The music of THE MONOLITH MONSTERS

Much of The Monolith Monsters’ rich atmosphere is provided by the brilliant musical score, totaling 36:44 in length.  It was written mainly by Irving Gertz, with some assistance from William Lava, Herman Stein, and Henry Mancini.  Lava’s contribution is in the form of the 21 seconds of tracked music from The Deadly Mantis that opens the picture, a cue called “Map Of The World.”  Stein’s three cues, totaling 1:42, are heard in the scenes when little Ginny Simpson is cured, when Mrs. Higgins begins turning to stone, and when the newspaper is printing evacuation notices.  Mancini’s two cues, totaling 4:05, occur in the lab scene when Williams solves the mystery of what makes the rocks grow, and in the sequence when the monoliths are first seen approaching San Angelo. 

While The Monolith Monsters’ score has long been considered one of the finest for a science-fiction film of this era, in actuality, much of the music originated elsewhere.  The “Prologue” was adapted from Gertz’s music from The Creature Walks Among Us; “Simpson's Place, Part 2” -- where we visit the little girl’s demolished house -- offers variations on a few of the composer’s themes from It Came From Outer Space (one being “Mysterious Desert”); and three short Gertz cues were tracked into The Monolith Monsters from earlier pictures.  Even more important, much of the thematic material and many of the cues in The Monolith Monsters were composed by Gertz for Universal’s The Deadly Mantis, made about a half-year earlier in 1957. 

So powerful were Gertz’s cues for The Deadly Mantis that music director Joe Gershenson no doubt asked the composer to adapt them for this new picture.  “Eskimos Attacked,” which plays when the Mantis attacks the stock footage Eskimos, was re-used for The Monolith Monsters’ exploded dam sequence; “No Weather,” heard when investigators first inspect the destroyed weather station, was incorporated into “A Piece Of Rock,” a cue  in The Monolith Monsters when the geologist adds some water to his car radiator in the opening scene.  What’s so surprising is that the score for The Deadly Mantis has rarely been discussed, while The Monolith Monsters’ score has received most of the acclaim.  What makes the score for The Monolith Monsters stand out over its earlier incarnation is that it’s a much more unified score than what was written for The Deadly Mantis. 

The music for The Deadly Mantis was co-composed relatively equally by Gertz and William Lava, and their thematic material was quite discrete.  And, while a lot of the cues in The Deadly Mantis were buried under the sound effects of a gigantic roaring and humming insect, the music in The Monolith Monsters is more in the foreground and plays a larger role in the film.  As Gertz wrote over 80% of the music, the composer definitely deserved a music credit for this picture, which he unfortunately did not get.  Most of The Monolith Monsters’ music was orchestrated by Charles Maxwell, although the orchestrations on Gertz’s sketches are usually quite specific.

Even though its musical material isn’t entirely original, The Monolith Monsters clearly boasts an extraordinary score.   Cues from the film were too good to be put to rest, and Universal tracked them into many later films, just a few of them being:  The Thing That Couldn’t Die, Monster On The Campus, Stranger In My Arms, and in the Audie Murphy western Posse From Hell, bits of The Monolith Monsters, This Island Earth, and The Deadly Mantis are crammed into the first 47 seconds of the film's main title!

 

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