The Monolith Monsters
|The Monolith Monsters|
Theatrical poster by Reynold Brown
|Directed by||John Sherwood|
|Produced by||Howard Christie|
Robert M. Fresco
Robert M. Fresco
|Cinematography||Ellis W. Carter|
|Editing by||Patrick McCormack|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release dates||December 1957|
|Running time||77 min.|
The Monolith Monsters is a 1957 black-and-white Universal Pictures science fiction film produced by Howard Christie and directed by John Sherwood. It stars Grant Williams and Lola Albright and is based on a story by Jack Arnold and Robert M. Fresco, with a screenplay by Fresco and Norman Jolley.
In the desert outside of San Angelo, California, a huge meteorite crashes to Earth and explodes, scattering hundreds of black fragments over a wide area. The next day, Federal geologist Ben Gilbert (Phil Harvey) brings one of the fragments to his office, where he and local newspaper publisher Martin Cochrane (Les Tremayne) examine it, failing to determine its origin. That night, a strong wind blows over a container of water onto the black rock, starting a chemical reaction.
The following day, Dave Miller (Grant Williams) the head of San Angelo's district geological office, returns from a business trip. He finds Ben's corpse in a rock-hard, apparently petrified state, and the office's lab destroyed by large rock fragments. Dave's girlfriend, teacher Cathy Barrett (Lola Albright), takes her students on a desert field trip, where young Ginny Simpson (Linda Scheley) pockets a piece of the black meteorite rock, later washing it outside her family's farmhouse. In town Dr. E. J. Reynolds (Richard H. Cutting) performs an autopsy on Ben and cannot explain the body's condition; he informs Dave and Police Chief Dan Corey (William Flaherty) the body is being sent to a specialist. Martin returns to the wrecked office with Dave, who recognizes the fragments as resembling the same black rock Ben had been examining the day before.
Cathy joins them, also recognizing the fragments; she races with both men to the Simpson farm where they find the farmhouse in ruins under a large pile of black rocks and Ginny's parents dead. The girl, however, is still alive, but in a catatonic state. At Dr. Reynolds' request, they rush her to Dr. Steve Hendricks (Harry Jackson) at the California Medical Research Institute in Los Angeles. He later reports Ginny is slowly turning to stone, declaring her only hope lies with identifying the black rock within eight hours. Dave brings the fragment to his old college professor, Arthur Flanders (Trevor Bardette), who determines it came from a meteorite. Both men go to the Simpson farm, where Arthur notices a discoloration in the ground; he deduces the rock is draining something from everything it touches, including humans. Back at the lab, tests show that silicon is that substance, and in humans normally present as a trace element. Dr. Reynolds explains that research indicates a possible function of silicon is to maintain human tissue flexibility. They realize the meteorite's silicon absorption is the cause of Ben's death, Ginny's condition, and the death of her parents; Steve uses this information to prepare a silicon solution injection for the girl.
Dave and Arthur return to the desert, where they trace the fragments to the crashed meteor. Arthur deduces the meteorite's atomic structure has been radically altered by the heat of atmospheric friction. Returning to the lab, a rainstorm blows up while Dave and Arthur continue their investigation. A piece of black rock falls into the sink and begins to react when Dave pours hot coffee on it; they realize water is the culprit. With it raining outside, they hurriedly return to the desert and see the black fragments are now growing into story's-tall monoliths that rise up and crash back to Earth, breaking into hundreds of more fragments, each growing into another tall monolith. Dave realizes that the monoliths' advancing path will travel directly through San Angelo, destroying the town. Unless their growth can be checked, the fragments will continue growing and collapsing, eventually threatening the northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere.
They report their findings to Dan, who makes plans to evacuate San Angelo. At the hospital, Ginny finally revives; Dave deduces that something in the silicon solution can control the fragments' growth. Soon, however, more locals are rushed to Dr. Reynolds' office in stages of petrification. With little time left, and with both the telephone service and electricity now cut off, the monoliths continue to multiply and advance, soaking up water from the rain-soaked soil. Dave and Arthur struggle to find the correct formula, failing repeatedly; they finally realize the monoliths can be stopped with a simple saline solution, a part of Steve's silicon formula.
Dave draws up plans to dynamite the local dam and flood the nearby salt flats, creating a large supply of salt water. Knowing they must halt the monoliths' growth at the canyon's edge, Dave disregards the governor's concerns of his risky plan, and places dynamite charges all around the dam. With only minutes left, Dave orders the dynamite detonated. The group watches as the torrent of water flows over the salt deposits at the canyon's edge, finally reaching the monoliths. Dave's plan finally slows their growth, as the last huge formation of monolith's crashes down into the salty water, where it finally stops their advance. Dan then explains the governor actually said to dynamite only if he was absolutely certain of success. Dave said Martin had long referred to the region's salt flat as "Mother Nature's worst mistake." This event, however, has just proved otherwise.
- Grant Williams as Dave Miller
- Lola Albright as Cathy Barrett
- Les Tremayne as Martin Cochrane
- Trevor Bardette as Professor Arthur Flanders
- Phil Harvey as Ben Gilbert
- William Flaherty as Police Chief Dan Corey
- Harry Jackson as Dr. Steve Hendricks
- Richard H. Cutting as Dr. E.J. Reynolds
- Linda Scheley as Ginny Simpson
- Dean Cromer as Highway Patrolman
- Steve Darrell as Joe Higgans
The special effects were created by Clifford Stine, whose career began in 1933 with King Kong. Alternate takes from Universal's It Came from Outer Space (1953), which Stine created, were used for the meteor crash in the film's opening sequence.
The film's (uncredited) opening narration is by Paul Frees.
Many of the exteriors were filmed in the Alabama Hills in Lone Pine, California, whose rugged landscape has been used in previous films such as Gunga Din, High Sierra, Maverick, How the West Was Won, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and Gladiator. Most of the exteriors of downtown San Angelo were shot on Universal's back lot, particularly Courthouse Square.
The film's "California Medical Research Institute" is the same fictional facility that also features prominently in Universal's The Incredible Shrinking Man, released eight months earlier, which also starred Grant Williams.
- Rux, Bruce. Hollywood Vs. the Aliens. 1997. Frog, Ltd. (North Atlantic Books). ISBN 1-883319-61-7.
- Strick, Philip. Science Fiction Movies. 1976. Octopus Books Limited. ISBN 0-7064-0470-X.
- Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies: American Science Fiction Films of the Fifties, Volume One (1950-1957). 1986. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-89950-032-3
- The Monolith Monsters at the Internet Movie Database
- The Monolith Monsters at allmovie
- Movie review at Rotten Tomatoes
- Review of The Monolith Monsters