Search Results for monolith
The Monolith Monsters (1957) | Killer rocks from outer space aren’t the only threat in this classic sci-fi adventure
Gargantuan-sized crystals from outer space threaten to turn a peaceful Californian desert town into a petrified forest in The Monolith Monsters Universal’s thrilling 1950s sci-fi from genre favourite Jack Arnold.
From Outer Space They Came – Meteor Borne, Meteor Strange!
When splinters from a meteorite crashed in the Arizona desert begin to grow and multiple, geologist Dave Miller (Grant Williams, aka the Incredible Shrinking Man) has until the next rain fall to unlock their secrets and find a way to halt their encroachment on the salt-mining town of San Angelo. It’s also race against time for his teacher girlfriend Cathy (Lola Albright), when one of her pupils starts turning to stone after handling the alien crystals. Can a vaccine be found in time to save the girl, save the town, and save the world?
Stranger Than Anything Science Had Ever Discovered As Thrill Crowds Upon Thrill!
Throughout the 1950s, American science fiction became an ideal host to foster people’s fears and paranoia with anti-Communist propaganda, and director Jack Arnold’s 1953 sci-fi, It Came From Outer Space led a pack that would include ready-made classics like Invasion of the Body Snatches (1956) and The Blob (1958). But with The Monolith Monsters, another fear fuelled the film’s narrative: xenophobia.
The most startling science fiction concept ever brought to the screen!
The giveaway is the lack of ethnic diversity in the film’s altruistic utopian town that’s nestled in a valley surrounded by protective mountains and populated by compassionate and caring medics, teachers and cops, and community minded citizens. This is a world straight out of Leave It To Beaver territory, where everyone – from the switchboard operator to the paper boy – happily unite when their town’s purity is threaten by the ‘invasion’ of the non-white extraterrestrial crystalline rocks, which – god forbid – also reproduce at a rapid rate. It doesn’t take much to read this as a metaphor for Euro American prejudice against Latinos and African-American communities, at a time when the civil rights struggle was still in its infancy. Of course this interpretation shouldn’t overshadow the fact that The Monolith Monsters is an entertaining and inventive sci-fi. Think ‘Tremors meets Gremlins in the Arizona desert’.
The visual effects, made up of matte paintings of the town (which reinforces the closed nature of the desert community), and miniatures and model-work, are surprisingly effective; while the crashing trumpets and thunderous sound effects bring a real sense of size and foreboding to the visuals, especially when the skyscraper-high crystals approach the town. Keen ears will recognise the familiar voice of Paul Frees as the film’s narrator. He also lent his distinctive tones to another film with a veiled ‘reds under the bed’ menace message, George Pal’s War of the Worlds (1953).
Screenbound Pictures’ pristine transfer of the film really showcases the visuals and sound effects, which makes this a must-have. Well, it is a Universal Picture after all. Also included on the DVD is a restored trailer which has hilariously been edited to exploit the film’s apocalyptic potential.
The Monolith Monsters is out on DVD in the UK from 15 February 2016
Lon Chaney Jr makes his horror debut alongside Hollywood’s most exquisite villain of the 1930s and 1940s, Lionel Atwill, in Universal’s 1941 horror Man Made Monster, which makes its UK Blu-ray debut in Eureka Entertainment’s two-disc Three Monster Tales of Sci-fi Terror box-set (due out 11 April 2022).
THE TOUCH OF DEATH!
When carny Dan McCormick AKA Dynamo Dan, the Electric Man (Chaney Jr) miraculously survives a bus crash into a power line, electrophysiologist Dr John Lawrence (Samuel S Hinds) invites him to stay at his medical facility, The Moors, so he can study him and his seemingly natural immunity. But the kindly doctor’s assistant, Dr Paul Rigas (Atwill), has other plans.
In secret, Dr Rigas pumps Dan with increasingly higher doses of electricity so he can prove his theory that he can create a race of electrically-charged super slaves. Soon poor Dan becomes a ghostly glowing killing machine and nothing can stop him – not even the electric chair.
