The Monolith Monsters – USA, 1957

‘Mammoth skyscrapers of stone thundering across the Earth!’

The Monolith Monsters is a 1957 science fiction horror feature film directed by John Sherwood (The Creature Walks Among Us) from a screenplay written by Norman Jolley and Robert M. Fresco (Invasion of the Animal People; The Alligator People; Tarantula) based on a storyline by Jack Arnold and Fresco. The Universal Pictures production stars Grant Williams, Lola Albright, Les Tremayne, Phil Harvey and Trevor Bardette.

The Monolith Monsters was released on Blu-ray by Scream Factory on June 18, 2019, with the following bonus features:

  • New Audio Commentary By Film Historians/Authors Tom Weaver And David Schecter
  • New Audio Commentary By Professor of Film Studies/Author Mark Jancovich (author of Rational Fears: American Horror In The 1950s)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

Opening narration:

“From time immemorial, the Earth has been bombarded by objects from outer space. Bits and pieces of the Universe piercing our atmosphere in an invasion that never ends. Meteor, the shooting stars on which so many earthly wishes have been born! Of the thousands that plummet toward us, the greater part are destroyed in a fiery flash as they strike the layers of the air that encircle us.

Only a small percentage survives. Most of those fall into the water which covers two-thirds of our world. But from time to time from the beginning of time a very few meteors have struck the crust of the Earth and formed craters – craters of all sizes sought after, poured over by scientists of all nations for the priceless knowledge buried within them.

In every moment of every day they come from planets belonging to stars whose dying light is too far away to be seen. From infinity they come. Meteors! Another strange calling card from the limitless regions of space – its substance unknown, its secrets unexplored. The meteor lies dormant in the night, waiting!”

Plot:

A large meteorite crashes in a Southern California desert and explodes into hundreds of black fragments that have strange properties. When those fragments are exposed to water, they grow very large and tall. The fragments also begin to slowly petrify some of the inhabitants of a nearby small town…

Reviews:

“Clifford Stine does quite well with the special effects (although CGI-addicted viewers will of course find them a bit too fake), and John Sherwood’s direction is modest but fine. And Monolith has some of the better “B” actors on hand. All this adds up to a very enjoyable film; never a classic, but a lot of fun.” All Movie

“Inessential but fun, and a rare sci-fi film of this era to eschew scientific overreaching/atomic machismo, extraterrestrial villainy, or the shadow of Communism as a plot motivator, The Monolith Monsters focuses instead on the bedrock truism that, hey, schist happens.” Arbogast on Film

“Certainly it lacks the sub textual clout that distinguishes the best of these films, but its central conceit, its pacing and its impressive production design and effects still put it on a par with its more widely seen contemporaries. The performances are all solid, but my favorite comes from an uncredited William Schallert as the wrapped-up-in-his-job weatherman.” CineOutsider

“Capably made and introducing perhaps the oddest of ‘space invaders’ ever to menace the Earth, The Monolith Monsters is eventually too Earthbound to rise out of the B-picture ghetto. Fine work from Shrinking Man Grant Williams and Lola Albright holds the narrative together but a formulaic script leaves them little room to breathe.” DVD Savant

“It’s too derivative and plodding to play in the big leagues but as a 77 minute time filler you could do a lot worse. It’s certain that the “monsters” will stick in your mind far more than any of the the characters ever do – they’re all strictly stock…” The EOFFTV Review

“The story structure here is fairly pedestrian, and there’s not many surprises in the way this monster movie unfolds. Yet, despite this, this one remains a favorite. I can attribute this primarily to one thing; the monster has a great novelty value to it…” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“The finest moments are when we see the full-size rock monsters – the superb scene where Grant Williams and Trevor Bardette realise the implication of the rainstorm and rush out to watch as we see giant towering geodes, crashing and colliding as they grow, all silhouetted behind a ridge at night. It is a magnificently eerie intro of the monsters, one worthy of Arnold himself.” Moria

“The empathy you would normally feel for King Kong when he is killed or Frankenstein when he just wants a friend is not present in this film and it makes all the difference in the world. Even if the monster was a giant bug of some sort, you would still understand its motivations and the reason why they would be doing what they do. This movie was more akin to a natural disaster film than anything else.” The Telltale Mind

Choice dialogue:

Professor Arthur Flanders (Trevor Bardette): “I’m sorry Dave, I guess this is beginning to get on my nerves a little.”

Cast and characters:

  • Grant Williams … Dave Miller
  • Lola Albright … Cathy Barrett
  • Les Tremayne … Martin Cochrane
  • Trevor Bardette … Professor Arthur Flanders
  • Phil Harvey … Ben Gilbert
  • William Flaherty … Police Chief Dan Corey
  • Harry Jackson … Doctor Steve Hendricks
  • Richard H. Cutting … Doctor E.J. Reynolds (as Richard Cutting)
  • Linda Scheley … Ginny Simpson
  • Dean Cromer … Highway Patrolman
  • Steve Darrell … Joe Higgins
  • Troy Donahue … Hank Jackson (uncredited)
  • Paul Frees … Narrator (voice) (uncredited)
  • Carol Morris … First Nurse (uncredited)
  • Paul Petersen … Bobby – Paperboy (uncredited)
  • Ezelle Poule … Ethel – Telephone Operator (uncredited)
  • William Schallert … Weatherman (uncredited)

Technical credits:

  • 77 minutes
  • Black and white
  • 1.85: 1
  • Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Production:

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 also created, were used for the meteor crash in the film’s opening sequence.

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