|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 date(s)||December 1957|
|Running time||77 min.|
The Monolith Monsters (1957) is a science fiction film directed by John Sherwood, starring Grant Williams and Lola Albright, and based on a story by Jack Arnold and Robert M. Fresco with screenplay by Fresco and Norman Jolley.
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In the desert region outside of San Angelo, California, a huge meteor crashes to earth and explodes, scattering hundreds of glistening black fragments over a wide area. The next day, Federal geologist Ben Gilbert (Phil Harvey) brings one of the black 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 bottle of water onto the rock, starting a chemical reaction.
The next 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 section destroyed by huge black rock fragments. Meanwhile, Dave's girlfriend, teacher Cathy Barrett (Lola Albright), takes her students on a field trip in the desert, where young Ginny Simpson (Linda Scheley) pockets a piece of black rock, later washing it outside her family's farmhouse. In town local physician Dr. E. J. Reynolds (Richard H. Cutting), performs an autopsy on Ben; when he cannot explain the body's rigidity, he informs Dave and Police Chief Dan Corey (William Flaherty) he is sending the body to a specialist. Martin returns to the demolished office with Dave and there recognizes the rock fragments as resembling the black rock Ben had been examining the day before.
Cathy joins them and, also recognizing the rock, races with the men to the Simpson farm. They find the house in ruins under a pile of black rock, and Ginny's parents dead. The girl, however, is still alive, but in a catatonic state. At Dr. Reynolds' request, they rush her to the care of specialist Dr. Steve Hendricks (Harry Jackson), at the California Medical Research Institute in Los Angeles. He soon reports that she is slowly turning to stone, and declares that her only hope of survival lies with identifying the black rock within the next eight hours. Dave brings the rock to his old college professor, Arthur Flanders (Trevor Bardette), who determines that it is from a meteor. Together they visit the Simpson farm, where Arthur notices a discoloration in the ground and deduces that the rock is draining something from whatever it touches, including humans. Back at the lab, their tests show that the substance being removed is silicon, normally present in the human body only as a trace element. Dr. Reynolds then explains that recent research indicates that one possible function of silicon in the human body is to maintain flexibility in its various tissues. The group quickly realizes that the meteor's absorption of silicon is the root cause of Ginny's perilous condition, as well as Ben's death and the deaths of Ginny's parents. Dave relays the information to Steve, who prepares a synthetic silicon solution and injects it into Ginny.
Dave and Arthur then go to the desert, where they trace the fragments to the meteor which had crashed to earth only two days earlier. Arthur deduces that the meteor's atomic structure must have been radically altered by the intense heat of atmospheric friction. He reflects that the meteor contains billions of years' worth of space secrets. Dave, however, frets that they have only a few hours to discover those secrets. After returning to the lab, while a storm rages outside, Dave and Arthur continue to investigate what causes the rock to grow, and after a piece of rock falls into the sink and begins to bubble when Dave pours hot coffee over it, they realize that water is the culprit. Noticing the rain, they drive back to the desert, where the fragments, activated by the rainwater, are growing into huge monoliths that rise from the earth and then crash into hundreds of pieces, each piece in turn becoming another monolith. Dave realizes that the monoliths will soon go right through San Angelo, destroying the town, and every living thing in it. Arthur, in turn, determines that, unless the growth of the monoliths can be halted, the fragments will continue to spread all over the Earth, wiping out all forms of life.
They report their findings to Dan, who plans to evacuate the town, even though the Weather Bureau reports that the rain will soon stop. At the hospital, Ginny finally revives, and Dave deduces that something in Steve's silicon solution can be used to control the fragments. Soon, however, more locals are rushed to Dr. Reynolds' office in the throes of the petrification process, and the monoliths continue to grow and multiply as they soak up water from the soil. With little time to announce their findings to the townspeople, and with both the telephone service and the electricity cut off by the monoliths, Dave and Dan turn to Martin to round up the local paperboys and spread the word to evacuate. The governor soon declares a state of emergency, and Dave and Arthur struggle to convert the formula to one that will halt the fragments' growth, failing repeatedly until they suddenly realize that the key lies in the simple saline solution that was part of the formula which Steve used on Ginny.
As the fragments continue to grow and multiply, Dave plans to dynamite the local dam and flood the nearby salt flats, thus creating a large supply of salty water near the canyon's edge. Knowing that they must halt the fragments' growth at the canyon's edge or lose all hope of mankind's survival, Dave disregards the governor's refusal to give permission for the risky project, and sets up dynamite charges all around the dam. Arthur doubts that the water will be able to absorb enough salt for the plan to work, but Martin cites hopeful statistics he has learned from years of reporting on the salt flats, and the team is cheered by his certainty. With only minutes left until the monoliths reach the edge of the canyon, Dave orders the dynamite to be detonated. The group watches anxiously as the water flows over the salt deposits at the canyon's edge, and then reaches the monoliths. The plan at first seems to fail, but finally the fragments' growth slows, and Dave hugs Cathy as the last huge formation crashes into the water and the growth comes to a complete stop. Dan then explains that the governor had actually said not to detonate the dynamite unless Dave was certain of success. Dave, therefore, is not only off the hook, but a hero. As the group chuckles in relief, Dave observes that Martin had long referred to the salt flats in the region as "Mother Nature's worst mistake." This experience, however, clearly proves otherwise!
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 opening narration is by an uncredited Paul Frees.
Many of the The Monolith Monsters desert 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 "California Medical Research Institute" mentioned in the film is the same fictional facility that also features prominently in Universal's The Incredible Shrinking Man, released eight months earlier, also starring Grant Williams.
- The Monolith Monsters at the Internet Movie Database
- The Monolith Monsters at AllRovi
- Movie review at Rotten Tomatoes
- Review of The Monolith Monsters