Dr. Jeffrey Stewart (Richard Carlson) and his partner Dr. Dan Forbes (King Donovan) both work for the O.S.I. (the Office of Scientific Investigation) as A-Men, which means Atom Men. Their job is to investigate unexplained phenomena.
They are called out to a down-town hardware store which is having a problem with everything becoming very magnetic. Upon further investigation they discover the problem is emanating from the upstairs apartment.
Back at their lab, they run tests on the empty container and soon find out that what had been stored in it before is like nothing seen on this earth. Whatever it was, it had enough radioactivity to blow-up a couple of down-town blocks. There priority is to now find the missing element.
On questioning, the cab driver explains that he had taken an elderly man to the airport and he was carrying a large briefcase. Armed with a Geiger counter, they scour the airport and soon find out which flight the man had boarded.
The element is stored at the local university, but it isn’t long before there is a large explosion, killing a couple of people. The authorities want answers from Dr. Stewart and upon investigation, Dr. Stewart confirms what the old man had told him – that the element is constantly growing and sporadically devouring everything around it.
Dr. Stewart realizes that even this huge amount of electricity won’t feed the element and eventually it will grow so much that it will destroy the Earth by throwing it off its orbit. Help is at hand, because one of the military officers assigned to the case tells of the Canadians having a secret research lab which can generate more electricity than anything else in the world.
The Atomic Age had only recently begun and this film taps into the fears which harnessing this energy could bring. This is a great piece of 1950’s science fiction and is very well written with some logical scientific reasoning.
There’s also a simultaneous storyline running throughout this movie concerning Dr. Stewart’s pregnant wife. It’s quite interesting the connection they make concerning how when you are pregnant you grow larger to produce something ‘good’ (although for Dr Stewart, he’s worried that his wife hasn’t grown larger after four months of pregnancy) and how the element must grow larger, but for something ‘evil’.
There is plenty of stock footage used in the making of this film and even though it’s credited to Curt Siodmak, most of the film was actually directed by Herbert L. Strock, who was hired by Ivan Tors because of his skills as an editor, which were viewed as essential for a film which relied so much on stock footage.
Computer geeks might be interested in the stock footage of a vary early computer called the MANIAC computer (Mathematical Analyzer, Numerical Integrator, and Computer or Mathematical Analyzer, Numerator, Integrator, and Computer) which became operational in 1952..
Other footage of the special effects used towards the end of this film were taken from a 1935 German science fiction film called Gold and this isn’t the only German connection to this film, with supposedly the film crew originating from German impressionist cinema of the 1930s.
As well as an intelligent script, these special effect scenes at the end of the film really make it stand out amongst other films from this decade.
The fictitious government agency The Office of Scientific Investigation would later turn up again in Tors’ Gog (1954) and some episodes of Science Fiction Theater (1955-1956).
This is definitely a good 50’s sci-fi movie to track down if you want one which is slightly different and more intelligent.