director John Sherwood
The Monolith Monsters was one of those classic 1950’s sci-fi/horror films, from Universal Pictures no less, that I grew up with from Saturday afternoons and the spate of old films on 1970’s television. I’d like to say that I loved it, but I didn’t, really. I liked it. It has a lot of those elements of the time and character of the films of the 1950’s, the drama, that image of 1950’s America, the strange science. But the thing is, the film is about an invasion of fast-growing rocks that come to destroy Earth. It’s kind of like the most boring idea for a monster ever employed seriously in a film. As good as it gets, it’s still rocks.
That said, it’s still pretty good. Crafted from a story by the great Jack Arnold and Robert M. Fresco and capably directed by John Sherwood for Universal, it’s really a pretty good B-movie. And frankly, the main credit may go to the special effects by Clifford Stine, because those crystal-like monolithic rock formations have their moment, coming through a river valley, descending upon a small Southern California town.
The kids and I watched this film “live,” if you will, on MeTV, this channel deep in the cable box that plays almost entirely classic television shows from the 1950’s-1960’s, the stuff I grew up watching in reruns, later on Nick at Nite, and now have this total sentimental hankering for nowadays. The film was part of a horror film show, hosted by Svengoolie. For a movie whose running time is 77 minutes, there were an additional 43 minutes of corny jokes and mesothelioma commercials (much more the latter), which stretched the experience out well beyond endurance (I say literally this because both kids zonked out before the end.)
I recall, even as a pretty young kid, pondering this film after watching it, examining its disappointments and yet still vividly recalling it. The image of the small town on the edge of the mountains with the giant black rock crystal towers falling upon them, still significantly lingered in my mind. The milieu is very Jack Arnold, really. It could be the same small town as in Tarantula (1955) or It Came from Outer Space (1953). A couple of Stine’s effects were lifted from the latter film.
Strangely, it seems almost a more pure 1950’s science fiction affair. It’s easy to envision the images on a pulp magazine from that decade or even prior, some unknown element brought to Earth on a meteorite, spelling untold science-y horror and doom for mankind. That said, the science was probably dubious even in 1957, with these unrecognizable rocks sucking silica from the environment, growing when doused with regular old H2O, but stopped by salt water.
I have to say it, I love this period and genre of horror/sci-fi. And I think I kind of love this movie, too.