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Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Monolith Monsters

Svengoolie was running "The Mummy's Hand", which I opted to shake off. Instead, the Dread Dormomoo and I are watching Universal's "The Monolith Monsters", one of the finest late Fifties SF thrillers. No A-bombs, no giant bugs; instead a meteor lands in the desert and becomes a force of nature. No malevolent will, just mindless mayhem.

I am reminded of Washington, DC.

The obsidianesque shards begin to grow when wet. The rains descended, the floods came, the rocks grew. They grow into towering crystals until the ground no longer supports them, and they topple, crashing to splintered ruin on the ground. Then those shards begin to grow and spread. Dreadful catastrophe approaches the little desert town of San Angelo.

I cannot recommend this movie enough. It was a refreshingly different concept when made, and remains so today. The visual effects are well done, the miniature work is apparently shot at high speed to give a feeling of weight and menace to the growing monolith crystals, as well as to the solution at the end of the movie.

Les Tremayne is standout in his portrayal of the town's frustrated newspaper publisher. SF stalwart William Schallert has a fun little bit as a meteorologist being pressed as to when the rain will stop.
Here is how I got it.


Michael W said...

Wow you just mentioned one of my all-time favorites. Shot in glorious black-and-white (like a proper American monster movie should be shot), and with perhaps one of the most unique and visually striking menaces ever created for the big screen. The moment when it's realized that water is the key ingredient that induces the crystal growth . . . and then there's a rumble of thunder outside . . . has always been one of the best "Oops" moments in genre history.

A true and underrated goodie.

Michael W said...

Filmed, by the way, at the same Universal "desert town" set which was also threatened in TARANTULA and (I believe) IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE.

("Gre-een Acres is the place to be!"

Jay said...

From the ominous intro by Paul Frees (burgomeister Meister Burger) to the "heck with the governor, LET'S DO IT!" ending, this is one of my favorites.

Haven't watched this one in over a year or so. Think I'll pop it in the machine tomorrow.

The Aardvark said...

@Michael- YAAAAYY!! I picked up a dreadful copy at G-Fest...looked like it was recorded off of Pub-D-Hub on a stormy day. Loved the film, loathed the quality, so I bit the bullet and ordered the set. Crystal clear!!

Still can't get over how good the visuals were...even the matte work.

@Jay- I miss Paul Frees terribly! Such a talent. Don't forget the Jiffy-Pop!

Michael W said...

@Weatherly --- another reason to film in black-and-white: much better for matte work.

And yes, freaking fantastic visuals in that film.

@Jay & Weatherly --- Paul Frees was one of my heroes. A man whose voice enriched so many of my favorite films.

Doom said...

Hmm. I know I watched a ton of these with my mom when I was a kid. I may not remember it, or may not have watched it. Might have to put that in my basket. At first though, I feared it might be vhs or such, it just didn't say?

I was just thinking... how sad... my mother could probably discuss these movies better with you then I could. Though maybe not, she seems to have quit watching those types, now she just watches the train-wrecks about women on the women's channels. Oh well.

Michael W said...

@Doom --- just inspired me.

Announcing the Female Train Wreck Channel. Call your cable provider today for details.

Think it'd sell?

The Aardvark said...

I think it's called "Lifetime".

Michael W said...

You're right.

A day late and a dollar short again.

Doom said...

I love to be inspirational! I personally think it would be worth a try, and more honest.

Jay said...

Here's an "experience" I had with Mr. Frees back in the '80s:


Unknown said...

"No A-bombs, no giant bugs" and yet it's a great movie anyway. I love A-bombs and giant bugs, but the special effects are terrific. A great movie. The development of the characters was so good it almost seems like it's set up to be a TV series or serial.
Mike Bunkermeister Creek