The Monolith Monsters is not a giant monster movie per se, and is a bit of a cheat by naming it so. The ‘threat’ of said film does feature monstrous attributes and has many things in common with those creatures normally associated with the genre, and some even list it as being a giant monster movie. The fact of the matter though, is that it features no living creature and thus listing it as a film featuring gigantic creatures, or in this case monsters, is a misnomer and a bit of false advertising on Universal’s part. A giant creature should be just that, something living, breathing and bigger than a man to be termed as such. A mountain can be monstrous, a building can be gigantic, but only something alive can be a monster or a creature. So yes, this film is a cheat as it lures you in with the promise of one thing and delivers another. Aside from that though, it was actually pretty good.
The film finds a mysterious rock ending up in the hands of various people, including a child. What it ends up doing then is turning these people into stone, though at a very slow pace. Thus it is up to the hero of the film, Dave Miller, a geologist, to discover just what this strange rock is and why it is assumedly killing people, especially before a little girl dies from the same affliction. Soon Dave thinks he has found out what is going on, with a little help from a professor friend of his, and they soon discover that people turning to stone is the least of their problems as the rocks were found to have come from a meteorite and now, with the torrential downpours hitting the area, this meteorite and all of its shards are growing out of control, threatening to overtake the town and its populace.
Playing Dave Miller is Grant Williams, star of The Incredible Shrinking Man released the same year as this film. This also happens to be one of the very few movies to ever find a geologist as the one who saves the day. Williams does a great job, exuding the confidence to play a leading man as well as the charisma to help him save the world. While he does the job well, the script by Norman Jolley and Robert M. Fresco was at times a little by-the-numbers, writing in queues if not for the audience, then at least for the cast that were extremely obvious. The worst offender being the moment when Dave and Professor Flanders are examining the rocks and wondering just what the catalyst might be to set them off . The audience knows it is water as they are talking as it is so telling, but as the two men talk one of the rocks lands in the sink, Dave rinses out the coffee pot to make more and a thunderstorm starts up. Sometimes, things can be a little too obvious, even in a B picture such as this one and you have to give your audience a little credit at being able to think for themselves. Either that or the main characters that are responsible for saving everyone are just not that bright with all of these things happening around them.
Also starring in the film is Lola Albright, who appeared in films with Fred Astaire and Elvis Presley among others, Trevor Bardette as the aforementioned professor, Les Tremayne, Phil Harvey, Harry Jackson and William Flaherty. Without this cast being as good as they were, this film would have potentially flopped as being scared of giant rock space-monoliths, sentient or not, takes a bit of acting prowess. As such, there is a lot of tension and suspense in the film and the actors really put it across to the viewer, creating a very compelling film.
To reiterate, giant rocks do not a monster make. Yes they grew to an abnormal size and yes they killed and threatened destruction to many. They also needed to be stopped as they would not do so on their own, potentially threatening life upon the entire planet. The monoliths did possess many of the same qualities and characteristics that many a giant monster would they themselves have. But those rocks were not alive and because of that, there is a break that happens between this film and others that are true monster movies. With films that feature strange creatures, gigantic or not, there is that threat to man that is felt, and it is present in this film, but there is also the threat of man towards the creature in question which was not in this film. The empathy you would normally feel for King Kong when he is killed or Frankenstein when he just wants a friend is not present in this film and it makes all the difference in the world. Even if the monster was a giant bug of some sort, you would still understand its motivations and the reason why they would be doing what they do. This movie was more akin to a natural disaster film than anything else. Was it a good film? Yes it was, and entertaining as well. But when all is said and done, this film tricks the viewer into believing it a monster movie when in fact, it is just an object that barely qualifies.
First entry – Giant Monster Gamera (1965)