Thu 16 Mar 2017
THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS. Vanwick Productions / Filmservice Distributors Corporation, 1959. Les Tremayne, Forrest Lewis, John Harmon, Frank Arvidson, Jeanne Carmen, Don Sullivan. Director: Irvin Berwick.
This is not a high-end creature feature. Filmed on a super low budget, The Monster of Piedras Blancas is a rather talky and amateurish production. Still, there are some great moments, including a rather bold – for its time anyways – scene in which the viewer witnesses a crab crawling across a decapitated head. And there’s a noir like sequence in which the eponymous monster chases threatens people on a spiral staircase.
But overall, this science fiction and horror hybrid remains a secondary, if not third rate, imitation of The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). There’s the girl who the creature seemingly ends up falling for, and the locals who are befuddled as to what is transpiring in their midst.
The story unfolds in a California beach community. When people start disappearing and then dying in a horribly gruesome manner, the town’s physician and police chief join forces to investigate. They soon learn that it isn’t a man that’s responsible for the recent beheadings. No. It’s a monster that they are after. With the technical assistance of a local scientist in training, the men devise a rather half-baked plan to capture the creature by means of throwing a net on him. I kid you not.
Not all that much else happens in the movie. Well, that’s not entirely true. There’s a backstory to the monster’s emergence, one that includes a father-daughter story that is as melodramatic as it cliché. There’s also a romance in the mix between the aforementioned daughter and the young scientist.
I wouldn’t particularly recommend your going out of your way to track this one down, although Olive Films recently put it out on BluRay and I must say, for an ultra low budget film, it looks absolutely fantastic. Trivia fact: the film’s cinematographer, Philip Lathrop, went on to an illustrious career and was twice nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. Despite the plodding pace and the clumsy dialogue, this creature feature is extremely well photographed.