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  Monolith Monsters, The Let's Get Rocked
Year: 1957
Director: John Sherwood
Stars: Grant Williams, Lola Albright, Les Tremayne, Trevor Bardette, Phil Harvey, William Flaherty, Harry Jackson, Richard H. Cutting, Linda Scheley, Dean Cromer, Steve Darrell
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Things fall from the sky from out of space every day, usually meteorites that have not burned up in the Earth's atmosphere, but tonight a fresh fall has brought something new - and dangerous. Geologist Ben Gilbert (Phil Harvey) is out in the desert near the smalltown of San Angelo when he notices an unusual rock, and unaware that it is from the meteorite he takes it back to his lab with him. His colleague, Dave Miller (Grant Williams) is out of town, but will return tomorrow - where he has a nasty surprise waiting for him, though not as nasty as what happens to Ben...

Legendary fifties science fiction director Jack Arnold had a hand in the scripting of The Monolith Monsters, so of course it not only begins with footage borrowed from his It Came From Outer Space, but is set in the desert, his favourite location. He didn't direct it, though, although it is very much in his style, and as creature features from this era go it had a highly original enemy, one which was not even alive. It is the meteorite itself, an alien invader that has the potential to destroy a whole continent if left unchecked.

Poor old Ben is the first to discover the deadly effects of the space rocks when they not only grow in his lab, but literally petrify him when he touches them. Dave is the one who finds him and before he can grieve he realises that he has a major conundrum on his hands, and that's essentially the appeal of the film, a puzzle that needs a solution. As the story progresses, we move at the same rate the characters do, all professionals and racking their brains to work out what they are missing and how they can stop the onslaught.

The part with the rocks turning people to stone seems a little unnecessary, an addition to make the situation more urgent although the movie would be a lot shorter without it, and it's already fairly brief. With that in mind, the subplot with the little girl who is gradually being infected with the rocks seems disposable, yet does supply a measure of human interest to what could have been a rather dry (no pun intended) exercise in otherworldly suspense. Although fans of "hard" sci-fi like The Andromeda Strain might prefer more scenes at the lab.

The Monolith Monsters marks itself out as the opposite of a paranoid thriller like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, so, while contemporary, this is not about a community being torn apart from within but from an outside source, with the result that the townsfolk do an admirable job of banding together to face the crisis when it becomes clear those rocks are growing to skyscraper size. They will then topple over, breaking into fragments which then expand themselves due to a heavy rainshower (they react with water), and they are not only threatening the town but the country if left unhindered. The manner in which Dave is assisted by everyone local makes you wish society could act like that more often, and if this is not among the top rank of the genre, it's a novel tale well told.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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