I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

“Help, I’m a Rock”:The Monolith Monsters (1957)

by Anthony Galli
Feb. 12, 2012

Consider, if you will…

On February 15, 2013, a 10,000 ton, 55-foot wide asteroid exploded 15 miles above the Chelyabinsk region in Russia, causing over 1,500 reported injuries and damage to thousands of homes and other buildings. It is estimated that the asteroid had an energy level of 500 kilotons, which is roughly 30 times the strength of the atomic bomb unleashed on Hiroshima in 1945.

In an unrelated development, the 130,000 ton, 150-foot wide Asteroid 2012 DA14 passed within the earth’s atmosphere on the same day, at roughly 17,450 miles per hour. There was never any danger of Asteroid 2012 DA14 coming into contact with earth, as its trajectory placed it 17,150 miles away from earth, although, to many, that still may be too close.

This particular asteroid had been observable by scientists for almost a year, while the Russian meteor, apparently, had not been predicted or observable at all. It just sort of randomly came from outer space.

Astronomers estimate that there are currently over 20,000 hazardous asteroids that orbit the earth, and that only approximately 10% of the “city-killer” asteroids, those over 165 feet in diameter, are tracked with any verifiable certainty.

On March 19, 2013, at the White House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing titled, Threats from Space: A Review of U.S. Government Efforts to Track and Mitigate Asteroids and Meteors. At the hearing, Dr. John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, testified that "An asteroid of that size, a kilometer or bigger, could plausibly end civilization." An actual, respected scientist making a statistically quantifiable claim concerning the survival of our planet in the event of an asteroid attack.

On March 22, 2013, a meteor was reported in the skies over New York by over 500 residents, with almost 500 more sightings reported from Maine to Ohio.

In 1956, Elvis Presley released his groundbreaking singles “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Blue Suede Shoes,” his debut album, and appeared on the Ed Sullivan show gyrating to “Hound Dog.” America had not experienced anything of its like before, and Presley’s meteoric rise gave birth to an entire youth culture that threatened to undermine the existing social order and, uh, end civilization as we knew it. In 1957, Jerry Lee Lewis released his celebration of hellfire and damnation “Great Balls of Fire.”

Rock and Roll, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Beatniks…omigod, what next?

In 1957, a giant meteor landed in the desert outside of San Angelo, California, a small, friendly town that suspiciously resembles a combination of Mayberry RFD and the backlot of Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California. As fragments of the meteor came into contact with water, they would expand until they reached skyscraper proportions, eventually crashing down to earth under their immense weight. The shattered remains would further replicate when exposed to water. Lacking silicate, the meteor fragments began seeking the compound from hapless human beings, subjecting them to something resembling scleroderma, or “extreme hardening of the skin.”

But, no, this was not scleroderma. The meteors are sucking all of the silicon out of its human victims and literally turning them to stone. Something must be done…and quick!

The Monolith Monsters is the true story of a little known incident that took billions of years to manifest, but only days to work its destructive intent. The first casualty of the errant meteors was Federal geologist Ben Gilbert, an innocent victim of the expanding rock formations. Next was young Ginny Simpson, too young to know that too much time with the rock will only hurt you in the end. Soon the pattern of the meteor’s destruction became obvious; first it would destroy all rational explanation, and then it would steal your children.

According to Dave Miller, another San Angelo geologist, anyone that comes into contact with the rock is either killed or injured. Apparently, it will also wreck your house and make you smoke cigarettes.

None of the experts in The Monolith Monsters seem to have any clue on how to deter the path of destruction unleashed by the barrage of cosmic debris. Not Dr. Hendricks, not old Professor Flanders, not even the harried physician Dr. Reynolds, who has an unnatural fondness for remanding his patients to the "California Medical Research Institute."

No, in essence, science did not have an answer about how to divert and control nature, suggesting, perhaps, that nature will follow its own course, despite the best attempts of science to harness and contain it. Just ask Bill Haley and the Comets, who in 1956 warned parents “Don’t Knock the Rock”!

The Monolith Monsters boasts a pretty great cast, including Grant Williams, who also starred in that year’s The Incredible Shrinking Man, the beautiful and breathy model Lola Albright, and legendary radio actor Les Tremayne as the outcast newspaper writer. There are also uncredited cameos from rising teen heartthrob Troy Donahue, and veteran character actor William Schallert (but, I mean, what didn’t this guy appear in?), as well as uncredited narration from Paul Frees, who not only provided the voices for the characters of John Lennon and George Harrison on The Beatles cartoon in the mid to late 1960’s, but also every single cartoon that was produced at that time.

The Monolith Monsters originated from an idea by director Jack Arnold, the genius behind such masterpieces as Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space, and, of course, The Incredible Shrinking Man, among numerous others.

In 1979, Neil Young penned a tribute to asteroids and meteorites with the lyrics, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away,” commenting on the intergalactic speed with which comets and meteors enter earth’s atmosphere before exploding in a fury of light and sound, scattering their fragments and shards throughout the galaxy, giving birth to new generations of space junk and their attendant progeny.

Is this the story of Johnny Rotten?

Oh, and The Monolith Monsters isn’t a true story after all…or is it?

Works Cited

NASA's advice on asteroid hitting Earth: Pray

Was Chelyabinsk meteor actually a meteor? Many Russians don't think so.

Threats from Space: A Review of U.S. Government Efforts to Track and Mitigate Asteroids and Meteors

Anthony Galli currently lives in Athens, Georgia. He shares a birthday with his black cat, Magic, and they both claim Wings of Desire as their favorite film. Anthony has published two books of poetry, Amnesia for Insomniacs and Invisible Idiot.