By now you’ve probably noticed that I have a weak spot for this sort of Fifties schlock.
Even when we’re talking a true “B” movie, which was intended as the bottom half of a double feature and only a little more than an hour long.
And, I’ll note, one put out by Columbia, one of the most notoriously cheap major studios in the Hollywood of the day
A series of bizarre earthquakes rock the world, and our usual team of genius scientists discovers that this is because of a previously unknown element — element 112 — which expands when it absorbs nitrogen from the air. It has pushed its way up from the depths of the Earth and is now lifting the tectonic plates all around the world.
Fortunately Dr. David Conway (the bland and unexciting William Leslie) has invented a device that allows him to predict and understand these quakes, so he and his team rush off to Carlsbad Caverns to try to understand the quakes and find some way to stop them.
But they only have 28 days to do it!
The idea of a deadly mineral reminds me of the far more extravagant Jack Arnold produced The Monolith Monsters. I’m not sure whether there is any connection however: after all, Universal released The Monolith Monsters in the same year, and it’s hard to believe that Columbia could have ripped it off and got their version into the theaters in the same year.
Although I suppose it isn’t completely impossible.
William Leslie had a lot of minor parts, but few leading roles, even in science fiction films. However, he’s backed up by Tristram Coffin, who starred in a ridiculous number of Serials — and even played Rocket Man.
Far more interesting, however, is Laura, the usual decorative female we find working in so many of these Fifties research laboratories. We’ve heard so much about the misogyny of these Fifties science fiction films, although if you look closely a lot of them don’t fit the stereotype particularly well. In this case, Laura is a scientist and a valued member of the team, whose contributions to the project are essential to their success.
Mind you, the feminists out there still won’t be happy with her because she’s about to leave because she wants to get married but her idiot boss is too thick to notice that she’s been panting after him like an English Sheepdog on the hottest day of the summer who’s spotted a swimming pool.
Although it is interesting to note that there were professional women with ticking biological clocks in the movies before the Eighties.
They clearly didn’t have anywhere near the budget of The Monolith Monsters, but they do manage to make it all look more impressive than it is, thanks to a lot of location shooting at Carlsbad Caverns, and vast quantities of stock footage of real-life disasters. Nor should you be too impressed by the model sequence of the destruction of a dam as it was borrowed from one of Republic’s pictures. Mind you, it looks great, but that’s because it was created by Republic’s resident effects masters, the Lydecker Brothers.
It’s not much. But then, its main job was to fill time, so that isn’t exactly a surprise. It is, however, short and moves quickly. Yes, the science is utterly absurd, but when you consider that Columbia released it on a double bill with a movie about a Godzilla-sized bird that can fly faster than sound, I’m sure no one noticed.
Those who love Fifties science fiction will need to see this one.
And, let’s face it, we’re a hardy bunch, so you should survive it.
Heck, you might even enjoy it.