* ½  

STARRING: Lola Albright, Grant Williams, Les Tremayne, Trevor Bardette

1957, 77 Minutes, Directed by:
John Sherwood

Probably one of the most misleading movie titles in film history . . .

The title might lead you to believe that this 1957 flick is about alien rock creatures invading the Earth, but it is more sci-fi disaster than sci-fi horror. Instead the “monolith monsters” in question are in fact fragments of a shattered meteorite that reproduce and grow to enormous sizes when exposed to water. You’d think this represents no problem as the meteorite has landed in the desert outside Los Angeles; but it does indeed rain in deserts now and then, and soon the giant rock formations in question threaten your typical small 1950’s American town of the sort we’ve seen countless times in movies such as the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Think a solid granite version of Superman’s crystal Fortress of Solitude in Superman – the Movie gone on rampage and you’ll get an idea of what to expect. No rock creatures landing in their flying saucer, alas . . . (This is probably where Lex Luthor in Superman Returns got the idea for his nefarious plot from.) As far as threats go it is a bit static (growing rocks, come on!) – the sort of threat the hero can battle while standing around with his hands in his pockets, which he in fact does during the film’s climax. However, the model work and special effects are quite nicely done (it helps that it is filmed in Black & White). By the way, ‘Fifties sci-fi movie buffs will recognize a lot of orchestral soundtrack cues that were featured in other SF movies of the era. As was often the case in B-movies of the time bits of soundtrack music from other movies would be cannibalized and re-used endlessly.

Fans of 1950s flicks will appreciate The Monolith Monsters and it is recommended for them. On the one hand one is disappointed that there are no cheesy rock creatures. On the other hand, one is thankful that the story – by sci-fi director Jack Arnold – represents a welcome change of pace from the regular 1950’s alien invasion tales, even though it often feels like Them, but with, um, giant rocks. We still believe that those rocks are a metaphor for the Communist threat though . . .


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