The Monster of Piedras Blancas

A quick word. I'll be announcing a contest tomorrow, so stay tuned. Alright, on with the show!

I've wanted to see this film for gangling eons. I have a thing for creature features from the 50's, and for some reason, this one has eluded me like a cagey fugitive. Yes, The Monster of Piedras Blancas is the Richard Kimble to my Detective Gerard. This isn't just any creature feature, though. It's a devil-may-care "mutant fish" romp equipollent to such spirited titles as The Creature From the Black Lagoon, Humanoids From the Deep and The Horror of Party Beach. Regrettably, it tends to be overlooked, but that has more to do with its release date than its quality (or lack thereof). The film washed up on the shores of a quicksilver public in 1959, a year of transition. "Rubber suit" productions would soon give way to racy exploitation cheapies that took full advantage of hair-raising Technicolor.

Capricious trends notwithstanding, Piedras Blancas fared well at the box office. It also fared well in my bedroom earlier today. Hmm, that sounded suspicious, but I'm content to trot along as if nothing happened if you are. I figured that this flick would be reasonably entertaining. And yet, it managed to exceed my expectations. I knew that it would be a fun sit, but I didn't think for a second that the characters would be more fleshed out than the walls of Samantha Saint's snatch (search engines are your friends). Writer H. Haile Chace sees to it that the pawns in his perilous passion play are bountifully developed before they are beheaded by the marquee mollusk. Eh, it's not a mollusk per se...listen, I don't dump on your alliteration, so back off.

Delectable pin-up Jeanne Carmen plays Lucy, the daughter of a misanthropic lighthouse keeper. Her snappy old man scolds her for skinny dipping at night, but he has a reason to be unduly cautious. Someone (or something) is brutally murdering innocent people in their quiet coastal town. Every corpse that crops up is missing its head, and it seems that all of the bodies are bone dry. The most obvious point of reference is The Gillman of Black Lagoon fame. As it turns out, both beasts were designed by the same fellow. This maritime marauder is a patchwork of Universal heavies, a special effects Frankenstein of sorts. Its feet belonged to This Island Earth's Metaluna Mutant, while its hands belonged to one of the underground pests in The Mole People. Still, it's a badass creation. You can't tell that the limbs were outsourced.

Piedras Blancas hides its star during the first act, but I never grew restless. The dialogue is sharp, the scenic locales are breathtaking and as I hinted at earlier, the central players are relatable. The icing on the cake? Gore! That's right. This is a grisly film for 1959. When we first spot the monster (y'know, of Piedras Blancas), it's clutching a severed head. So yeah, I'd have to say that The Monster of Piedras Blancas is pretty fucking sweet. I tinkered with the notion of giving it a higher rating, but a couple of b-moments killed the mood at inopportune times. The standard 50's-style abrupt ending was a bummer. Furthermore, our protagonist made inexplicable decisions that I couldn't exonerate. Why in the hell does he shoot the crab? Did it look at him funny?

The fact that this unsung gem isn't on DVD is simply...cunt almighty, there isn't a word for it. Recommended for fans of Twilight, True Blood, MTV's Teen Wolf and The Vampire Diaries.

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