Thursday, October 08, 2015

The Monster Of Piedras Blancas

Many a young horror fan’s imagination was stirred by stills from THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS, which featured a scaly sea monster similar to the Creature from the Black Lagoon standing menacingly on a beach with a bloody decapitated human head in its hand. Pretty strong stuff for 1959 — Herschell Gordon Lewis wouldn’t invent the modern “gore” film until 1963’s BLOOD FEAST — and even the creature itself looked as though it could go toe-to-toe with the Gill Man. You have to put in the time to get rewarded though, as the Piedras Blancas monster doesn’t show up in full until late in the game.

Up to then, the film is something of a mystery with local sheriff Forrest Lucas (THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR) and doctor Les Tremayne (THE ANGRY RED PLANET) investigating corpses found on the beach with their heads missing and their blood drained. Shifty lighthouse keeper John Harmon (a regular in director Irvin Berwick’s films, such as HITCH-HIKE TO HELL) hates society and freaks out whenever anyone wanders along the beach, including his restless sexpot daughter Lucy (pinup girl Jeanne Carmen, the film’s best special effect). Well, duh, he knows what’s going on. In fact, he’s been feeding the monster meat scraps procured from storekeeper Frank Arvidson (THE 7TH COMMANDMENT), soon to be another man without a head.

Berwick and producer Jack Kevan were former Universal-International employees who formed a production company, VanWick, for which THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS was its only film. Kevan’s U-I job was in the makeup department, where he helped create the Gill Man, among other famous movie monsters. His Monster of Piedras Blancas is impressively ugly and mean-looking and probably scared a lot of kids.

H. Haile Chase, the writer and director of V.D. and PARADISIO, wrote this film. The story makes no sense. Why the monster rips off heads isn’t explained, for instance, not that this is a movie worth thinking about. Berwick’s direction is about as good as Chase’s screenplay, though he gets some mileage from the authentic California locations (surprisingly, he didn’t shoot in Piedras Blancas, but rather around Lompoc). Flubs in dialogue indicate Berwick didn’t do many second takes. The acting isn’t much either with the exception of the sonorously voiced Tremayne, who does his best to bring class to a picture titled THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS.

1 comment:

BeckoningChasm said...

The only thing I remember about this film was when the little boy on crutches found one of the bodies. He sped off as if he was in a Benny Hill episode.