Phil Harvey

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.



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).

The Land Unknown (1957, Virgil W. Vogel)

The Land Unknown has it all—a guy in a Tyrannosaurus Rex suit (the dinosaur’s roar is suspiciously similar to Godzilla’s), lizards standing in for dinosaurs, awful rear screen projection of those lizards to make them seem large, CinemaScope, misogyny, torture, a homicidal rapist being portrayed as a sympathetic character and a cute little tarsier. The poor tarsier gets eaten by a tentacle plant, which also attacks the girl. It’s tragic when the tarsier is eaten (Land Unknown actually has some really good ideas, just no way of executing them). It’s sad when the girl survives.

Shirley Patterson plays that girl and thanks to her incredibly bad performance, some of the other weak performances are tolerable. Protagonist Jock Mahoney, for example, isn’t awful. Neither is his sidekick, played by William Reynolds (though Mahoney is far better). The film’s opening suggests the two men will be competing for Patterson’s affect (it also implies she’s going to sleep with 800 sailors… it’s a special film when it comes to how it portrays women), but it never happens. There’s just her lame romance with Mahoney.

It’s hard to find an adjective to accurately describe the awfulness of Patterson’s performance. But… even if she weren’t in the film, there’s still Henry Brandon and Phil Harvey. Both of them are atrocious too.

Vogel’s incapable of composing for CinemaScope.

Besides the surprising potential in the script, both events and concepts, the miniature settings look great. Too bad the models look bad.

It’s a laughably terrible picture.



Directed by Virgil W. Vogel; screenplay by László Görög, based on an adaptation by William N. Robson and a story by Charles Palmer; director of photography, Ellis W. Carter; edited by Fred MacDowell; produced by William Alland; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Jock Mahoney (Cmndr. Harold ‘Hal’ Roberts), Shirley Patterson (Margaret ‘Maggie’ Hathaway), William Reynolds (Lt. Jack Carmen), Henry Brandon (Dr. Carl Hunter), Douglas Kennedy (Capt. Burnham) and Phil Harvey (Steve Miller).

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