Review of “The Magnetic Monster ” (1953)

trailer from YouTube

This is our Saturday pizza and bad movie offering, the first of three movies following the doings of the (fictional) “Office of Scientific Investigation” (OSI). The two other later flicks are Riders to the Stars (1954) and Gog (1954).


The opening narration tells the viewer about “new dangers” facing humanity’s existence: sound frequencies that can penetrate the human brain and destroy life, “deadly isotopes of unknown elements” that “burn and sear the flesh,” and “pilotless aircraft crashing the sonic barrier can gain complete mastery over the skies.”

“To meet this challenge to our existence, a new agency has been formed, OSI, the Office of Scientific Investigation. The operatives of the OSI are called A-men.” Not G-men, but A-men.

After reminding—or nagging— his pregnant wife Connie (Jean Byron) about her doctor’s appointment, A-man Dr. Jeffrey Stewart (Richard Carlson) kisses her good-bye outside the office and goes to work. Once inside, he greets coworker Dr. Dan Forbes (King Donovan), who tells him about climbing radiation levels in air samples he has received.

Meanwhile, in an unassuming appliance store in town, Mr. Simons (Byron Foulger) berates clerk Albert (William “Billy” Benedict) for letting the clocks in the display case run down and show the wrong time… but even the electric clock shows the wrong time. The pots and pans are all magnetized. Magnetic doors on the front-loading washers (or maybe dryers?) open and close. A push lawnmower rolls down the aisle on its own. What’s a taxpaying appliance store owner to do? Call the power company, of course, who will then pass the hot potato onto the A-men of the OSI.

Jeff and Dan’s investigation leads them to a lab above the appliance store, where one man lies dead of radiation poisoning. With Geiger counters, they find an empty lead-lined container. It’s hot. But where has the source of the radiation/magnetism gone?

Further investigation leads to a Dr. Denker (Leonard Mudie), who’s leaving town on a plane. The strong magnetism endangers the working of the engines. He’s dying but tells Jeff that he bombarded selenium (or perhaps “serrenium”—whatever that is?) with alpha particles. He also cautions to keep the new element under constant electrical current. It’s hungry. It’s a monster that will reach out with its “magnetic arm” and take the energy it wants. What Dr. Denker doesn’t get around to telling Jeff is why he did such a thing in the first place.

Jeff oversees the removal of the element to the state university. Later, alas! there is a disaster resulting in deaths. (“Not an explosion,” the viewer is told helpfully, “but an explosion in reverse. An implosion.”)

The element is unstable and needs an increasing amount of energy to avoid a crisis. Of course, the need for increasing amounts of energy itself is a crisis.


The science in this is goofy. Magnetism and radiation are not related. I confess I don’t know what would happen if someone bombarded selenium with alpha particles, but probably not the events of this movie.

Setting all that aside, I thought this was a lot of fun. Besides being bizarre, the early scene in the hardware store is cute. Things show up the stodgy old boss. The visuals are weird and a bit loopy, too.

The A-men eventually seek help from a colleague in Nova Scotia, who had overseen the creation of “deltatron,” located in an old mine dug deep under the earth and the Atlantic Ocean. The deltatron can generate enough power to “overfeed” the isotope and kill it, Jerry hopes, although this is not without risk.

The deltatron itself is reminiscent of the 20s film Metropolis. It is, in fact, borrowed footage from a 1934 German film about modern alchemists titled Gold. The biggest giveaway for me was the iron cross at the end of the plunger Jerry must push to get the deltratron to go critical. The word “Danger” appears on the side of it. I don’t believe iron crosses are big decorations in Nova Scotia.

Footage of the MANIAC I (Mathematical Analyzer Numerical Integrator and Automatic Computer Model I) is also shown at work with vacuum tubes and punch cards. This did exist once upon a time at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. In the movie, it analyzes the properties of the new element. In the meantime, a hand with a pencil makes notes on a pad covered with calculations. This is how the A-men of the OSI learn when the element will go critical again. Nifty nonsense.

The tension rises to a perhaps predictable climax near the end. The OSI pursue nullification of the element as if it were an elusive enemy. The element is inanimate, but the characters attribute malice and murder to it. Without being noir, the film also has a noir-ish feel to it.

Just before the credits roll, Jerry and Connie move into their new house. She is visibly pregnant. Jerry pauses to ponder the beauty of creation when it involves love (huh?) and the horrible results when evil intent is involved.

I liked this movie, despite its unbelievable and paternalistic aspects.

I could not find it available for free download.

Title: The Magnetic Monster (1953)

Directed by
Curt Siodmak
Herbert L. Strock…(uncredited)

Writing Credits
Curt Siodmak…(screenplay) and
Ivan Tors…(screenplay)

Cast (in credits order)
Richard Carlson…Dr. Jeffrey Stewart
King Donovan…Dr. Dan Forbes
Jean Byron…Connie Stewart
Harry Ellerbe…Dr. Allard
Leo Britt…Dr. Benton
Leonard Mudie…Howard Denker

Released: February 18, 1953
Length: 1 hour, 16 minutes

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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