The Magnetic Monster (1953) — Forget communism, magnets were always the true enemy

“It’s hungry! It has to be fed constantly – or it will reach out its magnetic arm and grab at anything within its reach and kill it!”

Tom’s rating: 3.5 Deltatrons out of 5 Deltatrons!

Tom’s review: I like a good B&W sci-fi schlock spoof. The gags are typically heavy handed. The monsters are B-grade goofy. The dialog usually plays on the goofy innocence of the ’50s. I love it. If you’re a movie producer making a schlock, then (1) I want to be in it (it’s a life goal of mine to be in one of these movies), and (2) You should probably take a look at The Magnetic Monster for some original, unintentionally schlocky fun.

The opening scene treats you with some “spooky” static while an old-timey radio voice narrates you through the premise of an imaginary governmental agency known as the OSI. Not the “Office of Special Investigations” that was established in the ’70s . . . no friends, this is the Office of Scientific Investigation made up of special agents known as A-men. I was rolling, and it fully acknowledges the weird religious pun in the name. You see, the A-men all know the power of the Atom, as A-men is not just the closing words of a prayer, but is also short for an “atom-man.”

We’re soon introduced to our top notch A-man, scientist and detective hero rolled into one, Dr. Jeff Stewart. I imagine Dr. Stewart was supposed to be in his 20s, but he looked solidly in his 30s . . . and after a make-out car scene with his wife, we soon learn that she’s four months pregnant. This becomes a weird, comedic theme throughout the rest of the movie as he constantly tries to fatten her up and talks about how skinny she is for being pregnant.

With films like this, sometimes it feels like they’re just making stuff up as they go along, and that’s part of the beauty. I imagine the thought was a little like . . . “Man, we got a knock-out for our leading lady, but she’s not pregnant! That’s ok, we’ll make it a running gag that she’s so skinny! By George, you’re a genius!”

Cut to Simon’s Hardware store, where suddenly all the appliances are acting possessed and all the clocks are frozen to the same time! What’s going on? A push mower almost mows down the entire staff of the store as it invisibly rushes forward! Simon knows just who to call . . . The Office of Power and Light! The Office of Power and Light is baffled at Simon’s report, but they know just who to call . . . THE A-MEN! One note here: The guy at the office of power and light is named “Watt-son.” I audibly belly laughed at the name, and it was clear that I wasn’t supposed to.

When Dr. Stewart and his hip side kick Dr. Forbes get on the scene, they break out all the special gadgets and we’re treated to some old timey movie magic effects that all fake “super magnetism.” My favorite gags were when they threw a handful of washers up to the ceiling where they magically stuck (most likely just flipped the footage upside down on a fake ceiling tile) and when an iron slid across the countertop after it was taken out of its box . . . never mind that the magnetic forces all over the room seemed to do absolutely nothing to the iron while it was still in its thin cardboard packaging. Smoke and mirrors, friends! Smoke and mirrors!

Dr. Stewart and Dr. Forbes find a dead man in the hardware store’s upstairs. The Geiger Counter identified him as 100 percent irradiated. For some reason it was time to call the cops when they deduced they were dealing with . . . a mysterious “element!” The cops were called, and in a glorified call for excessive violence, were told to shoot to kill anything within a block radius, and Dr. Stewart was 100 percent serious about the threat from “the element,” which caused me great pleasure.

The A-men took all the data back their “electronic brain” where they surprisingly used an old telephone like a modem hooked up to a typewriter to transmit their data. Their data was then translated by a sinister sounding computer named “MANIAC.” As you learn later, MANIAC is an acronym for Mathematical Analyzer Numerical Integrator and Computer. Is it just me or was the MANIA part completely unnecessary when they named the MANIAC?

This movie has so many unintentionally funny moments, like when the scientist who created the mysterious element was trying to escape on a plane. They use a blind man’s cane to drag it to the back of the plane so the engines didn’t magnetize and cause a crash, only to confiscate the blind man’s cane later and leave him completely helpless. When the evil scientist who created the element dies on the plane, his haunting last words were, “In nuclear research, there’s no place for lone wolves.” Look! If you happen to be a nuclear researcher in real life, you need these words on a T-shirt!

