BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Beheadings! Bosoms! Blood! Welcome to the dark side of the 1950s. Made for a mere $29000 in 1959, The Monster of Piedras Blancas looks like a million bucks in high-definition in 2016. Down with the fuzz. We want clarity in our Creature Features and Olive Films absolutely delivers.
“…victims of the guillotine.” That is one medical specialist’s opinion of the freak decapitations happening at the onset of The Monster of Piedras Blancas. Released independently in 1959, this black-and-white horror film is a slice of b-grade deliciousness. It is a knock off of The Creature from the Black Lagoon of course, but the film is also an immortal influence upon more than one of today’s filmmakers. This week, thanks to a fine remastering job by Olive Films, it is granted new life in high-definition.
Written and directed by Irvin Berwick (Microwave Massacre), the film and its monster are genuine in their thrills and elevated scares – even if the rubber-suited monster at the center of the picture is sort of pieced together from other studios. All of the events in the film circle around a lighthouse maintained by Sturges (John Harmon) in the languid seaside town of Piedras Blancas. Sturges is also the town’s legend-keeper but, as the new decade approaches, the town is pretty swift in their dismissal of his old stories.
The older Sturges gets, the easier he becomes to ignore. As a result, he’s quickly becoming the town’s loony. For years he has had meat scraps delivered to the local grocers for him to pick up and, after coming in town only to get them from the store, he leaves them out by the lighthouse for some strange reason. The scraps are always gone in the morning. On the day he has no scraps (because the store clerk sold them to someone else), the killings in the small town begin.
A 7-foot-tall man-monster has started swiping the heads off of people. Even Sturges’ daughter, Lucy (pin-up girl Jeanne Carmen), with her moonlit skinny-dips in the ocean is at risk. Full of tall shadows against building walls and peepshow moments of Carmen in various stages of undress, The Monster of Piedras Blancas is full of titillating moments, commenting to none. The men of the town can only talk about the monster. Even the town’s lone scientist is perplexed by its presumed appearance. We only get teases of its glory via shots of claws, leathery skin, and tall shadows.
Meanwhile, the pig-grunting beast whisks away the scientist’s best girl, carrying her off to his home beneath the waves. It seems only Sturges can stop this monster. There’s a key sequence, filmed on top of a spiral staircase, where the beast is confronted by Sturges that is pure cinematic delight. From the top of the stairs to the shotgun blasts, it’s a strong moment in which a father must save his daughter from the monster he’s neglected. For Sturges, the moment eclipses into a race to the top of the lighthouse.
And suddenly, we are hooked. There are screams and shrieks and a plunging death that echoes far into the night. Sure, this knockoff isn’t original but it is more than effective in creating a nice creature feature mood for its audience.
The Monster of Piedras Blancas is also thunderously obvious in its monster scares. It’s slow-moving in a couple of scenes and, as the creature is only revealed in full during the climax, will definitely not survive some attention spans. It teases far to often than it actually pleases – especially for the uninitiated. Yet, for those who love this sort of thing, the b-grade flick is definitely worth a peek, especially since we get to see some of the first uses of cinematic gore.
If there’s one thing The Monster of Piedras Blancas has taught me, it’s always keep your monsters in the light.
MPAA Rating: Not rated.
Runtime: 71 mins
Director: Irvin Berwick
Writer: H. Haile Chace
Cast: Les Tremayne, Forrest Lewis, John Harmon
Genre: Horror | Sci-fi
Tagline: HE PREYS ON HUMAN FLESH!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Kochek. We found his body this afternoon."
Distributor: Filmservice Distributors Corporation
Release Date: April 22, 1959
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: September 13, 2016.
Synopsis: The sleepy little lighthouse community of Piedras Blancas has a big problem when bodies begin piling up (thankfully there's the ice room of Kochek's Store for meats and groceries) and a scale from a thought-to-be-extinct prehistoric amphibian is found nearby. Could this be the work of... The Monster of Piers Blancas?
Available on Blu-ray - September 13, 2016
Distributor: Olive Films
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
Subtitles: Optional English subtitles.
Discs: 1 single 50GB Blu-ray Disc
Region Encoding: A
Olive Films presents The Monster of Piedras Blancas on blu-ray with a glorious print that has been lovingly restored with the best remaining prints in existence. There’s an early scene on the beach that is almost living and breathing on its own. The shadows seem alive and so does the sunlight kissing the faces of the actors. The greys are that vibrant. Black levels are solid and deep and the lines are thick. The detail in the rubber suit is also appreciated. Lines are everywhere. The sound is a simple mono track that supports the film’s visually as pleasantly as it can.