• Magnetic Monster, The (Kino Blu-Ray)



    Released By: Kino Lorber
    Released On: June 14, 2016
    Director: Curt Siodmak
    Cast: Richard Carlson, King Donovan, Jean Byron
    Year: 1953
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    The Movie:

    When I was a kid, I found a book on my grandfather's shelf called, "Atomic Energy in the Coming Era". Published in 1945, this book took into account the leaps and bounds made in atomic energy made popular (or not so popular, if you were in Japan) by the events of World War II, and attempted to paint a vision of the future that would be made possible by such scientific advances. Rendered obsolete by the time that I found it in the early 80's, it was still effective as a souvenir of a time when the public's interest was held at attention by this powerful new technology.

    The trend was also evident in many films of the 1950's, sci-fi pictures that told stories of space travel, alien beings from other universes, and common insects and other creatures mutated and turned into giant insects and creatures with enhanced abilities made possible by radiation. 1953's The Magnetic Monster attempts to tell such a story, with a slightly different twist that may have been affected by the film's independent status and budgetary restraints.

    Conceived as the first of a franchise involving a group of dedicated scientists, The Magnetic Monster introduces us to Dr. Jeffrey Stewart (Richard Carlson), a scientist from the Office of Scientific Investigation, a group concerned with atomic technology. Dubbed the "A-Men", with the "A" standing for "Atom", these scientists function much as the FBI's G-Men, investigating cases and using their well-trained brains to solve issues that no one else can...such as combating radiation from outer space and other terrors.

    With a new baby on the way and his eye on purchasing a brand new house with a little patch of grass out back, Dr. Stewart seems to not have a care in the world; until he and his partner Dan Forbes (King Donovan) discover sudden elevated radiation levels in the area. This radiation coincides with strange happenings at the Simon Hardware store in town, where the staff has discovered that all watches and clocks have stopped, and heavy metal objects are stuck together by a powerful magnetic force. The OSI deploy Stewart and Forbes to the store, where they find a dead man in an upstairs makeshift laboratory, and chaotic radiation levels with their geiger counter. Concerned that a rogue magnetic element has been let loose that will grow in size, the police cordon off the city with orders to shoot to kill (hahaha, what?) in an attempt to find the criminal element.

    A call from a cabbie with a seized engine gets them a little bit closer when he tells the A-Men that he delivered a man with a brown briefcase to the airport, but panic takes root when they realize that this magnetic element could cause the plane to fall from the sky. Gaining possession of the briefcase is only the first step; with growing power, the magnetic monster manages to cause huge implosions and structural collapses, and the army is brought in when Stewart reveals that this atomic threat will eventually throw the Earth off of its axis, sending it spinning into outer space! With the smartest minds of the United States failing to find a solution, and a large, punch-cardy supercomputer confused by this menace, the A-Men to their only potential salvation; CANADA.

    In this age of stupidly bloated film budgets and monstrously overused CGI visual effects, it's difficult to picture a time when a film such as The Magnetic Monster would have been effective or well-received. This is not a film that uses rubber masks, rear-screen projection, or even tiny models to fool the audience; the audience NEVER SEES THE ENEMY. Sure, things stick together...we see some shots of stopped clocks...and there's even a room full of debris, and a man with bleeding gums. But the Magnetic Monster itself, the "Cosmic Frankenstein" that "Terrorizes Earth!", is an unseen element in a suitcase. And so, for the short run time of 75 minutes, we have people reacting to this terror, which works both for and against the film.

    I'm sure that back in 1953, the unseen threat was effective, and the idea of such an event occurring was real and terrifying. Today...not so much. Jaded audiences today (I've often got one foot in that camp, myself) are probably going to scratch their heads and occasionally check their watches while Stewart and Forbes run around in a panic. That being said, this works for the film in today's environment as the amusement factor takes over; ridiculous theories abound (think of Vincent Price describing the science of the Tingler), scientists stare at screens with concerned over-reaction, supercomputers spit out punch cards that technicians hurriedly stack and feed into another computer, and the public responds accordingly. Add in a police response that involves shooting to kill, some non-magnetic aircraft alloy, and an element that can turn an entire ocean into steel, and you've got head-shaking entertainment. Thankfully short, The Magnetic Monster is a 75-minute window into the past, when you could entertain with a simple, wacky premise.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Kino brings The Magnetic Monster to Blu-ray in a 1.37:1 AVC-encoded transfer that looks great for a film that was made over sixty years ago. Black levels are good, contrast is also nice, and despite some instances of dirt, debris and other damage, it's never to the point where it takes away from the enjoyment. Audio is provided from a stereo LPCM track that also sounds good, with no apparent distortion or hissing/popping. Dialogue is clear at all times, avoiding the muffling that often accompanies pictures this old.

    There are no subtitles provided.

    Extras are provided in the form of four Trailers...The Magnetic Monster, Donovan's Brain, Invisible Invaders, and Journey To The Seventh Planet, and we also get a feature-length commentary from Fangoria writer and Argento biographer Derek Botelho. Wordy and informative, Botelho discusses a number of topics including Richard Carlson's success in sci-fi and horror films, the budget and funding for The Magnetic Monster, and the concept of the A-Men as a series. Although Botelho gets a little boring at times, such as when he reads from texts pertaining to the film, the commentary is worth the listen.

    The Final Word:

    Bizarre and entertaining, The Magnetic Monster is a curio from a forgotten age, well preserved and presented in this Blu-ray package.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





















    Comments 2 Comments
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Good review, Mark!
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Cheers, Chris!