FILM EDUCATION 101: UPON FURTHER REVIEW…: Cross-Examining “The Monster of Piedras Blancas”. Final Verdict? Ick!!! by Brad Eastland, Dr. of Ancient Filmology

August 1, 2010
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      Brace yourself.   

      Because I’m going to violate the one rule I established for myself when I created this column.   Just this once.   I just wanted to tell you that up front, in the spirit of full disclosure.

      That rule, of course, that first promise I made to you way back in January in just my 2ndUpon Further Review” column ( ), was to never review an old movie (all my reviews being of very old movies) that I did not have a high opinion of; that I didn’t think was well worth the watching.

      The Monster of Piedras Blancas” is the exception which proves the rule.   This is a really bad movie, people.   It is definitively awful.   It is a bomb.   A flop.   A joke.   A veritable blight upon the escutcheon of Moviedom.   It is only 72 minutes long, but if you decide to see it those are 72 minutes of your life that will be forever taken from you and that you will never, ever, get back.

      So then why waste additional time writing about it?   Or reading what I’ve written?

      Well, first of all, I assume you read my stuff because you personally like me and are entertained by me.   At least a little.   Secondly, I am trying to make a point.

      The point is that a movie doesn’t always have to be good to be good.

      What I mean is, a particular movie—good or bad—can be important for other reasons.   I’ll give you an example: One of the many “Gidget” movies of the 60s, “Gidget Goes Hawaiian”, is a favorite movie of both my sister Marji and myself.   We have each seen it about 30 or 40 times, and each of us knows pretty much every line of dialogue.   We grew up watching that movie, and for some reason we loved it.   Is “Gidget Goes Hawaiian” a good movie?   No!    In fact most people would say that “Gidget Goes Hawaiian” is the very definition of Hollywood boiler plate bubble gum filler, a colossal waste of time.   But to Marji and I it is a necessary piece of our shared personal history, and therefore it matters.   Therefore it is good.

      But make no mistake, people.   As bad as “Gidget Goes Hawaiian” is, compared to “The Monster of Piedras Blancas” it might as well be “Citizen Kane”, “The Godfather”, and “Gone With The Wind” all rolled into one.

      Like the Gidget movie, though, Piedras Blancas is thoroughly woven into my own personal history.   I first saw it nearly fifty years ago, when I was not yet five years old, at a holiday gathering in Highland Park, Illinois, all my relatives on my mother’s side getting together for Easter or Thanksgiving or some similar celebration.   It was late at night, dinner was done, and we were all watching this horror movie about a flesh-eating lizard terrorizing some California coastal town.   I was riveted.   It didn’t matter squat to my five-year-old self that this movie was saddled with a horrible script, fraught with wooden dialogue, devoid of decent acting, and possessed of special effects approximately akin to some Halloween party your own mother probably put together for you when you were a kid.   I was five, and I was agog.   And when the lizard emerged from a meat locker carrying some guy’s blood-dripping, ripped-off head (virtually the only decent scene in the movie), I was never more scared in my life, and that scene was burned into the hard disc of my brain forever.

      However, unbeknownst to me, while I was watching this reptilian calamity with all my mom’s relatives, my Uncle John was off raiding the refrigerator, searching for some tasty holiday dessert to quell his insatiable Midwestern appetite.   He found it.   I had hidden away a piece of my mom’s famous “ice-box dessert” in the back of the fridge, intending to devour it after the movie was over.   When I opened the refrigerator and saw that it was gone, I wailed, “Hey!   Who took my ice-box?”   Everyone within earshot proclaimed their innocence, except Uncle John of course, who bellowed forth in his gravelly Chicago baritone, “I’m sorry, Brad, was that yours?   I guess I ate it!   Didn’t know you were saving it.   Sorry about that, son….”  

      If I was about 200 pounds heavier I would have decked him.

      Fast-forward to last week.   We had a little family reunion at my place in Monrovia, as my cousin and very good friend Lieutenant John Flink, Jr. (yes, son of Uncle John) and his Navy wife Wendy (who out-ranks him by about six levels) were bunking at my place for one night as part of their recent west-coast vacation.   Right before they left, I popped in a DVD of “The Monster of Piedras Blancas” and we watched it, for old times’ sake and in honor of his late father, who I had long since forgiven.   (I think.)

      So you see, “The Monster of Piedras Blancas”, for me, will always be a good movie.   Even though it is by any reasonable standard very, very bad.

      One quick Pop Culture note: The only noteworthy member of the cast of this movie is pin-up girl Jeanne Carmen (pictured above), who, in her time, was famous primarily for two things.   One, she was a noted golf “trick-shot” artist, and two, more significantly, she was a close friend of Marilyn Monroe, close enough that when Monroe died in Los Angeles in 1962 (or was murdered to protect the political and personal reputations of the Kennedy brothers, depending on your point of view), she blew town on the advice of Chicago mobster Johnny Roselli.   Believing her life to be in danger (which would certainly support the foul play theory, at least in her mind), Carmen fled to Scottsdale, Arizona, where she lived in secret for over a decade.   Roselli should have taken his own advice.   In 1976 he was found stuffed into a 55-gallon fuel drum.   They were able to fit him in there because his legs had been sawed off.   Life is weird.

      The Monster of Piedras Blancas” is available on VHS for between thirteen and seventeen dollars.   I’m not saying not to order it.   It’s a free country.   Maybe some of you out there like flesh-eating lizards.   So if money means that little to you, knock yourself out.

      What I am curious about, though, is what terrible “B” movies have special meaning to some of you, the loyal members of LaVerne OnLine Nation.   What is the “The Monster of Piedras Blancas” from your own sentimental past?   LVO welcomes your input; just fill out the comment section below.

      Thanks.   Next time I’ll pick a good movie.   Promise.


Brad Eastland, our “Dr. of Ancient Filmology”, is a movie buff and film historian, as long as the film was made before 1985 or so.  (If you want to hear about new-release films, ask somebody else!).   Special effects and gratuitous anything have no place in his celluloid world.   Primarily a fiction writer, Brad has written four novels and over 20 short-stories.  Here are some samples of his best work:

The dark Doctor

The dark Doctor

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