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Magnetic Monster, The

MGM // Unrated // December 27, 2011
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted February 3, 2012 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:




When people think of 50's sci-fi B-movies, they conjure up images of
really
poor special effects and monsters that obviously look like a guy in a
costume
that was created in someone's garage.  That wasn't always the case
though,
and one good counter example is The Magnetic Monster, a picture
released
through United Artists that has recently seen the light of day once
again
through MGM's MOD program.  This is a well scripted solid SF film,
rumored
to have been a pitch for a TV series, about a group of scientists that
track
down strange and unusual phenomena in the atomic age.  Much better
than
the typical 50's SF low-budget fare, the movie has ironically been
largely
forgotten.  Hopefully this release will remedy that situation.



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Dr. Jeffrey Stewart (Richard Carlson) works for the Office of
Scientific
Investigation (O.S.I.).  They are a governmental organization
that's
charged with looking into any odd phenomenon that might occur, just the
way
that the FBI handles large criminal investigations.  One morning
he
gets a call from a police station that they have a report that
everything
in an appliance store has become magnetized.  Stewart and his
assistant
investigate and with the help of a Geiger counter discover that a
radioactive
element was being held in an office on the second floor, but now it's
gone. 
What's more, their main clue is the body of a man who died from
radiation
poisoning.



The O.S.I. starts tracking down the missing radioactive element, and
when
the do find it they discover more than they bargained for.  It's a
substance
accidently reacted by a nuclear scientist doing some unauthorized
experiments
that is not only strongly magnetic, but also one that creates mater
from
energy and doubles in size every eleven hours.  At the rate it's
growing,
it will get so large as to throw the Earth out of its orbit and destroy
all
life on the planet.  It's up the Dr. Stewart and the members of
the
OSI to discover some way to stop this menace.



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This was a surprisingly intelligent movie.  While the scientific
explanations
have their problems and are a bit dated, the plot is firmly rooted in
science
which is something you can only say about a very few movies from that
time. 
Their discussions of magnetic monopoles, alpha particles, geometric
growth,
and other scientific concepts might not be the equivalent of the
Feynman
lectures, but they at least got the broad ideas correct and made a
valiant
attempt to put 'science' into science fiction.



The film plays out more like a scientific version of Dragnet than
anything
else.  Dr. Stewart, who narrates too, is always giving the date
and
time, just like Sgt. Joe Friday did in the famous police show. 
The
movie follows the procedures they use to track identify what's causing
the
magnetic anomaly, and then find out what happened to the element before
finally
showing how they solve the problem of what to do about the dangerous
element. 
It's exactly like a police procedural, except with a Geiger counter and
a
computer called MANIAC.



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While I enjoyed the film, it's easy to see why it is largely forgotten
today. 
Despite the title, there really isn't a creature just an uncontrollable
substance
locked in a can.  Instead there's a lot of talking and, let's face
it,
more than a little purple prose and scientific techno-speak.  I'm
sure
the audiences of 1953 that saw the film on its original release felt
cheated. 
Added to that is the fact that the film doesn't do a very good job of
creating
tension, even at the end.  Even with these flaws it's an
interesting
film that works much better than it should.




The DVD:





Audio:




The film comes with the original mono soundtrack and it sounds
fine. 
Nothing to write home about, but there's really not a lot to complain
about
either.  The dialog is easy to hear and there isn't any
distracting
background noise.



Video:




The unrestored1.33:1 black and white image looks very good, especially
for
such a forgotten B-grade film.  The lines are tight and the level
of
detail is good.  The contrast is excellent too.  Viewers will
be
very pleased with the way this disc looks.



Extras:



The only extra is a trailer for the movie.



Final Thoughts:



The Magnetic Monster is a scientific procedural that is much
better
than most of the other 50's sci-fi B-movies.  Grounded in science
and
without a silly looking monster, the film is actually quite good. 
A
mostly forgotten film, this MGM MOD disc is a great chance for a new
audience
to discover it.  Recommended.  


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