Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Monster of Piedras Blancas

The Monster of Piedras Blancas, Starring Les Tremayne, Don Sullivan, and Jeanne Carmen, Directed by Irvin Berwick (1959).

Reviewed by Richard Glenn Schmidt

“Remember! We’re burying the Rinaldi brothers in the morning. First class funeral. Better not miss it!”

In a small seaside town, Sturges the old lighthouse keeper (played by John Harmon) is keeping a secret and it’s not his plans to get a neck tattoo. He’s been buying meat scraps for years and feeding them to something on the rocks below the lighthouse. If you’ve ever wondered what widowed lighthouse keepers get up to, now you know! His hot daughter Lucille (Jeanne Carmen) is fresh from finishing school and thinks her dad is a harmless eccentric even though he talks to his dog constantly. She works at the local diner and is dating the local science dude named Local Fred (Don Sullivan).

 Vague Accent Man knows what’s up.

Life is pretty spectacular (and horrifically dull) for all parties involved until the friggin’ monster that Sturges has been feeding starts ripping off local Italian men’s heads and feasting on their blood. Before this monster business started, the most action that Constable George (Forrest Lewis) has had to deal with is The Shoe Soiler down at the library. He, Local Fred, and Dr. Sam (Les Tremayne) are the masterminds who will get to the bottom of this monster rigmarole. They have a scale sample from one of the corpses and it’s definitely a Klyptovertablah (that’s what I wrote in my notes). One by one, the old monster claims victims including a child that should have known better than to go outside.

Hey baby, have you ever seen From Here to Eternity?


The local yokels form a posse to catch this thing and they are spectacularly ineffective. Someone actually says, “If he can think then we’re in real trouble.” Finally, the monster heads to the lighthouse to kidnap Lucille because he thinks he’s the Creature from the Black Lagoon. But he’s too much a doofus to remember how bad he wants to make sweet love to her (just like in The Shape of Water) when Sturges enrages him by pathetically shooting his impenetrable hide with a shotgun. They are able to trick the monster into falling off the lighthouse to his death or not. I’m gonna say death because this never got a sequel.

 Thank you, my constant reminder of your dead mother.

Director Irvin Berwick spent most of his career as a dialog coach on westerns. The only other of his directorial works I’ve seen is the hilarious garbage melodrama, Malibu High. Producer Aubrey “Girl’s Name” Schenck was responsible for producing such films as Voodoo Island, The Black Sleep, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Frankenstein 1970, Pharaoh's Curse, and Daughters of Satan. I kinda love this dude. What a career (of schlock)!

 Bold as brass (not the Split Enz song).

Cinematographer Philip H. Lathrop is the reason why this film looks so damn good. His 30 year career behind the camera has some real classy stuff in it like The Illustrated Man, Touch of Evil, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s just to name a few. Two years after this monster flick, screenwriter H. Haile Chace also wrote and directed a little film called V.D. AKA Damaged Goods about a high school jock with painful urination. I guess that was his passion project.

I theorize that I won’t remember being in this film.

Blond bombshell, Jeanne Carmen, is quaintly bad in this film and I wouldn’t want her any other way. Pretty boy Don Sullivan didn’t do much but he was in Teenage Zombies and The Giant Gila Monster! The wildly prolific Les Tremayne was in every damn thing but I know him best from The Angry Red Planet. Also prolific but less memorable is old chew-toy face, Forrest Lewis, who was in The Thing That Couldn't Die but I don’t remember him at all. Of course, no one in this movie was in more crap than John Harmon! This motherfucker has nearly 300 film and TV credits under his belt with his final film being Microwave Massacre. Go out with a bang much?

Where’s my penis, Guillermo del Toro!?

I’m glad that Olive Films put out a super nice Blu-ray of this film that has somehow eluded me for so long. All of the pseudoscience and fun goofs fill my heart with an artery clogging warmth that will be with me until I croak. Sorry, those garbage cigars that Constable George were chomping on throughout the film are reminding me of my own mortality.

The other people who saw this film.

What a joy that The Monster of Piedras Blancas is. It has some serious charm and moxie going for it despite all of the half-assery going on. The camp is high and the monster, in spite of his doofness, isn’t fucking around. He kills adults and children alike and walks around in broad daylight with his severed head to-go cup. The Angry Samoans used a production still from this movie for their 1982 album, Back from Samoa. Speaking of punk rock, when the monster buys the farm at the end of the movie, his death scream is just a dude screaming. How is that related to punk? It’s not, it’s just lazy as balls.

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