Friday, May 19, 2017

The Magnetic Monster


** 1/2

Richard Carlson was in a lot more of these 50s B-movies than I realized. This one was actually directed by Curt Siodmak and released by United Artists even. The premise is a piece of work: a radioactive, energy-devouring element, created by a university professor/scientist and an assistant, will compensate when not fed its desired food by looking all around it for sustenance. When it begins to show signs of manifesting itself in mass density, Carlson and a host of brilliant minds try to determine how to kill it or else the planet will be knocked out of its position in the orbiting of the sun, certainly with catastrophic consequences. The big problem with this is that The Magnetic Monster is an invisible scientific menace instead of some cool Harryhausen or Willis O'Brien creation. The presentation has this unseen element of danger, narratively explained in a clinical, scientific manner, in a very documentary way. Carlson "Dragnets" the developments in that Webbian monotone, using dates and times. Eventually it is decided to take the element to Nova Scotia with Carlson planning to use a Canadian energy machine to "choke" it with volts upon volts of electric energy. King Donovan is Carlson's assistant scientist for the OSI (Office of Science Investigation), and they are called to the pawn store of an eccentric fellow who carries on with this haughty personality, thumbing his nose at his employee for not winding the clocks, soon realizing that something strange is afoot. Magnetic shenanigans hamper his store as metal items are moving about and sticking to other metallic items. Carson and Donovan bring in equipment to detect the main source, locating radioactivity and magnetism on the upper floor. A dead assistant to a professor who flees to an airport with a medicine bag is found. Radioactive poisoning has left the professor on the plane at the point of death. The "monster" in a container in the professor's bag will be taken off and studied by Carson and Donovan. They eventually believe the creation of life itself might be explained by studying this magnetic creature. Admittedly I didn't find this terribly exciting, but Carson is a charismatic guy. He lovingly chides his pregnant wife about being too skinny and contemplates the green grassy-lawned house in the burbs. It's small talk with his lady, and this gives him a break from the potential global catastrophe he is hoping to prevent.

Without a really fun creature for Blaisdel to build from garbage and discarded items at a yard sale or stop motion wonders built in a studio,
 The Magnetic Monster (1953) only provides us with a lot of scientific jargon and men in hasmat suits vice gripping a container around. A bit of a bummer, although I did find the ending rather dazzling. I was a bit baffled at the scientist trying to undermine Carson who is doing what he can to save the world using the energy machine, but it does create some suspense.





Carson is obviously an actor that perks up my ears considering I'm a total Creature from the Black Lagoon / It Came from Outer Space fan. He fell into the type casting B-movie dungeon but while Carson probably hated being there, his films are probably more beloved than those of the A-listers whose positions must've been coveted and envied. Turner Classic Movies has been showing monster movies this month so I've been in B-movie heaven. Total nerd Nirvana.

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