At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS (Olive)

By • Sep 16th, 2016 •

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BluRay review by Roy Frumkes

This is a tough one to review with any measure of objectivity. I have a warm spot for it in my heart, having seen it in ’59 when it was released, and being the right age back then to really enjoy the Lizards & Bugs opuses of the atomic ‘50s.

There’s too much melodrama here and not enough monster. It’s only 71 minutes long, but could have used another five minutes trimmed out, particularly in the third act when the monster is finally going berserk, the female lead looks like she’s about to bite the dust, and the editor cuts back to the townspeople having a conversation about what the game plan should be.

The acting is earnest, and at times effective. The monster is a rough trade version of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the violence scenes have a hard-edge. It’s not made by a Hollywood studio – it’s truly an indie, and one can feel that they’re in a real town, not a studio set. Also it’s slickly filmed by Philip Lathrop, who went on to DP the PETER GUNN TV series, EXPERIMENT IN TERROR, LONELY ARE THE BRAVE, THE CINCINNATI KID, and POINT BLANK. The quality of Lathrop’s opening shots set the tone for the film, an aesthetically satisfying montage which the entirety of the narrative may not live up to, but one it also can’t discard.

A lighthouse is one of the nice locations, and it’s used particularly well in the third act. There’s also a shot of a boy with a stiff leg running into the street that harkens back to a similar shot in Orson Welles’ THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI. Over the course of the film, there are pleasantries like these to be found.

Jeanne Carmen, as the light-house-keeper’s daughter, is comfortable in her role, and apparently had a successful life in a minor key afterwards, numbering among her friends Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. Glenn Andreiev, one of FIR’s columnists, corresponded with her over the internet and says she was very friendly towards her fans.

Les Tremayne, known in horror circles for the 1954 WAR OF THE WORLDS, lends an air of seasoned professionalism to the cast. While none of the thesps give surprisingly good performances, neither are they as hokey and intolerable as, say, Sidney Berger was in CARNIVAL OF SOULS.

The score is effective, but there is no composer listed, so I imagine it was well chosen library music. The image has always looked good, and Olive’s BluRay mastering is no exception. It’s a fun flick to catch up with for those of you who are fond of 50s creature features.

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One Response »

  1. Still holds up as a ‘popcorn muncher ‘ and never fails to entertain. All thumbs up!

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