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DVD Review: The Magnetic Monster

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Hungarian-born writer/producer Ivan Tors isn’t a widely-known name, though several projects he made (or worked on) have become cult favorites over the years. He produced and created several classics for both film and television, including Sea Hunt, Flipper, and Daktari — which featured two of his very favorite things in life: the sea and animals. Another of his favorite obsessions involved science, which he employed in a trilogy of sci-fi tales in the early ‘50s. All three films centered on operatives of the Office of Scientific Investigation (OSI), who were employed to protect the public from any weird scientific mishaps.

Naturally, you can’t have a group called the Office of Scientific Investigation without having any freakish occurrences threatening to destroy civilization as we know it, as is evident in the first of the three films, The Magnetic Monster. Penned by Tors and sci-fi guru Curt Siodmak (Donovan’s Brain), the tale here concerns of the OSI’s “A-Men,” led by Dr. Jeffrey Stewart (portrayed by Richard Carlson, who also starred in It Came from Outer Space that same year, and appeared in Creature from the Black Lagoon the next), who encounter a bizarre mystery in the guise of an invisible, magnetic menace.

While you wouldn’t think a rogue magnet was capable of destroying the planet, this one is. The microscopic monster has to absorb energy in order to expand, and it does so every 11 hours, doubling in size each time and leaving a deadly trail of radiation behind — a process that will eventually kill all life on Earth and send the planet itself spiraling out into the galaxy! Though the story uses of a lot of “scientific” doubletalk just to ensure the seriousness of the narrative, The Magnetic Monster emerges as an odd-but-enjoyable low-budget sci-fi flick. King Donovan and Jean Byron (as Carlson’s pregnant wife, whom he insists get fat) co-star, with appearances by Byron Foulger, Bowery Boy Billy Benedict, Frank Gerstle, Strother Martin, and Donald Kerr.

Co-writer Curt Siodmak is also credited as director, but in reality Herbert L. Strock helmed most of the movie, as his skill at editing came in handy since The Magnetic Monster uses a lot of stock footage from several other projects — most notably the 1934 German sci-fi shocker, Gold (the entire ending of The Magnetic Monster relies heavily on another film, with actors dressed to match the German actors, and whom are only seen in long shots!). The following year, the same production team would bring us Riders to the Stars (which Carlson starred in as well as directed) and a 3D wonder, Gog.

Though it has been issued on home video before by several mail-order and low-budget distributors, MGM presents us with the first “official” DVD release of The Magnetic Monster as part of its Limited Edition Collection (Gog was also released the same month as this one — we’ve yet to see Riders to the Stars as of this writing). The image and audio quality for this presentation is the best you’re likely to find and — although the movie hasn’t been remastered — it looks and sounds wonderful. The original theatrical trailer is also included in this Manufactured-on-Demand title.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.