Saturday, August 31, 2013

SLO FILM FESTIVAL FEATURES 'MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS'


On Tuesday, the topic of my post was the mask of the Piedras Blancas monster. Coincidentally, I discovered on the SLO Tribune webpage that this fall the North Coast (where MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS was filmed) will be hosting the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.

The article following is a reprint from the paper that includes a story previously published in 2002, when the film was locally screened.

There is some choice information here about the making of MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS, including some details about the monster's suit being a conglomeration of parts that were "laying around" the studio floor. Special effects man Jack Kevan utilized hands from THE MOLE PEOPLE, feet from THIS ISLAND EARTH, and parts from THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, and put them all atop the wholly original "pig/dog/crab man" head to complete the creature with a lust for human flesh.
 

The Monster of Piedras Blancas
Posted by David Middlecamp on July 31, 2013

MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS

The SLO County on the Silver Screen series has been announced and it includes the B-movie filmed on the North Coast, The Monster of "Piedras Blancas."

It will show on Nov. 23, 2013, in Cayucos, one of the movie's locations. Check out the details at the San Luis Obispo InternationalFilm Festival website.

The low budget film plays out in front of Morro Rock, recently the site of a Viagra commercial. Not sure who Morro Rock's agent is but if these were the best offers on the table I would suggest the "Gibraltar of the Pacific" look for new representation.

On Oct. 20, 2002, The Tribune's Jay Thompson wrote about the film's history:

THE 'MONSTER' RETURNS \ CATCH A SCREENING

Lena Minetti remembers the spring day 44 years ago when Hollywood came calling to film "The Monster of Piedras Blancas."

The low-budget, drive-in horror flick, shot in less than two weeks in 1958 for $50,000, is the only movie ever filmed in Cayucos.

In the film, a 7-foot crab-man terrorizes the town, beheading its victims and sucking their bodies dry of blood. In one memorable scene, the creature flees with a man's severed head dangling from its claws.

This B-movie is more popular today than when it was released in 1959, despite the fact that the lighthouse depicted is in Point Conception.

"We were talking about that the other day, and I said, 'Well, I don't remember anything specific about the movie, ' " said Minetti, 78, a Cayucos resident who watched the filming. "And my son Mike, who's 49, said, 'Well I can always remember that monster's head coming out of Ghezzi's store.'

"I'm sure that there are a lot of people who were around at that time who have memories of the movie."

April Weeks of the Friends of the Cayucos Library said it's those memories that inspired "Hollywood Comes to Cayucos, 1958." The Oct. 27, [2002] event, a fund-raiser for the organization to be held at the Cayucos Veterans Building, will feature two screenings of the movie, a panel discussion that includes leading lady Jeanne Carmen, an autograph session and a drawing for a replica of the monster's mask.

Librarian Shera Hill pitched the idea after residents shared their stories of the town

" 'Monster of Piedras Blancas' would always come up, " Weeks said. "Shera always thought it would be cool to show it in town as a benefit for the library. The Friends purchased a copy of it, and that really got the ball rolling. We said, 'We can show this. Hey, why don't we get hold of Jeanne?' "

Carmen, 72, resurfaced in the 1990s after a near 30-year hiatus from public life. She travels to memorabilia shows throughout the country and can be seen on TV in several "E! True Hollywood Stories, " including a 1998 biography, "Jeanne Carmen, Queen of the B-Movies."

"I think it will be wonderful to go back to Cayucos after so many years and just reminisce about what happened there, " Carmen said from her Aliso Viejo home. "I think it will be interesting."

The back story of "The Monster of Piedras Blancas" begins with director Irvin Berwick and producer Jack Kevan at Universal-Inter-national in Hollywood in the late '50s.

Berwick was a dialogue director at the studio, and Kevan had made a name for himself as a makeup artist. His rubber-suited monsters can been seen in "The Mole People, " "This Island Earth" and "Creature from the Black Lagoon." Both men longed for greater artistic control and ultimately teamed up as VanWick Productions.

"Irv's goal was to make pictures, " said Ted Newsom, a historian and documentary filmmaker who took a UCLA course on low-budget film production from Berwick in the 1970s. "He felt that would be a lot more fun and ultimately a lot more profitable. And 'The Monster of Piedras Blancas' was the venue."

On March 26, 1958, the Telegram-Tribune published a two-paragraph story announcing the arrival of VanWick Productions.

The crew included a 35-member troupe. "Their modern-day mystery stars Jeanne Carmen, a featured actress in the Hollywood play 'Pajama Tops, ' which ran successfully for a year, and Don Sullivan, experienced television actor of Westerns, " the paper reported two days later. "Supporting roles are being played by character actors Les Tremayne and Forrest Lewis, a longtime radio team, and John Harmon."

The newspaper reported that the crew planned to stay in Cayucos five days.

