The Magnetic Monster is a 1953 independently made American black-and-white science fiction film, produced by Ivan Tors and George Van Marter, directed by Curt Siodmak and (uncredited) Herbert L. Strock, that stars Richard Carlson, King Donovan, and Jean Byron. The film was released by United Artists.
Magnetic Monster is the first episode in Ivan Tors' "Office of Scientific Investigation" (OSI) trilogy, followed by Riders to the Stars (1954) and Gog (1954).
The Magnetic Monster marked Carlson's initial foray into science fiction and horror films; he would follow it with better known titles that would forever associate him with those genres: It Came from Outer Space (1953), The Maze (1953), Riders to the Stars (1954), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), and such TV series as Thriller and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
A pair of agents from the Office of Scientific Investigation (OSI), Dr. Jeffrey Stewart (Richard Carlson) and Dr. Dan Forbes (King Donovan), are sent to investigate a local appliance store. All of the store's clocks have stopped at the same time, while metal items in the store have become magnetized. A source for this is traced to an office located directly above the store, where various scientific equipment is found, along with a dead body. There are also signs of radioactivity, but the exact cause of the store's anomalies is clearly no longer in the room or even in the immediate area.
Investigation and a request for citizen input eventually leads to an airline flight carrying a scientist, Dr. Howard Denker (Leonard Mudie), who has developed signs of radiation sickness related to something he is carrying in a heavy briefcase and which he clutches irrationally. Before dying, he confesses to experimenting with an artificial radioactive isotope, serranium, which he had bombarded with alpha particles for 200 hours (8 days and 8 hours). Unfortunately, his so-far microscopic creation has taken on a life of its own: the new isotope must absorb energy from its surroundings every 11 hours; in the process it doubles its size and mass each time, releasing deadly radiation and incredibly intense magnetic energy.
The OSI officials realize that, with its rate of growth, it will only be a matter of weeks before the isotope becomes heavy enough to affect the Earth's rotation on its axis, eventually causing it to break out of orbit. They also discover that the isotope is impervious to any known means of destruction or to rendering it inert. The only answer appears to be using a Canadian experimental power generator, dubbed the Deltatron, being constructed in a cavern under the ocean. The hope is that bombarding the isotope with so much energy in one surge that it will neutralize itself with its own "gluttony".
The two governments agree on this proposal, and the isotope is transferred to the Deltatron project, but there is a last minute objection from the engineer in charge. With no time left, the lead OSI agent, Dr. Jeffrey Stewart, commandeers the huge device, a cavern-filling, multi-story machine. He risks his life by activating it, barely escaping just before sealing off the cavern. The machine powers up and the isotope is successfully pushed beyond its limits, completely destroying it, but the Deltatron has been destroyed in the process. All trace magnetism which it had been produced after every energy absorption has now disappeared.
The Earth has been saved from destruction by the efforts of the Office of Scientific Investigation (OSI). Life returns to normal, as shown by lead OSI agent, Dr. Jeffrey Stewart and his pregnant wife Connie (Jean Byron) completing the purchase of their first house and moving in shortly thereafter.
Richard Carlson as Dr. Jeffrey Stewart
King Donovan as Dr. Dan Forbes
Jean Byron as Connie Stewart
Harry Ellerbe as Dr. Allard
Leo Britt as Dr. Benton
Leonard Mudie as Howard Denker
Byron Foulger as Mr. Simon
Michael Fox as Dr. Serny
John Zaremba as Chief Watson (as John Zarimba)
Lee Phelps as City Engineer
Watson Downs as Mayor
Roy Engel as Gen. Behan (as Roy Engle)
Frank Gerstle as Col. Willis
John Vosper as Capt. Dyer
John Dodsworth as Dr. Carthwright
Billy Benedict as Albert
Robert Carson as the Pilot (uncredited)
Donald Kerr as Nova Scotia Lab Worker (uncredited)
Kathleen Freeman as Nellie (the operator)
For the Deltatron, the film used ten minutes of footage of the atom smasher from the German science fiction thriller Gold (1934) directed by Karl Hartl and produced by UFA.
Although the music was composed by Blaine Sanford, it was actually performed by Korla Pandit (uncredited).
The Los Alamos MANIAC computer was featured in an effort to lend a scientific air to the film. The UCLA differential analyzer from the same era is also shown briefly for the same reason.