The Magnetic Monster


1h 16m 1953
The Magnetic Monster

Brief Synopsis

A new radio-active element could destroy the world by absorbing the planet's energy.

Film Details

Also Known As
A-Men, Implosion
Genre
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Feb 18, 1953
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
A-Men Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 16m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

In California at the U.S. government's Office of Scientific Investigation, scientists known as A-men investigate the uses of atomic power. One morning, agent Jeffrey Stewart's pregnant wife Connie drops him off at work, where Jeff's coworker, agent Dan Forbes, expresses concern because there are high levels of radioactive dust in the air. Nearby at an appliance store, manager Mr. Simon reprimands his employee Albert because their clocks show the wrong time. Albert assures him that he set the clocks correctly the night before, and soon, they notice that all metal implements in the store have become magnetically bonded. When the appliances are physically drawn together by an unidentified force, Simon calls the power department, which then contacts the O.S.I. Jeff and Dan are sent to investigate and their Geiger-Müller counter indicates that there is a high level of radiation emanating from the second floor of the building. Jeff and Dan don protective suits to search the second floor, where they discover a makeshift laboratory and the body of a man who has died of radiation poisoning. At the O.S.I. laboratory, Jeff and Dan test the empty container found in the apartment and then feed the information by phone to a computer known as M.A.N.I.A.C., which stands for "Mathematical Analyzing Numerical Integrator and Computer." The A-men then make radio broadcasts asking that the public report any unusual activities. Jeff and Dan go to the airport after a taxicab driver calls their secretary Nelly because his automobile has inexplicably shut down, and their supervisor Dr. Allard reports that the airport's radar is being disrupted by interference. Jeff and Dan warn Kenneth Smith, the airport supervisor, that the cabdriver's last fare, an elderly man unusually protective of his briefcase, may be carrying a magnetic element that could cause his airplane to crash. The elderly man is Howard Denker, a research physicist at Southwestern University, who grows extremely ill during the flight, but refuses help from the stewardess. The starboard engine fails just as the pilots are ordered to turn back, and the stewardess reports that Denker's gums are bleeding. Via the radio, Jeff instructs the pilots to place Denker's briefcase in the rear of the plane. The plane safely returns to the airport where an ailing Denker explains his experiment, in which he had been bombarding serranium with alpha particles, which altered its properties, making it magnetic. Denker did not want to share his discovery, so he rented the apartment above the appliance store to keep his work secret. After his assistant's death, he decided to return to the university for safety. Denker now warns Jeff that the element requires a constant electric charge or it will expand uncontrollably. After Denker dies, the element is transported to a university cyclotron. Jeff returns home exhausted and concerned about his wife's health. Although Jeff had hoped to look for a house that day, Allard calls him back to work because the cyclotron has imploded and collapsed, and two men have died. Jeff accompanies Allard to a meeting with university professor Dr. Serny, Capt. Dyer of the Department of Civilian Defense and Col. Willis of the Army. There, Serny explains that everything within 100 yards of the cyclotron has become magnetic, and that although the element is now in a vacuum chamber, it has doubled in size. Serny adds that the element temporarily lost radioactivity during the implosion, which defies known laws of physics. Jeff and Dan perform exhaustive tests to determine the strength of the magnetic field. They then transmit their information to the M.A.N.I.A.C. and, to prevent another implosion, they feed the element with electrons. M.A.N.I.A.C. reports that due to the nature of the element, it will implode every eleven hours and double its mass each time unless it is fed an electrical charge. In order to delay the next implosion, the O.S.I. arranges for the city to divert all power to the lab. In a meeting with the mayor, Jeff hypothesizes that if the element continues to grow, its mass could alter Earth's orbit. He then recommends that the only way to stop the growth is to overfeed the element with energy until it bursts and creates fusion, thereby becoming two stable elements. Gen. Meehan then arranges with the Canadian government to have the element transported to their top-secret subterranean deltatron in Nova Scotia where they plan to overfeed it with energy. Canadian scientists Dr. Benton and Dr. Cartwright take Jeff and Dan below sea-level to the deltatron. Although Benton protests that the amount of power Jeff intends to generate will destroy the site, he is overruled by his government. Jeff then dismisses the crew for their own safety, and sets the deltatron to maximum power. Benton sabotages the floodgate in an attempt to thwart the experiment, but Jeff cuts the cable, thereby allowing the floodgate doors to close just before a massive explosion bursts through the sea-wall and floods the chamber. Jeff and Dan initially believe they have failed because they see metal objects clinging to the doors, but after the explosions cease, the objects drop to the ground. Later, Connie meets Jeff at the airport and they drive to their new home.