Man-Made Monster (the hyphen was added for the film poster) was originally planned to be a vehicle for Bela Lugosi when it was first mooted back in 1936 under the title The Electric Man. But it was shelved as being too similar to the same year’s The Invisible Ray.
In his first leading role, Chaney Jr gives an endearing turn as the gentle pooch-loving everyman in the film’s first half. But once he’s drugged up on Atwill’s electrical fixes, he turns into a mute, slow-moving monster. Luckily, we have John P Fulton’s effective special effects, some moody lighting and a great lab set to enjoy as well as Atwill’s feverish performance. This is possibly his most OTT mad scientist role and he milks the ripe dialogue to the hilt – most significantly his big speech when questioned about challenging the forces of Creation:
‘Bah! You know as well as I do that more than half the people of the world are doomed to a life of mediocrity – born to be nonentities, millstones around the neck of progress, men who have to be fed, watched, looked over, and taken care of by a superior intelligence.’
Atwill also gets some choice lines when revealing his insane idea to an elegant Vera West-styled Anne Nagel, who plays the film’s plucky heroine, June: ‘I’ve always found that the female of the species was more sensitive to electrical impulse than the male. Shall I show you how it was done?‘.
Shot in three weeks on one of Universal’s cheapest budgets, Man-Made Monster proved a modest winner at the box office when released in March 1941, and earned Chaney Jr a contract with the studio. It also kick-started his horror career which would be cemented when he reteamed with director George Waggner for The Wolf Man nine months later. Atwill, meanwhile, was facing a personal crisis. Just a few months after his character, Dr Rigas, commits perjury in the film’s big courtroom scene, Atwill was given a five-year probation sentence (and blacklisted) for the same offence over the 1941 alleged occurrence of a sex orgy at his home.
Be prepared for a tearful ending featuring Hollywood canine Corky (he’s so darn cute).
The Eureka Classics box-set, Three Monster Tales of Sci-fi Terror also includes 1957’s The Monolith Monsters and 1958’s Monster on the Campus. You can read my reviews on those films by clicking on the titles. Also included in the box set are brand new audio commentaries on each film, photo galleries and a limited edition collector’s booklet.
• Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase
• 1080p presentations on Blu-ray
• Disc One – Man-Made Monster and The Monolith Monsters
• Disc Two – Monster on the Campus (available in both 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 aspect ratios)
• Man-Made Monster – Audio commentary with authors Stephen Jones and Kim Newman
• The Monolith Monsters – Audio commentary with Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Monster on the Campus – Audio commentary with Stephen Jones and Kim Newman
• Optional SDH subtitles on each film
• Collector’s booklet written by film scholar Craig Ian Man
Order from the Eureka Store: https://eurekavideo.co.uk/movie/three-monster-tales-of-sci-fi-terror/
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) | Jack Arnold’s big-screen adaptation of the sci-fi classic remains a gripping must-see
Businessman Scott Carey (The Monolith Monsters‘ Grant Williams) and his wife Louise (Randy Stuart) are holidaying on a boat off the Californian coast when Scott is enveloped in a strange mist. Six months later, his body starts shrinking – an inch a week – which confounds the scientific world, turns Scott into a national curiosity, and causes him to lapse into a deep depression.
But when Scott starts shrinking at an ever-increasing rate, he’s soon propelled into a terrifying situation in which he becomes trapped in the basement of his home after narrowly escaping death at the hands of the family cat. Believing him dead, Louise makes plans to move, while Scott must try and find the inner strength to face even more dangers, including one very large, very aggressive spider…
Based on the 1956 novel (The Shrinking Man) by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend), with a script adapted by Matheson himself, and directed by 1950s sci-fi king Jack Arnold (Creature from The Black Lagoon), this is one of the finest science-fiction films of all time.
Thanks to the expertly-designed set-ups in which Scott’s plight becomes more desperate, tense and gruelling, Arnold’s sci-fi is a thrilling ride from start to finish – and it’s all highlighted by the superbly-realised special effects – the best involving Scott going to war with the spider and a scene in which he braves a puddle-turned-maelstrom.
