Saturday, October 06, 2007


By the evidence of this B-flick, Hollywood had about exhausted its imagination for SF monsters by the late 50's. This movie is better than it sounds, but here's how it sounds: the monsters are gigantic rock crystal formations which come jutting out of the earth and, despite their relative immobility, wreck havoc in a small desert town. Honest to God, that's about it. The film begins with an off-screen lecture about meteors, given by famous announcer and cartoon voice artist Paul Frees (Boris in "Rocky and Bullwinkle"). After a meteorite lands in the desert near the town of San Angelo, a man from the Department of Interior (Phil Harvey) finds an odd rock on the road and takes it back to his office to study. That night, when the rock gets wet during a storm, it start smoking and growing and the next morning, geologist Grant Williams arrives at work to find chunks of black rock strewn all over the office and Harvey dead, apparently turned to stone. Meanwhile, hot schoolteacher Lola Albright takes her kids out to the desert for a (rather boring) field trip; a little girl takes a shiny black rock home with her, dips it in a water barrel to clean it, and the next day, bingo, more death and destruction and stone people; though the little girl is alive, she is in a traumatized stupor (like the little girl in THEM!) and is slowly turning to stone herself. Williams and Albright and a geology professor figure out that when these meteorite fragments get wet, they grow and multiply and cause people to solidify by sucking all the silica out of the ground and the people. What causes the destruction, as we see during a thunderstorm, is when the monoliths grow too big, fall down, and roll around or burst through buildings. Can our heroes find a solution before these inanimate rocks threaten the world? Some of the shots of the almost-rampaging rocks are indeed effective, but still, when the monsters are giant rocks, you can only build up so much tension. Williams, best known as THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, is fine as the strong, sensible, and handsome hero, but he's the only actor to make much of an impression. William Schallert has a small comic relief role as a nerdy weatherman. IMDb says that Troy Donahue and Paul Petersen are in the film, but I guess their roles are so small that I didn't notice them. The print of this film in the Universal "Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection" is sparklingly sharp; too bad it's not a more interesting movie. [DVD]

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