Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
Plot: A mysterious black meteorite crashes into the desert near the small town of San Angelo, California and begins multiplying, putting the residents in mortal danger.
Context: In my ongoing quest to watch and review as many Sci Fi films from the golden decade of the 1950s John Sherwood’s 1957 film The Monolith Monsters came up a few times in conversation on Facebook. Now I have watched films with giant animals (Them! and The Incredible Shrinking Man), humanoid monsters (The Creature From the Black Lagoon), human-looking aliens (original Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and deadly alien spacecraft (Earth vs. the Flying Saucers). But a film about deadly rocks from outer space? This I had to see. With a monolith-sized SPOILER ALERT see my review below.
Review: The film that came to mind the most while watching The Monolith Monsters was the aforementioned Them! which was released three years prior. Both start off in small, relatively isolated American towns. Both take a slow burn approach to revealing the threat. Both have a young girl whose interaction with the titular entity leaves them catatonic. And both take a pretty grounded, scientific (or in some cases, pseudo-scientific) approach to their larger-than-life issues. The main difference is that the former features huge ants that emit a chilling, pulsating sound while the latter features, well, rocks.
And to give writers Robert M. Fresco and Jack Arnold (who directed It Came From Outer Space, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Tarantula and The Incredible Shrinking Man), credit the do their best to make these rocks feel like a credible threat. The site of the black rocks all over a decimated site does make for an unnerving sight and the giant, crystalline rocks growing and crashing makes for the striking image, though I would have liked to have seen those big boys doing more damage on San Angelo. The rocks absorbing silicon and petrifying people was interesting, but felt like it was just there to add some meat to the plot. Overall it feels closer to a disaster flick like When Worlds Collide than a “monster” film, despite the title.
The plot is decent enough, with the tension and threat building steadily. Grant Williams and Lola Albright as geologist Dave Miller and teacher Cathy Barrett make for likeable leads with believable chemistry. I thought it was a refreshing touch that their relationship was not now beginning or moving towards marriage, but was just a stable state. The finale with Dave ordering the dam blown to stop the approaching monoliths is supposed to be an exciting climax but it was less “boom” and more “meh”. So in conclusion, The Monolith Monsters is a decent Sci Fi flick with a unique concept. But in terms of the best of 50s Sci Fi it just doesn’t stand that tall.
Score: 6.5 out of 10
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.
So are you a fan of The Monolith Monsters? How would you rate it? And you can check out more 50s Sci Fi reviews below: