The Magnetic Monster
February 20, 2006
“Today, new dangers face mankind. Dangers, which challenge his life, threaten his very existence…” intones the solemn voiceover narration in vintage 1950’s science fiction film fashion and starts off The Magnetic Monster (1953). The voice belongs Jeff Stuart (Carlson), head of research at the Office of Scientific Investigation (OSI), a new agency created by the United States government with its operatives known as A-men and that conduct all sorts of scientific experiments.
When a local appliance store has all of their clocks stop and their appliances mysteriously magnetized, Stuart and his assistant Dan Forbes (Donovan) investigate. Through logic and scientific reasoning, they discover traces of radioactive matter on the second floor of the store. They also uncover the dead body of a man that died from a radioactive overdose.
The Magnetic Monster shows the legwork that Stuart and Forbes do during their investigation including extensive scientific testing and it’s nice to see the filmmakers take the time to show these men at work. However, after extensive research they are unable to find the source of the radioactive matter until a taxi cab driver calls from the airport complaining of his car suddenly dying after he dropped off a customer.
Thanks to Forbes’ trusty Geiger counter they figure out which passenger has the dangerous matter and what plane he’s on but this is only the beginning of their problems. Like a lot of science fiction films made in the ‘50s, The Magnetic Monster is a parable warning of the dangers of atomic power. Interestingly, the film’s heroes don’t face a convention monster but it is a viable threat nonetheless. The film does lose narrative momentum when Stuart and his wife plan their new life with their yet-to-be-born child, but it picks up again when he responds to an implosion at the local university because the element has become more powerful. As far as these kinds of films go, The Magnetic Monster is engaging and quite entertaining.