Monday, 7 November 2011

Review: The Magnetic Monster

The Magnetic Monster (1953)

To meet this challenge to our existence,  a new agency has been formed: OSI; the Office of Scientific Investigation.  The operatives of OSI are called A-Men.  A-Men; sounds like the final word of a prayer.

Or the set up for a very rude joke.

Top OSI agent Dr Jeffrey Stewart is called in to investigate an appliance store where everything has suddenly become magnetised.  Discovering that their is also a strong trace of radiation, the OSI team soon discovers that the source of the trouble is a new element that periodically generates powerful blasts of magnetic force as well as doubling in size every 11 hours. Tracking down the element, they learn that it can only be contained and destroyed by incredible amounts of electricity.  With only one place in the world capable of delivering the massive charge, only one chance to do so before it grows too big to control, the clock ticking and the fate of world resting on his shoulders, Dr Stewart has his work cut out for him.

The Magnetic Monster is a science fiction version of the FBI procedural film.  While Stewart is given a home life and pregnant wife to give his character two dimensions instead of one, the real star of the show is the steps taken by the OSI as they hunt for the magnetic killer.  Producer Ivan Tors, as he demonstrates in his other film and television work, is fascinated with the mechanics of science and dressing sets with all manner of apparatus, but what makes this film most interesting is how Tors was able to take stock footage from a German sci fi outing that was banned in the US as Nazi propaganda and build an entirely new feature around it.  This meant moving the climax to Canada to explain why the workers at the atomic plant aren't dressed like Americans as well has having the principal actors kitted out like their German counterparts.  The trick works for the most part, though there are a few confusing set crossings that only make sense because of the need for the plot to match the footage.

Richard Carlson and King Donovan take their parts dead seriously as they try to sell the absurd premise and Connie Stewart as our hero's long-suffering wife makes the most out of a very thin part.

Not the greatest B-movie of all time, but a respectable journeyman effort in making do on a low budget and with stock footage as the feature's tent pole.

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