30 October 2010

Geological Frightfest: The Monolith Monsters

Posted by Jessica Ball

Poster for The Monolith Monsters

Lee Allison at Arizona Geology deserves credit for inspiring the last movie in the Frightfest series – in his post from June about the Piranha 3D movie, he also mentioned The Monolith Monsters. Again, it’s another 1950s movie I haven’t had the chance to see, but I’ll definitely have to remedy that if I can…guess what’s next on the Netflix queue? With a title like that, though, I couldn’t resist looking it up. And boy, this one is a doozy. Here’s the IMDB summary:

A strange black meteor crashes near the town of San Angelo and litters the countryside with fragments. When a storm exposes these fragments to water, they grow into skyscraper-sized monoliths which then topple and shatter into thousands of pieces that grow into monoliths themselves and repeat the process. Any humans in the way are crushed or turned into human statues. The citizens of San Angelo desperately try to save themselves and the world from the spreading doom.

Wikipedia also expands on this with some dirt on some of the main characters, who happen to be geologists (though apparently not very good at on-the-fly rock identification):

In the desert region of San Angelo, California, geologist Ben Gilbert brings a strange black rock back to his office, where he and bored local reporter Martin Cochrane examine it but fail to determine its origin. That night, a strong wind blows a bottle of water over onto the rock, which begins to bubble and smolder. The next day, the head of the geological office, Dave Miller, returns to town from a business trip and finds the office destroyed by a huge growth of black rock and Ben dead, in a rock-hard, apparently petrified state.

Things certainly go downhill from there. The rocks spread via the pockets of students on a geology field trip, and pretty soon folks are turning into stone left and right. Not only are the rocks sucking silica out of people, but coming into contact with water allows them to grow and multiply. (Since humans only contain trace amounts of silica, these are obviously not very smart rocks.) The geologists eventually figure out that these are evil outer space rocks, and that salt water (???) will stop their growth. I won’t tell you the thrilling conclusion, although it’s there in the Wikipedia summary (spoiler alert!) if you want to read it.

This movie is impressive not only for the fact that it has evil space rocks sucking the silica out of people, but for its fantastically corny (and geologically incorrect) dialog. Here are a few gems:

“The desert’s full of things that don’t belong. Take the salt here. Used to be an ocean bed. Now that ocean knew that the middle of a desert was a pretty silly place for it to be, so it just dried up and went away.”

“You’ve got to remember, Dave, when this hit our atmosphere, it burned at such a fantastic temperature, that its metal-bearing compounds could have been altered – left ready to activate, to grow!”

“From infinity they come. Meteors! Another strange calling card from the limitless regions of space – its substance unknown, its secrets unexplored. The meteor lies dormant in the night – waiting!”

Okay, the last one wasn’t wrong, but I just had a mental image of a lurking meteor(ite), and it looked something like this:

Watch out, folks. Those space rocks will get you.