The film crew's work began before sunup at Al's restaurant at Ocean Avenue and Cayucos Drive.

"We would get up and go to this little restaurant for breakfast, " Carmen said. "Every day I had abalone. It was the first time I had ever had it. That was their specialty, and that's what I had all the time, breakfast, lunch, dinner. To this day I'm still a fan of that fish."

Child actor Wayne Berwick fondly recalled sitting in Al's "and seeing this line of kids and people outside. There were probably 50 or 60 people on the set at all times, hanging around and watching."

Berwick, 8 at the time, played Little Jimmy. He didn't have to audition for his other role, however.

"You know the scene where the man is walking his dead daughter down the street? Well, the dead daughter is me with girls' shoes on. And the guy carrying her is my dad."

Corny dialogue and giant plot holes are a mainstay of B-movies. In young Berwick's big scene, he urged his dad to change one of the lines, but his father disagreed.

"I didn't want to say my last line: 'He doesn't have any head, ' " Wayne Berwick said. "I remember saying, 'It's corny. I wouldn't say that.'

"My dad said, 'Oh no ... that's the one that will grab them.' "

As rubber-suited 1950s-era monsters go, the Piedras Blancas creature has many fans, though the suit was a composite of several contemporary Universal monsters, most notably the "Creature from the Black Lagoon."

Producer Jack Kevan "just reused casts that he had around, " Newsom said. "The feet, I think, are from the mutant from 'This Island Earth, ' and the hands are from 'The Mole People.' The body itself may have officially been from the 'Creature from the Black Lagoon, ' but there was a lot of work that went into that. And the head is entirely original."

The monster was deliberately kept off-screen to build tension, but to young Berwick, who saw it daily, it was the source of repeated nightmares.

"I was right there the whole time, " he said. "I saw the cameras, I saw the monster taking the head off, putting it on, and I was freaked out for years. I was scared to death of that monster."

Pete Dunn, who died in 1990, played two roles in the film: Eddie, the constable's deputy, and the monster. In the film's most shocking scene, the monster clutches Eddie's severed head. Dunn found it difficult to wear the suit for more than a half-hour and was unable to play the monster while the final scenes were being filmed at the Point Conception Lighthouse.

So Carmen's press agent, Joe Seide, filled in.

"It's where the monster was at the top of the stairwell chasing my father, " Carmen said. "The first monster was very lethargic, but the second monster was a crazy, crazy man. When he got to the balcony, he started climbing to the top of it. Everybody was saying, 'Get off! You're going to kill yourself.' He was screaming and acting crazy."

Lucy's father, actor John Harmon, is hurled off the lighthouse's catwalk by the monster, which is in turn finished off when it's pushed off the lighthouse into the sea.

The director used the same dummy in both scenes.

"It was named Oscar, " Berwick said. "He was with our family for as long as I can remember after that. He just sat in my parents' closet. He looked like Pete Dunn. For some reason, they just used him as a model."

Years later, Berwick's father lent Oscar to a director making a movie about the Loch Ness monster.

"And it's at the bottom of Lake Tahoe now, " Berwick said.

The film lives on in the hearts of fans as well as those involved with the production.

Berwick said the project was his father's "pride and joy. 'Piedras Blancas' was his only hit." The elder Berwick died in 1998.

Wayne Berwick is now 52 and frontman of "Westside Wayne and the Boulevard Band, " a blues group that will play in San Luis Obispo next spring. He frequently returns to Cayucos. And every few years, he watches the movie.

"The thing I like about it is the memories that it conjures up, " he said. "One of the highlights of my life was being on that location at that impressionable age and to be treated the way I was. My dad, the big boss ... this sweet starlet, people lining up for my autograph and I could barely write my name, that kind of thing. It was a great experience. I can still picture it real vividly."

Carmen fondly remembers the experience. "I just thought it was a wonderful, little town, " she said. "The townspeople were friendly. They were wonderful. It was like family there."

And Lena Minetti, who is part of a family with deep roots in Cayucos, has her own memories. She recalled staying up late to watch the movie on TV during a visit to her daughter's North Carolina home. What caught her eye was what she calls the real star of the film: The town that's been her home since the 1940s.

"When I see it, I wish we were back in the good old days, " she said. "It would just be wonderful if Cayucos was like it was then. Now, like all little towns, it's overpopulated. At that time you could walk down the street, and you knew just about everybody. Now you don't know anybody.

"So I guess it's my age that's telling me I wish we could go back just a few years."

EXTRA! There are a few more shots of the lovely Jeanne Carmen who starred in MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS posted upstairs on the "Horror Hotties" page. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

FRANKENSTEIN'S MONSTER AT THE EMPIRE BURLESQUE THEATER


The team with a name that sounds like a cheap box wine did their entertaining in the 1950s. Bartlett and King were a burlesque act, that much we know, thanks to Jim Linderman at Vintage Sleaze (see link on sidebar), we also know that the male partner of the duo (let's just say it's King, since the main attraction -- the lady -- usually had her name up front, right?) remained hidden from the audience during their show by wearing a costume and mask.



