The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959)

71 mins | Horror | November 1959

Director:

Irvin Berwick

Writer:

H. Haile Chace

Producer:

Jack Kevan

Cinematographer:

Philip Lathrop

Editor:

George Gittens

Production Company:

Vanwick Productions
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HISTORY

Although the opening credits state that Vanwick Productions copyrighted the film at the time of its release, Republic Pictures Corp. registered the film on 20 Oct 1986 under the number PA-339-148. On the same date, a copyright was issued to Vanwick for a videocassette of the film. In the opening credits, the cast list ends with the words "And the Monster of Piedras Blancas." According to modern sources, the monster was played by Pete Dunn, who also portrayed the character "Eddie" in the film. According to a 16 Apr 1958 DV news item, Universal-International Pictures makeup artist Jack Kevan and one-time U-I dialogue director Irvin Berwick formed Vanwick Productions to produce The Monster of Piedras Blancas , the company's only film.
       A modern source states that Kevan created the "Gill Man" suit in the 1954 Universal film The Creature from the Black Lagoon (see above). The article also claims the Gill Man inspired the idea for The Monster of Piedras Blancas . The onscreen cast credits include an "introducing" credit for actress Jeanne Carmen, but she had appeared in several earlier films.
       Although a 28 Jan 1959 HR news item noted that First National Distributing Corp. had planned to distribute The Monster of Piedras Blancas , the reviews of the film list Filmservice Distributing. While no production charts were found for the film, an 18 Apr 1958 DV news item stated that shooting took place in Mar 1958. The film was shot, according to the Filmfacts review, on location at Point Conception Lighthouse, Lompoc, CA. Modern sources add that additional shooting took place in Cayucos, ... More Less

Although the opening credits state that Vanwick Productions copyrighted the film at the time of its release, Republic Pictures Corp. registered the film on 20 Oct 1986 under the number PA-339-148. On the same date, a copyright was issued to Vanwick for a videocassette of the film. In the opening credits, the cast list ends with the words "And the Monster of Piedras Blancas." According to modern sources, the monster was played by Pete Dunn, who also portrayed the character "Eddie" in the film. According to a 16 Apr 1958 DV news item, Universal-International Pictures makeup artist Jack Kevan and one-time U-I dialogue director Irvin Berwick formed Vanwick Productions to produce The Monster of Piedras Blancas , the company's only film.
       A modern source states that Kevan created the "Gill Man" suit in the 1954 Universal film The Creature from the Black Lagoon (see above). The article also claims the Gill Man inspired the idea for The Monster of Piedras Blancas . The onscreen cast credits include an "introducing" credit for actress Jeanne Carmen, but she had appeared in several earlier films.
       Although a 28 Jan 1959 HR news item noted that First National Distributing Corp. had planned to distribute The Monster of Piedras Blancas , the reviews of the film list Filmservice Distributing. While no production charts were found for the film, an 18 Apr 1958 DV news item stated that shooting took place in Mar 1958. The film was shot, according to the Filmfacts review, on location at Point Conception Lighthouse, Lompoc, CA. Modern sources add that additional shooting took place in Cayucos, CA. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Cinema
19 Feb 1962.
---
Daily Variety
18 Apr 1958.
---
Filmfacts
1959
p. 341.
Filmfax
Jan 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Apr 1958.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 1959.
---
LAMirror-News
23 Apr 1959.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Apr 1959.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
14 Nov 59
p. 485.
DETAILS
Release Date:
November 1959
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 22 April 1959
Production Date:
March 1958
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
71
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When the Renaldi brothers are found dead on the beach, the townspeople are horrified by the condition of their mutilated corpses. Soon after, town constable George stores the Renaldis’ remains in a meat cooler at the grocery, where storekeeper Kocheck frightens his customers by claiming that the mysterious deaths are the result of the legendary Monster of Piedras Blancas. At the store, curmudgeonly lighthouse keeper Sturges grows violently angry with Kocheck for not saving him meat scraps as he has regularly done over the years. While visiting with his only daughter, Lucile, who is bartending a cafe on her summer break, Sturges becomes upset again when he learns that Lucile will be home late, because he worries about her being alone at night. Sturges then returns home and secretly places fish scraps in a pail on a rocky bluff near the lighthouse. At lunchtime, Lucile has a romantic picnic with her boyfriend, marine biologist Fred, which leads to a kiss. Meanwhile, town doctor and scientist Ben tells George that the brothers were murdered, as evidenced by their severed heads and their bodies having been drained of blood. That evening, when Lucile refrains from inviting Fred in after he drives her home, she states that her father would not approve of their blossoming relationship and has been ill-tempered since her mother’s death, for which he blames himself. Lucile explains that her mother fell ill one day and refused to disturb Sturges, who was manning the lighthouse during a severe storm. By the time Sturges was alerted and a doctor was sent for, her mother had died. Soon after, Sturges sent Lucile to boarding school and she has rarely seen him ... +


