MAGNETIC MONSTER, THE
(director/writer: Curt Siodmak; screenwriter: Ivan Tors; cinematographer: Charles Van Enger; editor: Herbert L. Strock; music: Blaine Sanford; cast: Richard Carlson (Dr. Jeffrey Stewart), King Donovan (Dr. Dan Forbes), Jean Byron (Connie Stewart), Harry Ellerbe (Dr. Allard), Leo Britt (Dr. Benton), Leonard Mudie (Howard Denker), Byron Foulger (Mr. Simon), Michael Fox (Dr. Serny), John Zaremba (Chief Watson), Lee Phelps (City Engineer), Kathleen Freeman (Nelly, switchboard operator), Strother Martin (Airline Pilot), Frank Gerstle (Col. Willis); Runtime: 76; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ivan Tors; MGM’s Limited Edition series; 1953)
“Menacing SF pic about the dangers of nuclear energy in experiments that take a wrong turn.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Noted screenwriter Curt Siodmak (“Love Slaves of the Amazons”/”People on Sunday”/”Bride of the Gorilla“) co-writes with producer Ivan Tors and directs with uncredited help from editor Herbert L. Strock (supposedly the studio was not happy with Siodmak’s direction and called in the editor to help finish the pic) this low-budget b/w intelligent posing and menacing SF pic about the dangers of nuclear energy in experiments that take a wrong turn.
Young underpaid MIT grad scientist Dr. Jeffrey Stewart (Richard Carlson) is head of research at the secretive fictional U.S. government’s OSI (“Office of Scientific Investigation”), in California. The government scientists act like detectives with science degrees investigating atomic power and are called A-men. Jeff’s four-month pregnant wife Connie (Jean Byron) drops him off at work, as the caring Jeff frets his wife is so skinny for a pregnant woman and that he can’t afford to buy a modest private house for the family until he’s informed by his assistant, Dr. Dan Forbes (King Donovan), there is a concern in the lab over high levels of radioactive dust in the air and then frets about a possible science disaster. After alerting authorities that this might be a local problem, the A-men are called to a local appliance store to investigate a strange case of magnetism in the store that moves appliances around and stops clocks from working. Using a Geiger counter, it’s learned that a high level of radiation is coming from the second floor of the building. Upon further investigation, a dead body is found of a lab technician killed from radiation poison in a makeshift laboratory. Feeding the info gathered at the crime scene into the OSI’s huge ‘brain machine,’ known as MANIAC (“Mathematical Analyzing Numerical Integrator and Computer”), the scientists realize they have a potential problem that will threaten the city with destruction if they can’t track down the cause of this radiation in time. Because a public alert was issued, it’s soon learned that a rogue university research scientist, Howard Denker (Leonard Mudie), has taken a flight and in his briefcase is his deadly atomic experiment. A dying Denker tells Jeff he had been bombarding serranium with alpha particles, which altered its properties and made it magnetic. The regretful scientist warns that the atomic isotope must be fed electricity constantly or it will attach itself to and kill whatever is nearby. The problem for the A-men is that the isotope will keep consuming energy and doubling in size until it becomes a monster, and must be destroyed within the next 24 hours or else. It’s up to the soon-to-be father and suburban householder Jeffrey Stewart to save the world.
The exciting climax has the dangerous element transported to a top-secret subterranean deltatron in Nova Scotia, where the brave scientist overfeeds it with 900,000,000 volts of energy and kills it with a massive explosion. Amazingly, Jeff does this despite the crazed Canadian scientist, Dr. Benton (Leo Britt), trying to stop him by sabotaging the operation. About 10-minutes of these climax scenes had footage lifted from the 1934 German film “Gold.” Though the cheesy story is hardly credible and much of it is dull science talk, yet in the end it still entertains.
REVIEWED ON 3/25/2012 GRADE: B