Rare for science fiction films of the era is that Matheson’s profound ending is kept in tact – and it’s all the better for it as we see Scott undergo an existential transformation and becomes resolved to his fate that he will continue to shrink until he is finally at one with the universe… It’s a conclusion that startles, but is also surprisingly uplifting.
Trivia buffs might like to know that the film’s tabby cat, Orangey (also known as Rhubarb) was trained and owned by Lassie and Benji animal trainer Frank Inn, and he also appeared in This Island Earth (1955), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1957) and The Comedy of Terrors (1964); while the trumpet solo heard over the opening credits is by Ray Anthony, the last surviving member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
Arrow Video’s UK Blu-ray debut of The Incredible Shrinking Man features an in-depth documentary on Jack Arnold; an interview with Matheson’s son, author Richard Christian Matheson; audio commentary; new sleeve artwork and a collector’s booklet; as well as a Super-8 presentation of the film.
Now it its 17th year, FrightFest will see 62 new features screening at its new home at the Vue Cinema at Shepherd’s Bush, West London, next week (25-29 August). I’ll be there throughout the weekend not only to see as much as I can (and get my retinas burned in the attempt), but also to promote the first officially licensed Vincent Price Ale in the UK – Black Cat, which is sponsoring FrightFest’s big director’s lunch, and whose label has been designed by FrightFest’s resident poster artist Graham Humphreys. I’ll also be posting my thoughts of each day’s offerings here each day.
Here’s what’s on offer….
The opening night attraction is the European Premiere of MY FATHER DIE, Sean Brosnan’s brutal and beautiful feature debut – an ultra-stylish, über violent revenge thriller that’s a calling card for Brosnan’s brilliant talents. And our closing night film is another breakneck paced masterpiece – the UK Premiere of TRAIN TO BUSAN, so join ‘The Commuting Dead’ as director Sang-ho Yeon takes you on a first class horror action thrill-ride, mixing slaughter, suspense and splatter with incredible visual élan.
In between these two banner titles are the scream of the crop from all over the globe, strongly represented in our line-up of World Premieres by the incredible Italian supercar tension-ratcheting MONOLITH, the gory Dutch treat THE WINDMILL MASSACRE, the stunning South African nightmare FROM A HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET, Tricia Lee’s creepy Canadian chiller BLOOD HUNTERS and three American shock absorbers KNUCKLEBONES, ENCLOSURE and the Eurotrashy radical BLOOD FEAST remake.
Reflecting a productive year for British horror, there are twelve UK World Premieres, including Shaun Robert Smith’s intensely powerful BROKEN, Jon Ford’s visceral revenge thriller OFFENSIVE, Wyndham Price’s dark fantasy CROW, Kate Shenton’s auto-satire EGOMANIAC, Ben Parker’s claustrophobic THE CHAMBER, Marty Stalker’s shock-doc HOSTAGE TO THE DEVIL and Andy Edward’s sun, sea and sex gore-fest IBIZA UNDEAD.
Five of the UK World Premieres make up the ‘First Blood’ strand, in which home-based directors are given a chance to shine with their debut efforts. These are: Phillip Escott’s harrowing CRUEL SUMMER, Brad Watson’s urban gang shocker HALLOW’S EVE, James Crow’s deadly HOUSE OF SALEM, Stewart Spark’s 666 Short Cuts To Hell entry THE CREATURE BELOW and Lawrie Brewster’s PTSD-inspired THE UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS.
Other festival highlights in the Main Screen strand include the European Premiere of Adam Wingard’s intense chiller of the moment, THE WOODS. destined to be one of the key horrors of 2016. We also have this year’s most ferocious possession movie in Cody Calahan’s LET HER OUT, as well as Todd William’s superb Stephen King adaptation CELL, starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. Then there is the top box office Italian sensation THEY CALL ME JEEG ROBOT, Adam Rifkin’s tour-de-force DIRECTOR’S CUT, starring Penn Jillette, Rob Zombie’s ultra-violent grindhouse slasher 31, ‘Saw’ man Darren Lynn Bousman’s graphic novel inspired ABBATOIR, Simon Rumley’s latest visionary masterpiece JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD, Jackson Stewart’s supernatural switcheroo BEYOND THE GATES, the zombie theme park hell ride THE REZORT, the full-blooded cracker RED CHRISTMAS, the cryogenic chiller REALIVE, the home invasion twister MERCY, the darkly unpredictable PET, starring Dominic Monaghan and the beguilling THE MASTER CLEANSE, with The Big Bang Theory’s Jonny Galecki and Anna Friel.