Film Details

Also Known As
A-Men, Implosion
Genre
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Feb 18, 1953
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
A-Men Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 16m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

The Magnetic Monster


Not all of the rampaging monsters of the sci-fi thrillers and horror films of the fifties A-bomb era were mutant insects or oversized lizards or gigantic humans. Some were uniquely original and a credit to their creators such as The Monolith Monsters (1957), growing towers of meteor crystals that absorbed moisture from humans, and the square-shaped robot with cylindrical legs known as Kronos (1957), a giant alien robot that smashed everything in its path. The Magnetic Monster (1953) belongs in this latter group and is an intriguing and intelligent sci-fi thriller, despite its limited budget, modest production values and the occasional serious scene that plays better as comedy.

Released the same year as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and The War of the Worlds, The Magnetic Monster was one of the first American sci-fi films to exploit the theme of nuclear energy run amok and the dangers of radioactivity, thus establishing a popular formulaic precedent that would be repeated in such subsequent movies as Them! (1954), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). The film also benefited from the casting of Richard Carlson in the leading role of scientist Jeffrey Stewart, a member of the U.S. government's Office of Scientific Investigation. By this point in his career, Carlson was no longer a freelance supporting player at MGM, RKO and other studios and was building a solid career as a leading man in B pictures. The Magnetic Monster marked Carlson's initial foray into sci-fi and horror and he would follow it with several better known titles that would forever associate him with that genre: It Came from Outer Space (1953), The Maze (1953), Riders to the Stars (1954), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), and such TV series as Thriller and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

Filmed mostly on the former Hal Roach studio lot with some exterior location filming in Los Angeles, The Magnetic Monster establishes its disturbing premise from the get-go with reports from Jeff's coworker Dan (King Donovan of Invasion of the Body Snatchers [1956] fame) that high levels of radioactive dust have been detected in the area. When Jeff and Dan go to investigate a complaint from a store owner that all of his metal appliances have magnetically bonded and are creating havoc, they discover something much more disturbing above the shop: the body of a man who has died from radiation poisoning. They learn that the dead man was an assistant to research scientist Howard Denker, who had fled the scene with something in his briefcase. A manhunt ensues and Denker is apprehended but also dies from radiation poisoning, leaving behind the monster he has created - an atomic isotope that devours energy and doubles its size every 12 hours. Although Jeff manages to isolate and contain the growing threat temporarily, he races against time to prevent the isotope from destroying the town and the world beyond.

According to notes in the American Film Institute entry on The Magnetic Monster, producer Ivan Tors and director Curt Siodmak were planning to create a television series based on the "A-Men" characters presented in this movie. Nothing came of it but a later episode of The Outer Limits TV series would feature a similar plot premise. Much more intriguing is how Tors, Siodmak and film editor Herbert L. Strock integrated approximately ten minutes of footage from the 1934 German sci-fi film Gold into the suspenseful climax of The Magnetic Monster, which is set in a subterranean laboratory in Nova Scotia.

Tors, who is better known today for his family-friendly features (Zebra in the Kitchen [1965], Around the World Under the Sea [1966]) and TV series such as Sea Hunt, Flipper and Daktari, dabbled in the sci-fi genre in his early years. The Magnetic Monster was his first venture into that realm but he followed it up with Riders to the Stars (1954), the 3-D thriller Gog (1954), the 1956 documentary Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers and the TV series Science Fiction Theatre, which ran 1955-1956.

There is a bit of controversy surrounding The Magnetic Monster today due to a question of directorial credit. Although Curt Siodmak is acknowledged on-screen and in most sources as the film's director, many accounts name Herbert J. Strock as the true auteur behind this 1953 feature. According to Strock in his interview with Tom Weaver for Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers: Writers, Producers, Directors, Actors, Moguls and Makeup, he stated that Tors became displeased with Siodmak's work on The Magnetic Monster after a few days of shooting and asked Strock, the film's editor, to come to the set. "The script supervisor," he recalled, "a charming lady by the name of Mary Whitlock Gibsone, said, "They want you to take over the picture." I said, "What?! I'm not a director, I'm a film editor!" And she said, "This picture uses so much stock footage from the German film we have, and you know exactly how everything must go together - and Curt [Siodmak] couldn't understand it. Ivan [Tors] came over and said, "Don't worry, I've called the Directors Guild, you're in the Guild, take over." So, I was called upon to instantly become a director!"

