Tag Archives: John Sherwood

The Monolith Monsters (1957, John Sherwood)

Against the odds, The Monolith Monsters almost comes together in the finale. The special effects are good, there’s a lot of tension, none of the acting is too bad. And then the end flops. I want to blame director Sherwood, maybe screenwriters Norman Jolley and Robert M. Fresco, maybe editor Patrick McCormack, maybe producer Howard Christie; I can’t blame any of them in particular because The Monolith Monsters sputtering out is all their faults. Technically speaking, only Ellis W. Carter’s photography is adequate throughout. Even the special effects take a while to come together because they’re poorly paced. The movie’s actually not though. The movie moves at a good pace, though it does lose “lead” Grant Williams too often.

Williams is fine. He doesn’t save the movie but he doesn’t do anything bad in his part, which is an achievement in this picture. Lola Albright’s bad as his girlfriend. Les Tremayne is likable but not good as the town reporter. Oh, Albright’s a school teacher. She’s better as the school teacher than as Williams’s squeeze and she’s terrible as the school teacher. Trevor Bardette is likable but not good as Williams’s college professor. Harry Jackson probably gives the best performance in the film, though an uncredited William Schallert has a ball as a fastidious weatherman.

The writing is fairly lame. Lots of expository dialogue, which director Sherwood can’t get his actors to convey naturally. Some of the problem is the script, some Sherwood, some the actors. Phil Harvey’s Williams’s sidekick and he’s bad whenever he has to talk, but endearing when he’s just moving around the set. It’s weird, but then the film keeps going and other performances are weak and unsupported by the direction and it makes sense. Everything wrong with The Monolith Monsters makes perfect sense.

Except the screw-up at the end. Everything building to it–and some of the scenery gets set up at the film’s open and then more in that weak expository dialogue–it goes seamlessly for almost all of it and then stalls. It’s a problematic but winning special effects sequence. It needs support from the rest of the film and it doesn’t get it. It’s silly. The Monolith Monsters is silly and it shouldn’t be and it ruins a lot of the movie.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Sherwood; screenplay by Norman Jolley and Robert M. Fresco, based on a story by Jack Arnold and Fresco; director of photography, Ellis W. Carter; edited by Patrick McCormack; produced by Howard Christie; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Grant Williams (Dave Miller), Lola Albright (Cathy Barrett), Les Tremayne (Martin Cochrane), Trevor Bardette (Prof. Arthur Flanders), Phil Harvey (Ben Gilbert), William Flaherty (Police Chief Dan Corey), Harry Jackson (Dr. Steve Hendricks), Richard H. Cutting (Dr. E.J. Reynolds) and Linda Scheley (Ginny Simpson).


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The Creature Walks Among Us (1956, John Sherwood)

The Creature Walks Among Us is a surprising disappointment. It never has potential exactly, but it does have something. Arthur A. Ross’s script is rather good for this production. Right off, Ross has decent science dialogue. His character interactions are good. And then it’s clear the cast is fairly solid too. I mean, sure, they’re B-Movie, but they’re able to handle everything. Because Creature Walks Among Us is a mix of a fifties sci-fi movie (they’re turning the Creature into a man with modern science) and fifties romantic melodrama. And cheesecake. And beefcake.

Unfortunately, it’s terribly directed. It’s beautifully photographed–while Maury Gertsman does have to light a lot of mediocre projection sequences, he does get to do some great day for night. But Sherwood’s a bad director. He doesn’t get Ross’s script, but doesn’t have anything he wants to spend more time on. The film has multiple instances of long establishing shots wasting runtime just so there doesn’t have to be more character work.

And the character work is what’s so cool about Creature Walks Among Us. It’s about a privately funded group of scientists working to capture the Gillman for study. Jeff Morrow’s the rich scientist who’s also a mad scientist. Walks Among Us is just too realistic and scientifically minded to let him do anything crazy to the Gillman. Instead, Morrow descends into a jealous rage. It’s a somewhat thinly written jealous rage, but Morrow’s good at it and so are the other actors responding to him.

Leigh Snowden, the aforementioned cheesecake, is Morrow’s wife. She’s got to deal with a crappy husband, a giant monster and unwelcome advances. Again, not the best part–occasionally she just says “well, off I go to swim,” so Sherwood can linger on her in a bathing suit. I suppose objectifying Snowden is Sherwood’s one of only interests during the film. It’s too much, but it’s also a waste of time because Snowden’s good. If Ross weren’t actually so competent at filling time, she’d be the best part of the movie. She probably gives its best performance; Ross just craps on her role for the finale. Hence Walks Among Us being a disappointment. It’s a reductive end.

The best performance in the film is beefcake geneticist Rex Reason. The script moons over this character and Reason does a fantastic job delivering all the scientific and philosophic monologues. Even though Morrow’s the lead scientist, Reason gets the best expository dialogue. Science shouldn’t be crazed mad man science, but Reason’s straightedge but soulful science. Sherwood almost seems to get Reason’s importance and at least stays out of the way.

As for the Creature walking among them, the film only partially delivers. While Sherwood does better with the Creature action than anything else in the film, it’s way too late and not important enough to the picture. Once the Creature proves not to be as much of a danger to the people as themselves, the monster aspect becomes irrelevant.

The Creature Walks Among Us has a lot of great stuff about it. Sherwood doesn’t bring any of that great stuff and he actively suffocates some of it. The cast and Ross deserve a lot better.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by John Sherwood; written by Arthur A. Ross; director of photography, Maury Gertsman; edited by Edward Curtiss; produced by William Alland; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Jeff Morrow (Dr. William Barton), Rex Reason (Dr. Thomas Morgan), Leigh Snowden (Marcia Barton), Gregg Palmer (Jed Grant), Maurice Manson (Dr. Borg), James Rawley (Dr. Johnson) and David McMahon (Capt. Stanley).


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