South America is rapidly becoming a major genre player and FrightFest is proud to be presenting seven specialities from Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Mexico. Daniel de la Vega’s WHITE COFFIN is co-written by FrightFest favourite Adrian Garcia Bogliano, Laura Casbe’s BENAVIDEZ’S CASE stretches surrealist boundaries, Patricio Valladares’ DOWNHILL mines H. P. Lovecraft for inspiration, THROUGH THE SHADOW puts Henry James’ classic tale of terror ‘The Turn of the Screw’ through a south of the border filter, THE SIMILARS is pure ‘Twilight Zone’ inspiration, FRANCESCA a thrilling Buenos Aires take on giallo and WE ARE THE FLESH comes with serious artistic endorsements from fellow Mexican filmmakers Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro G. Iñárritu.
The Discovery Screen strand is as bold as ever and includes a restored version of Shelden Renan’s controversial documentary THE KILLING OF AMERICA, Anna Biller’s gloriously art-directed THE LOVE WITCH, the cursed silent movie FURY OF THE DEMON, the Berlin Film Festival break-out, SHELLEY, the visionary sci-fi fantasy LOST SOLACE and the darkly hilarious ghost-busting ANOTHER EVIL. Then there’s Julian T. Pinder’s chilling murder investigation POPULATION ZERO, Martin Owen’s High-tec underground thriller terror LET’S BE EVIL, Tim Reis’ slimy creature feature BAD BLOOD: THE MOVIE and Michael Boroweic’s acute study of alien paranoia, MAN UNDERGROUND.
Plus, you can witness the stag party from hell in THE UNRAVELLING, the bad taste shenanigans of NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE, , the viral thrills of THE EVIL IN US, the vehicular chills of PARANORMAL DRIVE, the die-hard dystopia of HERE ALONE, the eye-popping shocks of FOUND FOOTAGE 3D, and the ‘goriously’ insane ATTACK OF THE LEDERHOSEN ZOMBIES.
Ahead of its FrightFest Presents DVD release, there is an encore airing for ROAD GAMES, this time with a live interactive commentary with director Abner Pastoll and a London premiere for one of the most popular movies shown earlier this year at FrightFest Glasgow, Sean Byrne’s THE DEVIL’S CANDY.
The Duke Mitchell Film Club is also back with the UK premiere of Kim Sang-Chan’s outrageously infectious KARAOKE CRAZIES and a first showing of all three episodes of the mesmerising French TV mini-series BEYOND THE WALLS.
For passes and tickets, check out: http://frightfest.nutickets.com
For the full schedule: http://www.frightfest.co.uk/2016films/schedule.html
From the master of 1950s American sci-fi, Jack Arnold, comes the science gone awry black and white horror chiller, Monster on the Campus.
‘You will see evolution in reverse’
California college professor Donald Blake (Arthur Franz) acquires a prehistoric fish fossil from Madagascar called a coelacanth, whose irradiated blood causes a dog to sprout large canines, a dragonfly to grow two-foot long, and Blake to revert into a subhuman from 100 million years ago. But when it goes on a killing spree, how long will it take for Blake to work out that it’s the beast within him that’s causing all the mayhem on his doorstep?
Man-monster Campus Terror!
