Cosmic Monsters (1958)

Hi all, Nate here with another Youtube find, picked solely because the print quality is so good and the girls are pretty (I have low standards…). Our movie’s plot is fairly typical of sci-fi b-movies of the era, especially those that came out after The Day the Earth Stood Still and in those terrifying days in the 1950s when lab-coat scientists across the world were building bigger and bigger atomic bombs to kill us all. The general thought was that in our pursuit of scientific advancement we’d end up destroying the planet, pretty understandable, and that fear was reflected in the movies of the day. MMT is full of reviews of similar films, where some well-meaning, but misguided, scientist is creating a doomsday technology that gets out of control and the Earth is saved in the nick of time by a square-jawed man and a girl in a torpedo bra.

Newspapers give us exposition.

Magnetism is our film’s featured scientific advancement gone rouge, specifically the technology to shoot powerful magnetic beams across distances to, presumably, knock Rooskie bombers out of the sky and preserve democracy and freedom across the land. The 1940s and 50s were a time when there was a lot of research into such “death rays”, and a great deal of money was sunk into efforts to weaponize invisible forces such as magnetism. As our movie opens, at an isolated manor house in the English countryside, such dangerous tests are being conducted.

Everything is better with gauges.

The brains behind the operation is your stereotypical “mad” scientist with an ill-fitting lab coat, slicked back hair, crazy eyes, and a case of undiagnosed Aspergers Syndrome. His assistants are a tall, goofy American guy and a smoldering hot French girl with cute hipster glasses and a sexy accent. It will come as no surprise that the two assistants end up falling in love. And it will also come as no surprise that the mad scientists only loves his battery capacitors and his slide rules and his “work”.

The scientist on his lab set.

Our soon-to-be couple.

Most of the action should concentrate on these three, but it doesn’t (sigh). When it comes to the first act of most movies, there’s a razor fine line between “time well spent on ancillary character development” and “oh my god this is sooooo boring”, a line that’s set depending on what your personal attention span might be and what your tolerance is for “people talking” and “things not exploding enough”. In this film there are way, way too many people with speaking roles for the scant 71 minute long running time. There’s the mad scientist’s boss, his boss, and his boss’ liaison to the lab, all of whom get substantial screen time and dialogue for some reason. As well, in the local town we get to know the barkeep, the cop, a middle-age couple, some other couple, the new schoolmarm, a local lady and her bucktooth daughter, and even a bum living in a van down by the river. All these characters get a few minutes each of time (some more) for us to learn little bits of their life history, a line here and a line there, few of which serve to advance the plot that much. They could have combined all these secondary characters into one person, say a friendly and talkative deliveryman who brings milk to the lab and lets them know what’s going on in the outside world, and devoted all that wasted time to getting to know our scientists more. It’s my common complaint for b-movies, too many names and faces, and Cosmic Monsters is one of the worst offenders I’ve seen in a while.

I don‘t care who you are.

Go get your own movie.

The only interesting secondary character is…ugh, an “alien” who looks just like a 35-year old British dude with a goatee, who has come from…ugh, “Planet X” to investigate the mad scientist’s magnetism experiments. It seems that his advanced, space-faring civilization and their spinning-top UFOs have been watching the Earth since we humans came out of the primordial ooze but have only now thought it wise to step in. Messing with magnetism might cause all sorts of Extinction Level Events, from flipping poles to comic ray bombardment, and the aliens have made it their business (why?) to stop it.

The little girl meets the “alien“.

One of the side-effects of the experiments is that the local insect life has been mutated into giants by the localized cosmic rays (or something). So we have about ten minutes of car-sized bugs attacking the locals and being assaulted in turn by a platoon of soldiers with plinky rifles. The optical effects here are just terrible, but no worse than what you’d expect for the era, the technology, and the budget. It’s unfair of me to bag on these old movies for the laughable special effects work, because they were actually doing the best they could with what they had to work with (but I still will make fun of them because that’s what I do…).

Many grasshoppers were harmed in the filming of this movie...

So, anyway, we’re down to the last five minutes or so before the plot is finally resolved. The alien dude calls down a UFO to destroy the manor house with the mad scientist inside, destroying his machines and all his research along with him. The alien then leaves and the American guy and the French hottie hug and all is well. Until next year when ten other labs across the world start up with the same sort of magnetism experiments, causing the aliens to just throw up their hands in frustration and leave us to destroy ourselves. Stupid humans.

The UFO zaps the house.

By the way, the title of this film was clearly picked by the studio and not by the production team, because it has absolutely nothing to do with the actual plot. The title makes it seem like we’re being invaded by monsters from Planet X, but the actual alien planet is only mentioned in passing and all the bugs are indigenous to this one little English town. A better title would have been The Day the Earth Stood Still 2: This Time it’s Magnets!.

I love 1950s fashions.

The End.

Written in February 2015 by Nathan Decker.

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