The ironic twist in all of this is that some genre enthusiasts feel that The Magnetic Monster is Siodmak's best work as a director. Actually, he was much more prolific as a screenwriter and his other directorial efforts were nothing to brag about; the less than stellar productions include Bride of the Gorilla (1951), Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956) and Love Slaves of the Amazon (1957). Herbert L. Strock's track record as a director, despite many more credits than Siodmak, is equally dubious. After all, for a man who helmed I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957), Blood of Dracula (1957) and The Crawling Hand (1963), the term masterpiece is not likely to enter into any film discussions of his work. In the end, regardless of who deserves the credit for The Magnetic Monster, it remains a superior example of a low budget sci-fi film - thought-provoking if far-fetched, tensely paced (the brisk running time is 76 minutes) and it features a spectacular climax that was lifted from a completely different film but is ingeniously integrated into this movie's visual design.

Producer: Ivan Tors
Director: Curt Siodmak; Herbert L. Strock (uncredited)
Screenplay: Curt Siodmak, Ivan Tors
Cinematography: Charles Van Enger
Art Direction: George Van Marter
Music: Blaine Sanford
Cast: Richard Carlson (Dr. Jeffrey Stewart), King Donovan (Dr. Dan Forbes), Jean Byron (Connie Stewart), Harry Ellerbe (Dr. Allard), Leo Britt (Dr. Benton), Leonard Mudie (Howard Denker), Byron Foulger (Mr. Simon), Michael Fox (Dr. Serny), John Zaremba (Chief Watson), Lee Phelps (City Engineer).
BW-76m.

by Jeff Stafford

SOURCES:
Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers: Writers, Producers, Directors, Actors, Moguls and Makeup by Tom Weaver (McFarland)
They Fought in Creature Features: Interviews with 23 Classic Horror, Science Fiction and Serial Stars by Tom Weaver (McFarland)
It Came from Weaver Five: Interviews with 20 Zany, Glib and Earnest Moviemakers in the SF and Horror Traditions of the Thirties, Forties, Fifties and Sixties by Tom Weaver (McFarland)
www.afi.com
IMDB

