In the desert town of San Angelo, the local geologist (Ben) meets up with Martin Cochrane, the editor of the local paper. Marty is pissing and moaning about how he doesn’t belong in the desert and that the sleepy little town of San Angelo has no need for a newspaper because nothing ever happens, though that crazy black rock Ben just brought back from the desert looks interesting, but it’s probably nothing, because nothing ever happens in this crappy little sleepy desert town!
Later that night, an ill-wind wind blows through San Angelo and causes one of those dang lab accidents that usually result in a caveman being thawed out or a guy getting infected so that he turns into a human alligator or something. This time, the incident is frighteningly innocuous as a beaker of water gets tipped over and spilled onto Ben’s pet rock!
Ben hears the commotion in his lab and fearing that his pet rock has gotten loose, goes to investigate. Congratulations Ben! You have the honor of the being first victim of the murderously malevolent Monolith Monsters!
But what are they? Where do they come from? What do they want? What can stop their terrifying power? What is their terrifying power?
And with Ben out of the picture can anyone halt the deadly space stones from doing whatever it is they do? Well you don’t expect that the sleepy little desert town of San Angelo went into all this without having a spare geologist hanging around, did you?
That’s right! The Department of the Interior was way overstaffed in the late fifties and thus San Angelo sports two scientists. I’m guessing that that was just some type of cold war backup plan. You never want your sleepy desert town to be without a geologist and thus be ripe for the Fifth Column’s pinko picking!
Grant Williams (The Incredible Shrinking Man) plays geologist Dave Miller. He doesn’t leave much of an impression since most of what passes for action in the film revolves around him sitting around the lab trying to figure out what do with all these killer rocks.
There is a big “blowing up the dam” scene at the end of the film, but he has uncredited extra Troy Donahue and some other guys do that while he’s safely hanging around Main Street radioing the “blow it!” order.
In any case, Ben is dead and no one seems to know why. He’s all hardened and fused together and even worse, the lab is a total wreck!
Marty finally has his big story, but he can’t print it because it would cause a panic. You know, the kind of panic we all go into when we hear that a local geologist died in his lab during a freak rock accident.
Meanwhile, Dave’s schoolteacher girlfriend Cathy has a student who picked up a rock on a field trip and Dave and Cathy realize that she might be in danger and boogie over to her place, but it’s too late!
The place has been reduced to rubble and there’s lots of big black rocks everywhere. They also find her student and her arm is turning all dark and hard.
Next stop is L.A. where the world’s foremost expert on diagnosing victims of close encounters with killer space rocks reside. Just as we thought! The kid’s had all her silicon drained out of her. That usually wouldn’t be too big problem for most women in L.A. since they have high concentrations of silicon (or am I thinking of silicone?) in them, but for a little kid from a sleepy desert town, it could be deadly!
Once the kid is saved through an infusion of silicon, it’s up to geologist Dave to save the day. He gets the recipe that the L.A. doctor used to save the kid and declares that if that formula is a way to cure people then it must also somehow contain the answer of how to defeat the Monolith Monsters!
Of course it doesn’t work. Finally, once geologist Dave tries everything he can think of, including throwing his pen in disgust, he has a breakthrough.
The saline solution that the formula was suspended in when the L.A. doctor concocted it must be the answer! Why? Beats me, I’m no geologist. If it made any sense to us regular folks, then you wouldn’t need a high school diploma to become a government geologist now would you? Besides, can you really argue with a plan that involves blowing up a dam to flood some salt flats?
The film follows that whole “1950s monster invasion movie” template so precisely that it fails to realize that sometimes the monster you’re battling doesn’t really lend itself well to that particular outline. Let’s face it – the Monolith Monsters are just a bunch of crummy rocks. They have no personality and aren’t particularly terrifying – they don’t touch on some primal fear we have like with spiders or paranoia like with pod people. They’re rocks.
Is there anyone that walks by a rock and shudders thinking “thank goodness those things are so small and so immobile! I can’t even imagine what would happen if the rocks came alive!”
My idea of scary and/or entertaining isn’t hanging out at the lab while Dave and his professor buddy babble endlessly about silica interspersed with shots of rocks just laying ominously around. There are also shots of the rocks growing out of the ground, but they get only so tall, then collapse into little pieces and eventually start growing again.
If I was geologist Dave, I would have just gotten out the Shop-Vac and sucked those little bastards up, but I’m probably just silicon deficient or something.
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