The Monster of Piedras Blancas Blu-ray Review

Cave Dweller

Small town innocence: When officials store the dead in the grocer’s freezer and the local restaurant’s tables. That’s how it goes for a small California town in the ‘50s, so tiny and sparse in population as to mimic an early Western. No wonder they don’t have a morgue.

As much as Monster of Piedras Blancas exudes post-WWII American charms, it’s also enjoyable in its sleaze – but again, in that distinctively charming way. Teens romancing. Sex on the beach at low tide. Women undressing behind rocks. Decapitated heads.

While not an exploitative independent slog like The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues, Piedras Blancas follows the same course. Arduous and cheap, only Les Tremayne has enough staying power to keep this one moving. Tremayne pops in scene-to-scene to investigate the dead or poke someone with a stethoscope. He’s earnest as the town doctor. Everyone else is B-level in a B-level monster chiller, including ‘50s pin-up girl Jeanne Carmen as a helpless damsel. A cigar chewing constable and a conspiracy theorist general store owner add a bit of color to this black & white cheapie, if not much drama.

there’s a question of how hungry for blood this sea-born creature is if it moves this slow.

There’s a monster too, stitched together from Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Mole People, with a scrunchy face begging the question of how it eats anything. Said monster rummages through the town, knocking off heads but only when the camera turns away. A nuisance, for sure.

Piedras Blancas picks up and sets down plot points, erratically flip-flopping between ideas. Luckily, there’s a marine biologist in this town of 20-ish, peering into microscopes to solve this murder non-mystery. As is standard for the genre in this period, the scientist should spit out ideas of where the monster comes from (a cave) and how to kill it (uneventfully throw it in the water). Not so in Piedras Blancas, if only because the clawed beast is here to maim and not much else.

It isn’t until the final frames where the title beastie shows up, lumbering about, occasionally throwing its claws in the air. As with Warner’s The Thing from Another World or the Universal man-sized monster classics, Piedras Blancas is invaded by a creature slower than a sloth. Chasing down the mean ol’ lighthouse owner, there’s a question of how hungry this sea-born creature is if it moves this slow. Or, maybe it’s starving and running on reserves. Either way, Monster of Piedras Blancas ends on an abrupt, unintentional laugh, not worth the previous 65-minutes of this 71-minute movie.

The Monster of Piedras Blancas Blu-ray screen shot 16

Video

Beautifully presented by Olive Films (for the first time outside of public domain) this low-level creature romp earns an astonishing transfer. Gorgeous grain replication and a high-res source preserve image integrity. Generous bitrates maintain this level of quality even through a handful of grain spikes.

Gray scale reaches wide, offering stellar contrast, particularly of coastline cinematography. Whether Piedras Blancas runs on a low budget or not, the images from the location shoot in Cayucos, California give the movie some genuinely pleasing scope. This Blu-ray extracts details from rocks, moss, grass, and beach debris.

The same goes for close-ups, the static camerawork pulling out unusual levels of fidelity for the era. As the creature stomps around, fine details in the suit – unconvincing at is in full view – show an attention to design. Scales and warts cover the beast.

One or two stock footage shots and softer images during a funeral procession (possibly an optical zoom) are the only gaffes. Considering age and the unlikeliness of a full restoration, the film reveals few imperfections. Stray scratches and marks rarely cause worry.

Audio

Excluding some fall-off in quality at peak high and low points in the stock score, DTS-HD mono services this aging flick well. Clear, strong dialog threads consistently through the movie. Other than an instance inside the lighthouse where the open space echoes (entirely the fault of on-set recording), few problems creep into Piedras Blancas.

Extras

Can’t have everything, and in this case, it’s extras. There’s nothing offered.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to exclusives.