When the Renaldi brothers are found dead on the beach, the townspeople are horrified by the condition of their mutilated corpses. Soon after, town constable George stores the Renaldis’ remains in a meat cooler at the grocery, where storekeeper Kocheck frightens his customers by claiming that the mysterious deaths are the result of the legendary Monster of Piedras Blancas. At the store, curmudgeonly lighthouse keeper Sturges grows violently angry with Kocheck for not saving him meat scraps as he has regularly done over the years. While visiting with his only daughter, Lucile, who is bartending a cafe on her summer break, Sturges becomes upset again when he learns that Lucile will be home late, because he worries about her being alone at night. Sturges then returns home and secretly places fish scraps in a pail on a rocky bluff near the lighthouse. At lunchtime, Lucile has a romantic picnic with her boyfriend, marine biologist Fred, which leads to a kiss. Meanwhile, town doctor and scientist Ben tells George that the brothers were murdered, as evidenced by their severed heads and their bodies having been drained of blood. That evening, when Lucile refrains from inviting Fred in after he drives her home, she states that her father would not approve of their blossoming relationship and has been ill-tempered since her mother’s death, for which he blames himself. Lucile explains that her mother fell ill one day and refused to disturb Sturges, who was manning the lighthouse during a severe storm. By the time Sturges was alerted and a doctor was sent for, her mother had died. Soon after, Sturges sent Lucile to boarding school and she has rarely seen him since. After Fred leaves, Lucile disrobes to go swimming in the nude while the monster lingers nearby and, when Lucile returns to the shore, she hears the sound of its breathing. After Lucile reports the noise to her father, Sturges sternly chastises her for swimming in the dark and heads for the beach to investigate. Meanwhile, the monster enters the town and kills Kocheck, who is working late at his store. The next morning, neighborhood boy little Jimmy finds the body accidentally and runs to the Renaldi brothers’ funeral, where he tells those assembled that Kocheck was mutilated. When they investigate the scene, George, Ben and Fred find an oversized fish scale, which is revealed, upon further inspection, to be a living specimen similar to that of a prehistoric diplovertebrate fossil. Soon after, an hysterical Lucile asks George, Ben and Fred to help her father, whom she has discovered wounded and unconscious on the cliffs. The three men help Sturges back to his house, where he is prescribed bed rest. Lucile explains to the men that she had not seen her father nor their dog Ring since late the previous evening when Sturges left for the beach. Fred loans Ben and George his jeep to return to town, remaining behind to help Lucile man the lighthouse. When Sturges comes to, Fred asks him about the legend and Sturges explains: Before the lighthouse was built, many ships foundered on the treacherous point. The point was named Piedras Blancas because bird droppings colored the rocks white, making them very difficult to see in the surf, but early settlers blamed the wrecks on a legendary monster living in the caves. Later, Lucile tells Fred that she was sent to boarding school after she defied Sturges’ rule forbidding her from playing on the rocks alone. When Fred claims that Sturges is hiding something and insists on investigating the caves, Lucile, offended that Fred would defy her father, breaks up with him. Meanwhile, George and Ben find a young girl who has been killed in a similar manner to the other deaths. Soon after, the seven-foot monster bursts through the cooler door in Kocheck’s store, injures a townsman then flees. George immediately drives the jeep to the lighthouse to fetch Fred, who has found the feeding pail at the cliffs. After warning Lucile to lock the doors, George, Fred and several armed townsmen search the beach and caves, where George and Fred find one of the victim’s heads and then hear a round of gunfire. Racing to the beach, they find one townsman killed and another wounded by the creature. Back at Sturges’ home, Lucile tells her father that she loves Fred and asks him about the killings. Sturges then admits that he might be culpable for the deaths. He continues that many years ago, he felt as though he was being watched and heard heavy breathing coming from one of the caves, and when he investigated, he found the creature. After Lucile left for school, he was comforted by the presence of the creature and consequently fed it fish and meat scraps and decided not to alert the sheriff to its existence. After Lucile then helps her father walk up several flights of stairs in the lighthouse, which he insists on manning that night to prevent a shipwreck, she bolts herself in the house. Meanwhile, slide analysis reveals that the beast is a reptilian mutation and possibly a missing link in human evolution. Back at Sturges’ house, Lucile leaves a pan of food out for Ring and then goes back into the house to dress for bed. Attracted by the food, the monster bursts through the door and grabs Lucile, who faints, and carries her down the beach. When Sturges screams at it, the creature drops Lucile and ambles away. Meanwhile, Ben and George rush to the lighthouse after Lucile does not answer their phone call. As Lucile comes to on the cliffs, the monster climbs the stairs after Sturges, who leads it to the top floor of the tower and then locks himself out on the ledge behind a heavy metal door. As Lucile, Ben, George, Fred and townspeople watch, the monster beats down the door and throws Sturges over the railing to his death. Although Fred had wanted to capture the creature for scientific observation, he now runs up the tower steps armed with a gun. When a townsman’s flashlight temporarily blinds the creature, Lucile turns on the lighthouse light to stun it further. After the monster falls to his death, Lucile rushes into Fred’s arms. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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