Watching this film, one gets immediately it’s a riff on THE CREATURE FROM812441 THE BLACK LAGOON. It hits all the notes of a fifties monster movie. The stalwart hero/scientist who, along with the town’s doctor, want to capture the creature alive. The heroine taken by the monster in the finale. The crotchety old man, not trusted by most of the town, feeding the monster(he just happens to be the heroine’s father as well). People being killed off in a strange manner until the creature is revealed.

It was the first film by a film company, Vanwick Productions, formed by Jack KeVAN and Irvin BerWICK, two men who’d toiled in obscurity for years at Universal-International, finally leaving to make their own films. Because of the nature of the movie busines at the time, U-I was an ad hoc backer of their efforts, giving them nice deals for equipment combo_monster_of_piedras_blancas_poster_04and vehicles and the use some of their laid off technical people and crew. As most low budget movies did, a lot of props from other films were used. The monster was a “diplovertebron.” It’s feet were cast from molds for the Metaluna Mutant from This Island Earth and the hands from The Mole People.

The cast featured a number of character actors. John Harmon was Sturges, the crochety old Lighthouse Keeper. Forrest Lewis was Constable Matson, who also owned the town cafe. Les Tremayne played Dr. Sam Jorgenson. Actor/stuntman Pete Dunn did double duty as bartender Eddie and the Monster. A crippled little boy named Jimmy, who found one of the bodies was played by Wayne Berwick, son of founder Irvin.

The two principles, Fred(Don Sullivan), and his girl friend, Lucy(Jeanne Carmen), kind of stood out. Fred was like no other scientist in a movie. While10252723_800 most other males wore suits and ties, he wore a white tee shirt, windbreaker, and slacks. We see tats when he strips down to gather specimens from the ocean. And that hair style. Slicked back, duck billed, he more resembled a hood in a gang picture(wasn’t a great actor either). Jeanne Carmen was a cheesecake model and a golf trick shot artist. This was her only lead role in pictures.

Though low budget and black and white, the film was notable for the first significant gore shots in moviedom. The creature totes a severed, bloody head in one shot. Another had the head being crawled over by a crab(see trailer for both). The movie has been lampooned by the kid grown up in a movie he directed with stars John Harmon and Jeanne Carmen in a lighthouse segment. monster-of-piedras-blancas-1959The suit was used in a Flipper episode which was directed by Ricou Browning, who had worn the Gill Man suit for swimming scenes in Creature From the Black Lagoon years before.

Location filming didn’t even include the real Piedras Blancas on the California coast north of San Simeon. Cayucos, about 30 miles south of the real thing sered for the town scenes.

One of those goofy fifties monster films I enjoy.


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