If the UK’s Hammer Films were known for their Home Counties gothic horrors set in the confines of Bray Studios, then director Jack Arnold (1916-1992) was best known for setting his many of his US sci-fi’s (It Came from Outer Space, Tarantula, The Monolith Monsters) in cosy California townships, where evil alien forces cause chaos in impossibly wholesome ‘mom and Apple Pie’ communities. And the evil in question in this college town is the oozing blood from a defrosted coelacanth (or ‘silly-canth’ as it’s pronounced here) that turns our good doctor into the hairy pawed Beast of Dunsfield, but only for brief periods, in which he drags young women by the hair to their fright-induced early deaths.
Franz’s professor Blake gets nil points for health and safety awareness. He smokes while examining specimens, never wears gloves, and doesn’t even have a first aid kit in his lab. He’s also terrible at problem solving, as it takes two murders before he realises the truth.
The other characters aren’t that clued-up either, including Donald’s forgiving fiancé Madeline (played by Joanna Moore, whose real-life story is truly tragic) or the dumb detective (Judson Pratt), who thinks either a deformed maniac is responsible or someone is out to frame the professor. Wrong! He never considers the fact that Blake is always found at the scene of each crime, having blacked out, and with yet another torn shirt (a la The Hulk) to show for it. Duh!
Teen idol Troy Donahue puts in a early screen appearance as college jock Jimmy, who, along with Nancy Walters (of Blue Hawaii fame) witness the fossil’s transformation abilities in the film’s best moments, a scene in which Blake traps and kills the mutated dragonfly.
The Beast’s first transformation happens 11-minutes into the story, but we only ever see a hairy hand until the big climax, when we get that really bad joke shop mask, behind which is the legendary Hollywood stuntman Eddie Parker.
This evolutionary variant on Jekyll & Hyde isn’t the greatest sci-fi for Jack Arnold to go out on, but it does have its moments, particularly the excellent use of library music which carries the action, and the hilariously corny dialogue that includes lines like:
‘That’s impossible. Nobody’s got a footprint like that’.
‘Unless it was someone who had strange hands too’.
After this film, director Jack Arnold dabbled in comedy (The Mouse That Roared with Peter Sellers), teen exploitation (High School Confidential), westerns and light sex comedies before heading to TV, where he helmed many a childhood favourite, including Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch (he did the episode The Tiki Caves, which introduced me to a certain Mr Vincent Price), Wonder Woman and, oh dear, The Love Boat.
Monster on the Campus is out on DVD in the UK from Screenbound Pictures from 15 February 2016
From those fine purveyors of world cinema Arrow Academy comes the Jacques Rivette Collection, which brings together some of the director’s hardest to see works, each given a 2k restoration, newly translated and debuting on home video (Blu-ray and DVD) for the first time in UK.
Out 1 is one of the crowning achievements of Rivette’s remarkable career. Conceived as a television mini-series, this 13-hour monolith consists of eight feature-length episodes revolving around two theatre companies, blackmail and conspiracy. Multiple characters introduce multiple plotlines, weaving a rich tapestry across an epic runtime. Originally screened just the once in its full-length version in 1971, Out 1 was then re-conceived by Rivette as a four-and-a-half-hour feature and re-named Out 1: Spectre to acknowledge its shadow-like nature.
Complementing Out 1 are two ‘parallel films’, Duelle (une quarantaine) and Noroît (une vengeance). The former sees Rivette head into fantasy territory: the Queen of the Sun (Bulle Ogier) and the Queen of the Night (Juliet Berto) search for a magical diamond in present-day Paris. The latter is a loose adaptation of The Revenger’s Tragedy and a pirate tale, starring Geraldine Chaplin. Also included is Merry-Go-Round, in which Joe Dallesandro and Maria Schneider are summoned to Paris, kick-starting the most surreal of all Rivette’s mysteries.
Arrow Academy’s limited edition Blu-ray/DVD box-set (only 3000 copies) includes the following bonus features…
• The Mysteries of Paris: Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 Revisited – a brand-new feature length documentary featuring interviews with the cast and crew, and director Jacques Rivette.
• Scenes from a Parallel Life: Jacques Rivette Remembers – archive interview with the director, in which he discusses Duelle, Noroît and Merry-Go-Round.
• Interview with critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, who reported from the sets of both Duelle and Noroît.
• Collector’s book containing new writing on the films.