Eventually Dr. Stewart and his A-men friends finally get to analyze the now “captured” mystery element, and the MANIAC does, what the MANIAC was built to do, which is to mathematically analyze numbers, integrate them, and be a computer. What they discover is that this new element the evil scientist created is something akin to what caused the big bang that created the universe, and IT’S HUNGRY!

As it turns out the only way to stop this element from exploding is to feed it electricity every 11 hours. Then, as it turns out, the only way to stop this element is to divide it in half, by using electricity! My friends, this mind-bending science puzzle never ceases!

The only location that can split this element in two is a magnificent power station located in — get this — Canada! Dr. Stewart and friends then frantically fly to Nova Scotia, descend 1,700 feet under sea level, and are shown the “Deltatron.”

When Benton, the plucky Canadian in charge of the Deltatron finds out what Dr. Stewart is trying to do, he’s . . . pretty upset. I mean, the Deltatron has only ever gone to 600 Million Volts of output, and crazy Dr. Stewart wants to push the Danger plunger down all the way to 900 Million Volts?! At first Benton relents when his government tells him to, but then he goes rogue and sabotages the floodgates protecting 400 men from certain doom because he wants to force Dr. Stewart to shut down the Deltatron due to this moral dilemma.

At this point, in my mind, I’m psyched. I’m hoping beyond all belief that Benton gets locked in with both the element and the Deltatron and becomes a super mutant known as “The Magnetic Monster.” It’s a perfectly strange and wonderful build up to create a weird Magneto-esque monster. My hopes once again escalated when Dr. Stewart manages to get the flood gates closed and Benton does in fact get locked into the room with the element and the Deltatron! All I could think in my mind was, are they going to do it? Are they going to do it?! Please do it!!

Yeah. They didn’t do it. What a let down, and that is this movie’s major flaw and also major triumph. A sci-fi horror movie named The Magnetic Monster that doesn’t have a traditional monster. Teenagers in the ’50s must have been pissed. They did, however, show several seconds of explosions as Nova Scotia takes a beating from 1,700 feet below, and I guess Benton just dies? So there you have it friends, Canada paid the price, but the world is saved from the Magnetic Monster, which was only visible under a electron microscope.

What we’re left with in the movie is Dr. Stewart and his wife finally purchasing the home of their dreams. The element was successfully destroyed and a second big bang was averted. whew.

And then my favorite line in the movie happened, and let me tell you, I have quite a few new favorite lines now thanks to this movie. Dr. Stewart turns to his wife and has the most amazing Jack Handy deep thought of his life, and that is, “Multiplication, done through love, is beautiful and can create a baby, but multiplication that comes from fear or hate only results in a monster.” I love it. I’ve used it twice already on my youngest son as he was doing his math homework for the night.

Can I please convince someone to redo The Magnetic Monster and do it right at the end? Please? I’ll be here patiently waiting to give that movie 5 Deltatrons out of 5 Deltatrons when that happens.

Didja notice?

  • The real monster here was the lack of cultural diversity. White people . . . white people everywhere!
  • When they showed the element under a microscope, it pretty much was just a couple sparklers.
  • The only way they tracked down the evil scientist was by using a Gieger Counter on an Airline Trip Insurance portal at the Airport . . . flying used to be that terrifying, eh?
  • Richard Carlson, who played Dr. Stewart, also managed to land 3 sci-fi thriller movies from 1953 to 1954: The Magnetic Monster, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and It Came from Outer Space.
  • Great segment where Dr. Stewart and his wife talk about how to spend their under $3,000 in savings on a down payment for a house and some furniture as well . . . but it wasn’t enough to also cover blinds for the house.
  • Dr. Forbes said “yo” as a line in this film. I had no idea “yo” was a thing in 1953!
  • The accent they used for Canadians was . . . British? I guess no one really knew what Canadians sounded like until Strange Brew came out.

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