Geektoberfest: the magnetic monster

THE MAGNETIC MONSTER!

“It’s hungry! It has to be fed constantly – or it will reach out its magnetic arm and grab at anything within its reach and kill it. It’s monstrous, Stewart, monstrous. It grows bigger and bigger!”

THE MAGNETIC MONSTER (1953) is an American science fiction film independently made and produced by Ivan Tors and George Van Marter. It was directed by Curt Siodmak and Herbert L. Strock – although Strock is uncredited as a director. The film stars Richard Carlson, King Donovan, and Jean Byron, and was released by United Artists. 

Cast

Richard Carlson as Doctor Jeffrey Stewart

King Donovan as Doctor Dan Forbes

Jean Byron as Connie Stewart

The Office of Scientific Investigation (O.S.I.) sends agent Dr. Jeffrey Stewart and fellow agent Dr. Dan Forbes to a local hardware store where they discover every metal item in the store has been magnetized. Investigating further they trace the source of the magnetism to an airplane flight carrying a scientist named Denker who is dying of radiation poisoning. He is carrying with him a new radioactive element of his own creation named Serranium. This new magnetic element grows by creating matter out of energy which it absorbs from metal around it. However, his microscopic creation has taken on a life of its own. The new isotope must absorb energy from its surroundings every 11 hours – doubling in size and mass in the process – and giving off deadly radiation and highly destructive magnetic energy. It is determined that at its present rate of growth, in a matter of weeks the magnetic monster will become heavy enough to topple Earth from its orbit. It also appears to be impervious to every attempt to destroy it or render it inert. Dr. Stewart hypothesizes that the monster could be “overfed” but that would require a gigavolt of electricity. 

THE DELTATRON

The only answer is an experimental Canadian power generator called the Deltatron built in a cave under the ocean. The two governments agree, and Stewart and Forbes transport the monster to Nova Scotia. But the scientist in charge of the Deltatron protests the proposed plan forcing Stewart to commandeer the huge machine. Risking his life, he revs it up to maximum and barely escapes as the Deltratron succeeds in destroying the magnetic monster and is itself destroyed in the process. 

  • Producer Ivan Tors began his career interested in science fiction. But his interest was in serious thought-provoking science fiction. As the science fiction films of the 1950s became sillier his interest waned. He then turned his attention underwater and produced the long running television series SEA HUNT (1958-1961). His expertise led to his filming all the underwater scenes in the James Bond film THUNDERBALL (1965). He also made such underwater movies as FLIPPER (1963) and AROUND THE WORLD UNDER THE SEA (1966). FLIPPER led to another interest in animals. He then began producing movies about animals which would then lead to a television series. For example, the movie FLIPPER led a TV series titled FLIPPER (1964-1967). CLARENCE THE CROSS-EYED LION (1965) led to the TV series DAKTARI (1966-1969). AFRICA – TEXAS STYLE (1967) led to the series COWBOY IN AFRICA (1967-1968). 
  • While it is true that Jean Byron received third billing because the shooting schedule was so tight, she filmed all of her scenes in one day. 
  • Because much of the film relied on stock footage, editor Herbert L. Strock actually directed most of the movie – although he did not receive a director credit. 

Dislikes

  • This is a minor complaint and is certainly not unique to this film. There are several chauvinistic instances during the course of the movie mainly having to do with the lead character’s pregnant wife. This is a 1950s movie, and this is simply indicative of its time. You cannot blame a movie, any movie, for being a product of its time. At the same time, it is annoying! 

Likes

  • I liked the fact that even though THE MAGNETICMONSTER is a monster movie the monster of the title is not actually a monster in the traditional sense. By that I mean it is not alive organically. But it is monstrous, highly destructive, and shares living characteristics. It does feed, it does reproduce, and it will do anything to protect itself. You decide if it is alive or not. 
  • This is a black and white film – as you would expect for the 1950s. The parts of the movie that take place in America look very much like American movies of that time. It has a kind of California-look. But then the action shifts to Canada and the look of the movie changes. I know that this is because the sets used for the Deltatron came from a German movie called GOLD (1934). But the average moviegoer would not know this. Instead, for them the look of this part of the film resembles British and European movies and television shows of this time. And then for the end when we got back to the United States it goes back to that California-look. I loved that!

THE MAGNETIC MONSTER is the first of a trilogy of films by Ivan Tors using his idea of the Office of Scientific Investigation (O.S.I.). The other two are RIDERS TO THE STARS (1954) – which is about mining meteors in space; and GOG (1954) – which is about killer robots. The three films are very different from each other, but they do have the O.S.I. in common. The protagonists in each film all work for the organization, but no single character appears to unite the three movies. I think this was a mistake and I would have liked to have seen a chief or director of the O.S.I. giving orders in all three films. Regardless, I found all three films enjoyable and well worth a looksee – with THE MAGNETIC MONSTER the first and the best. 

I recommend this movie as a fine example of 1950s scifi at its best. It is exciting, it is suspenseful, and it is not at all cheesy. Give it a watch you will not be disappointed. 

It is with a smile, a wink, and a nod that I gleefully give this movie four gray geeks in our rating scale.

Well, that is all the time we have right now buckaroos. It is time for this little cowboy to ride off into the sunset on his trusty steed. I’m sorry to have to go. I really love the time we spend together, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do. Until next time, be safe, be careful, but most of all be wise!

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