Back to the late 1950’s, when B-movies were in their prime. And they don’t hardly get more prime than 1959’s The Monster of Piedras Blancas.
Really nothing more than a blatant ripoff of the earlier Creature From the Black Lagoon, this film followed B-movie formula pretty closely (including the hero kissing the girl at the end), but it does offer a few new twists. For one, it features a handicapped boy, probably a nod to the polio epidemics, and it features what may be the first screen appearance of a severed head. Mothers everywhere were outraged by this, as they were trapped inside cars at the drive-ins with their screaming terrified children. From the IMDb:
One of my favorite 50’s monster movies! For some reason this priceless little gem is always overlooked in the lists of B-movie monster faves of the 1950s. You have one of the better amphibious creature costumes designed by Jack Kevan (No zipper!!), a great sea coast location, decapitations and gore, some very decent acting by A-list party girl and pin-up queen Jeanne Carmen, and last but not least, Les Tremayne – He is only in 85% of all classic B-horror/sci-fi films of the 1950s! What’s a film without him?! All right guys, I know its formula, but this obscure little tale holds a special place in my heart since I was 9-years old! The film has drama, subtext, coastal atmosphere, sex, and about 5 or 6 headless corpses lying about! John Harmon as Sturges, the crusty lighthouse keeper who feeds the hungry cave-dwelling beast meat scraps from the local deli, does a credible job here as a man who has closed off all emotions to the world, including those of his fetching daughter Lucy (Carmen), in exchange for companionship with the hungry creature. Jeanne Carmen is a natural beauty equal to the Mara Cordays’ and Allison Hayes’ of her decade. Too bad the studios didn’t use her a little more proficiently. Psuedo-teen heartthrob Don Sullivan is thrown in for some romantic interest and all that biology jazz and the musical score (which is never credited) is rich, layered and ‘original.’ So, sorry guys! The Monster of Piedras Blancas always wins with me!
YouTube offers the complete film, which is embedded below. This was prime drive-in theater fare and so it is generally suitable for family viewing. (The TV versions which we used to watch on Saturdays edited out the severed heads.) But kids of the 50’s were tougher than today’s snowflakes, so Viewer Discretion is advised.