The Magnetic Monster DVD Review: A Very Good Science-Fiction Film

With the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the world changed forever. Nuclear research and the splitting of the atom were projects that had been going on since the early part of the 20th century. But with the incredible power unleashed for all the world to see at the close of World War II, what had once been theoretical became all too real. In the post-war years, with the Cold War and McCarthyism in full swing, science-fiction films began to address some of these issues in various (thinly veiled) ways.

One of the first of these was George Pal’s Destination Moon (1950). Even 62 years later, this movie still holds its power. With a script co-written by noted author Robert A. Heinlein, Destination Moon was surprisingly effective. As it turned out, when Apollo 11 landed on the moon 19 years later, a great deal of the concepts of the movie proved to have been right on target.

There was a much more sinister direction that writers were developing during this time as well. The original Godzilla (1954) is probably the most famous example. Although Godzilla became something of an industry unto itself – the original idea was deeply thought-provoking. The basic concept of how the monster was created came from the 1945 bombings, which had the unforeseen side-effect of creating the creature.

The Magnetic Monster was actually made a year prior to Godzilla, but the basic idea behind it was similar. The movie has all the elements of classic sci-fi. A key feature is the slowly revealed mystery surrounding certain parts of Anytown, USA. The lead character is Jeff Stewart (Richard Carlson), who is a happily married scientist working with the Office of Scientific Investigation (OSI). Small, odd things begin occurring in town, which at first seem to have little to do with each other.

The activity seems to centered around a small appliance shop, where all of the clocks have mysteriously stopped, and there is a massive unidentifiable magnetic force at work. When Jeff and his colleague Dan Forbes (King Donovan) arrive, they quickly go to work to isolate the source of the unusual situation.

Without completely spoiling the film, what they discover is that some provocative experiments have been taking place in the office directly above the shop. An older scientist by the name of Howard Denker (Leonard Mudie) has been working with the power of magnetism, and the experiments have gotten out of hand. Way out of hand as a matter of fact. He has unwittingly created the magnetic monster, which is doubling in strength rapidly, and absorbing everything in range to feed itself.

The man realizes that his experiment has become extremely dangerous, and boards a plane, with the idea of eliminating it. It is not actually growing in size, or becoming a Godzilla-type monster, but growing in strength. The magnetic and radioactive “creature” is powerful enough to shut down one of the plane’s engines, and the crew are forced to (nearly) crash-land.

I’ll stop here, so as to not completely spoil the film for anyone who has not seen it, but The Magnetic Monster is a very good science-fiction film. There are no bonus features, just the movie – and it is in black and white. But unlike so many of these older pictures, it is quite plausible, and I thought very well done. The Magnetic Monster is part of MGM’s Limited Edition Collection series of “manufacturing on demand” (“MOD”) DVDs.<

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Greg Barbrick

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