The Monster of Piedras Blancas – USA, 1959: with more reviews

‘The fiend that walks lovers’ beach!’

The Monster of Piedras Blancas is a 1958 [released 1959] American science fiction horror feature film about a prehistoric creature terrorising a small seaside town. It was written and directed by Irvin Berwick (Hitch-Hike to Hell).

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The Vanwick Productions movie stars Jeanne Carmen (The Devil’s Hand), Les Tremayne (The Monolith MonstersAngry Red Planet); The Slime People), John Harmon, Don Sullivan (The Giant Gila Monster), Forrest Lewis (The Thing That Couldn’t Die; The Munsters) and Pete Dunn.

The Monster of Piedras Blancas grabs white bikini

Influenced by The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), the film was produced by Jack Kevan, who had supervised the manufacture of the Creature suit at Universal-International, and created the Piedras Blancas monster costume. Kevan employed several of his former Universal associates on the film. Wayne Berwick, who plays Little Jimmy, would go on to direct comedy horror Microwave Massacre in 1983.

The influence of this movie extended to The Horror of Party BeachThe Beach Girls and the MonsterHumanoids from the Deep and beyond.

On September 13, 2016 the film was released on Blu-ray and DVD by Olive Films.

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Plot:

The setting is the sleepy seaside town of Piedras Blancas. Sturges (Harmon) is the lighthouse keeper of the town and is very superstitious and concerned for the safety of his young teenage daughter, Lucy (Carmen). He leaves food for a sea monster that lives in a nearby cave.

The locals disregard him at first, but they begin to take notice when the bodies of people murdered by the monster are found on the beach. A local scientist identifies a scale as being from a prehistoric “diplovertebron,” a prehistoric humanoid presumed long extinct…

Reviews:

“What we have here is essentially just a simple, old-fashioned monster flick, but its creators had an uncommonly focused idea of what they were doing, knew where to spend their pitifully small budget to greatest effect, and were willing and able to take advantage of their independence from meddling producers to throw in a couple of exploitation elements.” Scott Ashlin, 1000 Misspent Hours

“The fact that the theory of evolution seems a harder sell to an alarming percentage of the American population fifty years later gives The Monster of Piedras Blancas and other like-minded sci-films of this era a level of intelligence for which they weren’t given much credit in their day.” Arbogast on Film

“With forgettable performances, one-note characters, and familiar plot, The Monster of Piedras Blancas comes up short in nearly every area. Where it really manages to succeed, oddly enough, is in the special effects department […] there’s something seriously charming about this particular film.” Blair Hoyle, Cinema Slasher

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Buy: Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com

“Although hampered by a low budget, an obscure score, a limping rhythm, and a highly illogical monster, Piedras Blancas is enjoyable if not taken seriously. It seems purposefully to parody other films besides Black Lagoon, including From Here to Eternity and Frankenstein (1931). It aims low, never pretending to rise above other monster-on-the-loose flicks of its time.”David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers: Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film 1902 – 1982

“A shocking instance of gore, a memorable monster that isn’t shy about the age range of its victims, and a spectacularly silly finale where a dummy does cartwheels off the top of the lighthouse compensate for a sluggish pace and logic-lapsed script. Much better than you’d expect from a flick costing $29,000.” Brian Bankston, Cool Ass Cinema

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“Unfortunately, it’s a lot cooler in photographs than it is in action, where its turgid, clumsy movement works against it and its hodgepodge design (it was thrown together from various bits and pieces of monsters from several Universal films) becomes rather apparent. The script is terrible as well…” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

The Monster of Piedras Blancas is a perfect double-feature paring with the superior Creature from the Black Lagoon. Both films follow the number 1 rule in monster movies: Never ever show the monster up front. Both films reveal the monsters slowly by showing claws or providing sounds in the early parts of the films, and as a result tension builds. Watch Jaws and you’ll notice a similar technique was employed.” Monster Minions

“One of them ‘love it or hate it’ flicks!!! It’s just a little boring, but has an interesting cast of characters, and a cool original looking monster that was created by the guy who also produced the film, Jack Kevan” Monster Movie Music

“A distinctly subpar effort, The Monster of Piedras Blancas‘ only item of interest is the monster suit, which has a face like a wild boar, the body of a lobster, and hands stolen from the costumes of The Mole People (1956).” TV Guide

“One cool monster (love that drool!) and a plethora of severed heads ultimately aren’t enough to keep the movie afloat.  Without them, the film is just another 50’s monster movie, and a pretty bad one to boot.  Too much of the movie consists of the townsfolk standing around talking about what to do with the monster and not enough of them doing anything about it.” Mitch Lovell, The Video Vacuum

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Cast and characters:

  • Les Tremayne … Doctor Sam Jorgenson
  • Forrest Lewis … Constable George Matson
  • John Harmon … Sturges, the Lighthouse Keeper
  • Frank Arvidson … Kochek, the Storekeeper
  • Jeanne Carmen … Lucille Sturges
  • Don Sullivan … Fred
  • Pete Dunn … Eddie / The Monster
  • Joseph La Cava … Mike
  • Wayne Berwick … Little Jimmy

Filming locations:

Point Conception lighthouse and Coyucos, California

Technical details:

  • 71 minutes
  • mono
  • black and white
  • Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1

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