The Magnetic Monster

The Magnetic Monster

Not all of the rampaging monsters of the sci-fi thrillers and horror films of the fifties A-bomb era were mutant insects or oversized lizards or gigantic humans. Some were uniquely original and a credit to their creators such as The Monolith Monsters (1957), growing towers of meteor crystals that absorbed moisture from humans, and the square-shaped robot with cylindrical legs known as Kronos (1957), a giant alien robot that smashed everything in its path. The Magnetic Monster (1953) belongs in this latter group and is an intriguing and intelligent sci-fi thriller, despite its limited budget, modest production values and the occasional serious scene that plays better as comedy. Released the same year as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and The War of the Worlds, The Magnetic Monster was one of the first American sci-fi films to exploit the theme of nuclear energy run amok and the dangers of radioactivity, thus establishing a popular formulaic precedent that would be repeated in such subsequent movies as Them! (1954), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). The film also benefited from the casting of Richard Carlson in the leading role of scientist Jeffrey Stewart, a member of the U.S. government's Office of Scientific Investigation. By this point in his career, Carlson was no longer a freelance supporting player at MGM, RKO and other studios and was building a solid career as a leading man in B pictures. The Magnetic Monster marked Carlson's initial foray into sci-fi and horror and he would follow it with several better known titles that would forever associate him with that genre: It Came from Outer Space (1953), The Maze (1953), Riders to the Stars (1954), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), and such TV series as Thriller and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Filmed mostly on the former Hal Roach studio lot with some exterior location filming in Los Angeles, The Magnetic Monster establishes its disturbing premise from the get-go with reports from Jeff's coworker Dan (King Donovan of Invasion of the Body Snatchers [1956] fame) that high levels of radioactive dust have been detected in the area. When Jeff and Dan go to investigate a complaint from a store owner that all of his metal appliances have magnetically bonded and are creating havoc, they discover something much more disturbing above the shop: the body of a man who has died from radiation poisoning. They learn that the dead man was an assistant to research scientist Howard Denker, who had fled the scene with something in his briefcase. A manhunt ensues and Denker is apprehended but also dies from radiation poisoning, leaving behind the monster he has created - an atomic isotope that devours energy and doubles its size every 12 hours. Although Jeff manages to isolate and contain the growing threat temporarily, he races against time to prevent the isotope from destroying the town and the world beyond. According to notes in the American Film Institute entry on The Magnetic Monster, producer Ivan Tors and director Curt Siodmak were planning to create a television series based on the "A-Men" characters presented in this movie. Nothing came of it but a later episode of The Outer Limits TV series would feature a similar plot premise. Much more intriguing is how Tors, Siodmak and film editor Herbert L. Strock integrated approximately ten minutes of footage from the 1934 German sci-fi film Gold into the suspenseful climax of The Magnetic Monster, which is set in a subterranean laboratory in Nova Scotia. Tors, who is better known today for his family-friendly features (Zebra in the Kitchen [1965], Around the World Under the Sea [1966]) and TV series such as Sea Hunt, Flipper and Daktari, dabbled in the sci-fi genre in his early years. The Magnetic Monster was his first venture into that realm but he followed it up with Riders to the Stars (1954), the 3-D thriller Gog (1954), the 1956 documentary Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers and the TV series Science Fiction Theatre, which ran 1955-1956. There is a bit of controversy surrounding The Magnetic Monster today due to a question of directorial credit. Although Curt Siodmak is acknowledged on-screen and in most sources as the film's director, many accounts name Herbert J. Strock as the true auteur behind this 1953 feature. According to Strock in his interview with Tom Weaver for Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers: Writers, Producers, Directors, Actors, Moguls and Makeup, he stated that Tors became displeased with Siodmak's work on The Magnetic Monster after a few days of shooting and asked Strock, the film's editor, to come to the set. "The script supervisor," he recalled, "a charming lady by the name of Mary Whitlock Gibsone, said, "They want you to take over the picture." I said, "What?! I'm not a director, I'm a film editor!" And she said, "This picture uses so much stock footage from the German film we have, and you know exactly how everything must go together - and Curt [Siodmak] couldn't understand it. Ivan [Tors] came over and said, "Don't worry, I've called the Directors Guild, you're in the Guild, take over." So, I was called upon to instantly become a director!" The ironic twist in all of this is that some genre enthusiasts feel that The Magnetic Monster is Siodmak's best work as a director. Actually, he was much more prolific as a screenwriter and his other directorial efforts were nothing to brag about; the less than stellar productions include Bride of the Gorilla (1951), Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956) and Love Slaves of the Amazon (1957). Herbert L. Strock's track record as a director, despite many more credits than Siodmak, is equally dubious. After all, for a man who helmed I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957), Blood of Dracula (1957) and The Crawling Hand (1963), the term masterpiece is not likely to enter into any film discussions of his work. In the end, regardless of who deserves the credit for The Magnetic Monster, it remains a superior example of a low budget sci-fi film - thought-provoking if far-fetched, tensely paced (the brisk running time is 76 minutes) and it features a spectacular climax that was lifted from a completely different film but is ingeniously integrated into this movie's visual design. Producer: Ivan Tors Director: Curt Siodmak; Herbert L. Strock (uncredited) Screenplay: Curt Siodmak, Ivan Tors Cinematography: Charles Van Enger Art Direction: George Van Marter Music: Blaine Sanford Cast: Richard Carlson (Dr. Jeffrey Stewart), King Donovan (Dr. Dan Forbes), Jean Byron (Connie Stewart), Harry Ellerbe (Dr. Allard), Leo Britt (Dr. Benton), Leonard Mudie (Howard Denker), Byron Foulger (Mr. Simon), Michael Fox (Dr. Serny), John Zaremba (Chief Watson), Lee Phelps (City Engineer). BW-76m. by Jeff Stafford SOURCES: Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers: Writers, Producers, Directors, Actors, Moguls and Makeup by Tom Weaver (McFarland) They Fought in Creature Features: Interviews with 23 Classic Horror, Science Fiction and Serial Stars by Tom Weaver (McFarland) It Came from Weaver Five: Interviews with 20 Zany, Glib and Earnest Moviemakers in the SF and Horror Traditions of the Thirties, Forties, Fifties and Sixties by Tom Weaver (McFarland) www.afi.com IMDB

Quotes

It's hungry! It has to be fed constantly - or it will reach out its magnetic arm and grab at anything within its reach and kill it. It's monstrous, Stewart, monstrous. It grows bigger and bigger!
- Howard Denker

Trivia

Uses stock footage of the underground magneto-dynamo from the German science fiction thriller Gold (1934).

Notes

The working titles of this film were Implosion and A-Men. The Magnetic Monster was narrated by Richard Carlson. Acording to various contemporary news items, producer Ivan Tors and director Curt Siodmak were planning to produce a series of television films based on the "A-Men" characters, based on an original story by Siodmak. However, no television series was produced based on Siodmak's characters or story. A July 3, 1951 news item noted that Tors was considering Diana Douglas for a role in the film.
       In his autobiography, Siodmak noted the following about the production: The Magnetic Monster was shot in eleven days. Tors had acquired a ten-minute film clip of an atom smasher from the 1934 German film Gold, directed by Karl Hartl and produced by Universum-Film A.-G. This footage was used in the scene of the Nova Scotia deltatron, and Siodmak costumed his actors to resemble the performers in Gold. For the "M.A.N.I.A.C." computer, Siodmak filmed a computer being developed at the University of California in Los Angeles. In his autobiography, supervising editor Herbert L. Strock states that he replaced Siodmak during production, however, this information has not been confirmed.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter February 18, 1953

Released in United States Winter February 18, 1953