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Magnetic Monster, The

Kino // Unrated // June 14, 2016
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted May 6, 2016 | E-mail the Author

The Movie:

Produced and co-written by Ivan Tors, 1953's The Magnetic Monster is an interesting mix of fifties era Puritanism and Cold War paranoia. The film follows a scientist named Dr. Jeffrey Stewart (Richard Carlson) who works for the high level government agency called O.S.I. (short for Office Of Scientific Investigation). He and his partner, Dan Forbes (King Donovan), are sent to investigate a strange occurrence at a hardware shop (that also seems to specialize in clocks and appliances) when all the clocks inexplicably stop with their hands in the same position.

It turns out that this is being caused by some sort of magnetic interference coming from above them. They wisely prove this by tossing a bunch of washers and bolts at the ceiling where they stick. But there's more to this than that, as they soon learn when their Geiger counters go nuts, indicating high and dangerous levels of radiation. When stuff like this starts becoming common in the area, they're sent to investigate and soon find that an aging scientist has created an isotope that has been growing at a far faster rate than normal and which, if not stopped, will soon be laying waste to pretty much everyone in the vicinity. Not wanting to die of radiation poisoning and not wanting his wife to have any difficulty carrying what he hopes will be a ‘fat, sassy baby' to term, Stewart and a few other officials turn to the only place that can help them… Canada!

While the science behind this one may be a little more than dubious, you can't fault the film for pacing. Clocking in just a hair over seventy five minutes this one moves quick and actually does a good job of holding your interest. This plays more like a long episode of The Twilight Zone than it does a typical sci-fi film (and despite what the title may allude to, there's no actual ‘monster' here per se) but it does what it does quite well. Some stock footage and inserts from a thirties era German film called Gold spills the beans on the film's low budget but the acting is decent, if a little on the hammy side. The witty banter between Dr. Stewart and his lovely wife (Jean Byron), four months pregnant but not showing, is funny but also genuinely touching later in the film when there's cause for concern. Both Carlson and Byron play these roles well and if Donovan isn't given as much heavy lifting to do in this area, well, he's fine as the tagalong.

This one won't have you running out of your living room screaming in mortal terror, but it will certainly entertain you for the better part of an hour and a half. It's a deceptively simple idea made with some fairly primitive and sometimes borrowed effects pieces, but Carlson is good enough here to make it worth a watch. How much it will appeal to those outside the preexisting fan base for fifties sci-fi/B-movies is certainly debatable, but if you count yourself as a member of that group, by all means give it a shot as it's definitely worth seeing.

The Blu-ray:


The Magnetic Monster arrives on Blu-ray from Kino in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer taken from a new 2016 master. This is a nice improvement over the previous standard definition presentation of the film as it contains noticeably more depth and detail than older MOD/DVD-R release (part of the long MGM Limited Edition Collection of manufactured on demand titles from a few years back) was able to provide. Contrast looks very solid here and black levels stay strong. The whites never bloom or look too hot while detail and texture show a lot more than we've seen previously on home video. Some minor print damage shows up here and there, a few small scratches and some specks, but overall the image is pretty clean. There are no signs of edge enhancement, noise reduction or compression artifacts to complain about and the upgrade in picture quality this release offers is considerable.


The only audio option for the disc is a DTS-HD Mono track and, as stated earlier, it is the English language version. No alternate language options or subtitles are provided. Dialogue is clean and clear and the levels are properly balanced. There aren't any issues with hiss or distortion and for an older mono dubbed mix, the audio here sounds just fine. The score contains a bit more punch than it had on DVD, which is nice, and it manages to do so without burying the dialogue.


Extras start off with a commentary track from film historian/author Derek Botello. He starts off by giving us some background information on ‘presenter' Ivan Torres, who he was, why his name is on the title card, the importance of his work in movies and TV at the time. He also talks about the cast, other pictures that they were affiliated with, their backgrounds, their biographical information. Along the way he points out certain quirks about the film (the shop-owner getting a direct line to a secret agency for one), screenwriter Curt Siodmak's work on the film and notes from his book on the picture, the sets, the effects and quite a bit more. It's a well researched, nicely paced and information track well worth listening to.

Aside from that we get static menus, chapter selection and trailers for the feature as well as Donovan's Brain, Invisible Invaders and Journey To The 7th Planet.

Final Thoughts:

Maybe The Magnetic Monster isn't a classic but it's certainly brisk and entertaining, anchored by good performances from Carlson and Byron. Kino's Blu-ray release offers a substantial improvement over the old MGM MOD/DVD-R release, offering a much better transfer, lossless audio and a pretty interesting commentary. Recommended for fans of low budget fifties B-movies!

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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