 2013

The Monolith Monsters

I wasn’t expecting, when I sat down in front of the TV, on Friday night a week and a half ago, to watch a black and white movie with such a title, that I was going to like it this much. But I did!

For a 1957 science-fiction B-movie, The Monolith Monsters, directed by John Sherwood and starring Grant Williams, Lola Albright, Les Tremayne and Trevor Bardette, is (almost) surprisingly good.

After an ominous voiceover introduction on rocks hurling at our planet from the cold, unknown reaches of space, a meteorite is shown crashing in the desert, outside of a small California town. With the impact, it explodes into hundreds of black fragments. The next day, a federal geologist driving through the desert stops his car right where many of the smaller fragments are scattered on the road. (Don’t stop! Don’t stop! Don’t pick it up!) But despite my mental pleadings, he picks up one of these rocks and takes it to his office.

You know what will happen, right? He keeps touching it, cutting it, studying it… but nothing good can come out of this, right?

Right. The next day, his colleague, Dave (Grant Williams), who had been absent from the office, returns to find him dead, in a strangely petrified state, while the lab is filled with an overgrown black rock. He might’ve dropped some water on the original piece, but Dave doesn’t know that.

The same day, Cathy the schoolteacher (Lola Albright), who is also Dave’s girlfriend, takes the children on a field trip… guess where? To the desert… There, a smart, inquisitive young girl (Linda Scheley) notices a black rock. (Don’t pick it up! Don’t pick it up! Go away!) She doesn’t listen to me, of course, and takes it home. Her mother would not allow her to bring a dirty rock inside the house, so she leaves it outside in a basin filled with water to get it clean. Oh, no! Oh, no!

Well, I’ll let you watch the movie to find out the rest…

The characters are interesting and varied; besides the ones already mentioned, we have the journalist (Les Tremayne), Dave’s old college professor (Trevor Bardette), the local physician (Richard H. Cutting), the chief of Police (William Flaherty), the doctor in Los Angeles (Harry Jackson). They all add depth to the story, making it even more likeable, and raising the quality of the movie above its B status.

The plot is not perfect and I admit having some (big...gish) question marks at the end, but this didn’t make it at all less enjoyable. The special effects are great. They were created by Clifford Stine whose career has started with King Kong in 1933, and that means something.

All in all, this movie is a little gem. I watched it with my young daughters and they were glued to the screen and even a bit nervous at times, but still glued to the screen.

The trailer might give away a bit too much of the story, but the movie is still very enjoyable to watch.


Brian Miller said...

very cool...i rather love old movies...before all the frills of CGI and in black and white no less....hmmm...will look it up...

the walking man said...

25 cents for ticket a dime for a box of popcorn and you get two movies and two's not so bad having memories like that or movies like this to remind us.

strugglingwriter said...

I need to find this and check it out. Thanks so much for talking about it.

Thanks for your comment on my blog about the desk. I hope to be able to work on it again soon.

I wrote another post there today, after you commented that you could check out as well.


Geraldine said...

I love old movies too but I must admit, this doesn't sound like my kind of plot. You knew that already though, didn't you Vesper. ;<)

I love the pic!

Happy Week, G :<)

Charles Gramlich said...

How can I have missed this one!

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

I remember that one from when I was a kid. I liked Grant Williams and Lola Albright in anything. They were a couple of first class B movie stars. The original 'Thing' with James Arness as the monster was exceptionally well done in the same category of people fooling around with things they should leave alone. :)

SzélsőFa said...

i'm going to check this one out.
the things you described scream for bad dramaturgy (idiots for main characters, the hell, please?), but sometimes these movies are just plain fun to watch.

btw, i was the one you agreed with on Paul's new blog.
to comment there, i checked in with my facebook account, but i definitely want to keep that identity apart from this one, so shhh... :)
for obvious reasons.

Vesper said...

Brian, yes, I love old movies too. I think it took a lot more skill than today (or a different skill) to play with shadows and suggestions...

Mark, yes, nicer times, more innocent... at least from today's perspective.

Paul, it's worth checking out.

I know, Geraldine... LOL

How could you, Charles?! LOL

Bernard, they were really good actors. She's still alive - born in 1925. Unfortunately, he died very young, in 1985, at 53.
I'll have to check out the original "Thing". :-)

SzélsőFa, it's not as it looks from my (a bit exaggerated) description. In fact they do the things normal people would do in such situations, not having the omniscient perspective of the viewer. Nothing at all like "Let's split so that the monster can get us better..." Not at all. It's a good movie! :-)
Yeah, I had an inkling it was you at Paul's... ;-)

Anonymous said...

I replied to your comment re: The Beckoning Spring post at My Poetic Path. I hope you like my idea!

Hugs and Happy Weekend, G

PS: Mr. Cheddar has made a couple of appearance recently, you might want to check those out too.;<)

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Personally, I love old science fiction B movies!!

SzélsőFa said...

okay, i got that. :)
still i can't find it free on the web, i did check :)
pff. i will have to look again.

Vesper said...

Geraldine, it's a nice idea! Thank you! :-) :-) :-)

Optimistic Existentialist, me too! And thank you for visiting my blog! :-)

SzélsőFa, there might be something at the address below, but it looks like you'd have to download a player, I haven't looked closely.

SzélsőFa said...

wow, the link seems to be working with me.