Your opinion of 1976's The Milpitas Monster will depend on how much you know about the film going in. On the surface, it's an archetypal no-budgeter. The acting is unsightly, the audio is muffled (more on sensory deprivation later) and the special effects are scroungy. I've seen worse b-movies, but yeah, I've seen better. What if I told you that Milpitas was made by high school students? That a homework assignment pullulated into a far-flung community project? That the mayor of the actual Milpitas starred as himself? These factoids don't excuse porous, pregnable storytelling, but they do exonerate some of first-time director Robert L. Burrill's amateur moves.
Needless to say, financial backing came at a premium. I couldn't believe that this flick had an eleven thousand dollar price tag. Why did I choose to spell out that particular number? Only Satan knows. I've said this before, but heart is a big deal in my book. Y'know, passion. Zeal! There is no doubt in my demagogic noggin that Milpitas was a labor of love. The cast members can't camouflage their smiling eyes for a solitary second, mainly because they are paltry actors. Again, I'm inclined to let express infirmities slide. Our paltry actors are not actors at all; they are residents of Milpitas, a burg south of San Jose, California. Maybe it's north of San Jose. I don't fucking care, and I don't appreciate being put on the spot.
At its pith, Milpitas is a heavy-handed aphorism. The storyline speaks out on environmental issues in generic ways. An example, you ask? The titular monster is a hideous construct of trash. Why it resembles Baxter Stockman is anyone's best guess. And it's fifty fucking feet tall, so the quantum majority of the action shots are achieved with cruddy stop-motion animation. It's glorious. We also get classic man-in-a-suit turmoil. I have to hand it to the greenhorn crew for their decent miniature sets, considering the circumstances. Unfortunately, it's a challenge to see much detail, as Milpitas was apparently lit with a kerosene lamp. NOTE: The gaffer ran out of kerosene immediately.
There are no real characters. I mean, there are people who do stuff, but as far as attaching names to faces, I'm drawing a blank. Wait! I take that back. George, the town drunk, sacrifices himself to save the day. He's supposed to be amusing, I gather. The tone of this garbage-scented Grand Guignol is screwy in inflection. It can't decide if it wants to be campy or earnest. Tongue-in-cheek narration clashes with a script that doesn't seem to be in on the joke. Make no mistake; this motion picture is a joke, albeit an acceptable one. Remember my allusion to sensory deprivation?
My guess is that The Milpitas Monster was filmed without sound. The dubbing is appalling. What's more, half of the dialogue is barely audible. "But Dom," you squawk. "Is it worth watching?" Eh, it's alright for a Saturday afternoon. It deserves your respect, if nothing else.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 4:23 PM