Saturday, September 10, 2016

THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS (1958) (Blu-ray Review)

THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS (1958) 

Label: Olive Films

Rating: Unrated
Region Code: A
Duration: 71 Minutes
Video: BW 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Irvin Berwick
Cast: Jeanne Carmen, Les Tremayne, John Harmon, Don Sullivan, Forrest Lewis


In the rural California coastal town of Piedras Blancas the local folks are losing their heads in a very literal way. The locals think that the ornery lighthouse keeper Sturges (John Harmon) might know more than he's letting on about the blood-sucking murderer on the loose in their seaside village and they're probably right. Home visiting from for the summer is the light keeper's hot-blond daughter Lucy (Jeanne Carmen) who takes up with local science nerd Fred (Don Sullivan), she even goes skinny-dipping which somewhat upsetting poor old dad who is already stressed out that his pet monster seems to be running amuck and ripping off heads. That's right, seems that dad has been feeding the amphibious bipedal creature fish heads and meat scraps, but when he comes up short with meat scrap the creature starts tearing off heads and sucking the corpses dry, leaving behind a nice pile of carcasses in its wake.

The creature is a pretty obvious play on Gill-Man from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, a design which was actually co-designed by producer Jack Kevan who helped design the iconic Gil-Man for Universal, in fact Universal whom allowed him to pilfer molds from the productions of The Mole People and This Island Earth to make this beast, which is certainly more low-rent than Gil-Man, but a lot of fun even if he doesn't appear properly for nearly forty-five minutes. Lovers of man-in-rubber-suits movies are pretty much guaranteed to love the cheese of this one, including a few shocking moments of actual gore which caught me off guard. When the creature first appears in full he does so with some glorious movie-monster presence, with a decapitated head in one hand, plowing through a store full of gawkers before making his escape. The head appears again a few scenes later in a cave with a crab crawling over the torn off head, a very nice touch of gore for a cheesy 50's creature feature of the era I would think. 


The movie is loaded with all sorts of fun small town folk, we have the local doc played by Les Tremayne who offers poor medical advice and even worse first aid, the cigar-chompin' constable played by Forrest Lewis, and a gossipy store keeper named Kochek played by Frank Arvidson. Kochek's store fridge doubles as a make shift morgue for the growing number of headless bodies, and you just gotta love the idea of the local deli fridge being stuffed dead bodies, fun stuff.

The movie is somewhat amateur, the design of the creatures is fun but very low-rent, once I saw the thing's face I sort of understood why the kept it under wraps for so long, ha ha. The cast alternates between chewing the scenery and aimlessly wandering through their line deliveries, probably because of some poor direction by way of the director, who was at the time a first time director who would only helm six more movies during is b-movie career, one highlighted by and ending with drive-in drivel Malibu High in 1979. Aside from the monster not showing up for way too long the pacing is unbearably slow at times for a movie that is under seventy-five minutes long, though once the creature arrives with a severed head in hand things pick-up and a nice head of steam and comes to close just as fast. 



The movie arrives on Blu-ray from Olive Films framed at 1.78 widescreen looking decent in HD, the image source shows some softness and other limitations but the image is pleasing overall with a decent level of clarity and sharpness with decent contrast. The mono DTS-HD MA audio does the job without being overly impressive, optional English subtitles are provided. This is not one of those black and white movies that are transformative on Blu-ray but I think Olive probably did the best with what they had available to them, there are no extras on the disc of any sort, 

The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1958) is low-rent creature feature fun and sure to be a crowd pleaser for aficionados of 50s schlock and man-in-rubber-suit movies. Glad to see it rise from the waves on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films, the movie brought back childhood memories of watching black and white monster movie matinees in front of the TV, which is sort of priceless. 


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