In 1957 B&K performed shows with titles that were befitting of a man in a monster suit like Lady and the Gorilla and Beauty and the Beast. Earlier, in 1952 they were appeared in a short film produced by Broadway Roadshow Production called Rasputin and the Princess (do you see a recurring theme here?).

Also in 1952 they starred in another Broadway Roadshow Productions short film, apparently based on their live act entitled, Monster and the Maiden. What will interest MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD readers is the outfit that is worn by King, and in particular, the mask. If I'm not mistaken, it is a Don Post Frankenstein mask that had been popular since its introduction by Don Post Studios in the late 1940s.

In 1955, B&K enlisted the aid of famed New Orleans photographer Myles de Russy to produce a series of publicity still for them. By some minor miracle, these very obscure and arcane bits of monster memorabilia have survived the Dustbins of Time. Without these, even speculation about this team and their "monster" act would be near-impossible.




The film and show must have been quite popular since a 1955 ad for the Empire Burlesque Theater in Newark, New Jersey, shows that they were still performing their Monster and the Maiden routine. The act evidently continued as late as 1957.



As for the Don Post Frankenstein mask, it was sold in numerous markets and enjoyed a long-lasting popularity for many years. Most famously, James Warren wore a Don Post Frankenstein mask and posed with Miss Marion Moore on the cover of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND #1 in 1958.





Now, look real close at the photo of Warren & Moore and Bartlett & King and tell me if you notice anything. Could the publicity still of an earlier burlesque act have been the inspiration for the cover image of the first monster magazine?

The venerable SOMETHING WEIRD VIDEO has somehow found the Bartlett & King Monster and the Maiden film and include it on one of their burlesque compilation DVD's. Here is a YouTube clip:




EXTRA! Here are a few photos of Rita Cortes, the Brazilian Bombshell seen on the same venue with Bartlett & King at the Empire Burlesque Theater.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

GOREZONE RETURNS


Chris Alexander, editor of the long-running FANGORIA announced in June the return of its companion magazine, GOREZONE. A title delving even deeper into the sex, blood, and guts of so-called "splatter films" than it's flagship publication, GOREZONE is set to hit the pipeline in September.

In an interesting marketing move that may be anticipating its difficulty with placement on the newsstand, GOREZONE will not be sold in stores. Instead, it will only be offered for sale directly via the FANGORIA website.

Alexander claims that the title has been one of the most requested items sent to FANGORIA's email box. In its initial run, GOREZONE lasted for 27 issues. It was noted for its unapologetic coverage of extreme horror. Now, 20 or so years later, the slasher flick has gained an uneasy notoriety with successful franchises such as SAW and other edgy films, such as HUMAN CENTIPEDE. As a result, there will be no shortage of material for content.


Helping to boost the magazine's cred, VIDEO WATCHDOG editor Tim Lucas will return to the fold with a new column, and special effects legend Tom Savini will lend his expertise in a column devoted to splatter FX.

GOREZONE is set to be published bi-monthly. You can check out more details by clicking on the GOREZONE cover image on the sidebar.

One of the features awaiting in issue #28 is an interview and candid photoshoot of popular scream queen, Linnea Quigley. Interested adult readers can view a sample here.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

IN PRAISE OF THE MONSTER MAGAZINE


Every time I see a meat tenderizer I am reminded of Herschell Gordon Lewis' THE GORE GORE GIRLS. Those of you who have watched it will know why.

Lewis' legacy appears alive and well in the hands of the Florida-based CULT MOVIE MANIA crew. Specializing in exploitation of the extreme kind, they promote classic cult-inspired movies through their website and the Shock Sheet, a regular email newsletter.

This week the newsletter featured a column on monster magazines. Writer Andy Lalino lauds the overall influence that monster 'zines -- and in particular, print monster 'zines -- have had over the years and even makes the case that they are the industry's life blood. I couldn't agree more.

I have reprinted the entire article here, sans photos, from the newsletter. You can visit their WEBSITE to subscribe to the Shock Sheet.

Cult Movie Mania Salutes Monster Magazines!
by Andy Lalino

It is the true nervous system of the horror genre: the venerable MONSTER MAGAZINE.  We all have media that we love: movies, TV shows, literature, video games, illustrated stories & comics, radio shows - but since the 1950's it's been the monster magazine that has corralled, examined, reported on and communicated the pleasures of all macabre stimuli.

It was truly the beginning of an era in 1958 when Forrest Ackerman and James Warren scared up Famous Monsters of Filmland, the world's first monster magazine for fans.  Before FM, pulps and comic books ruled the newsstands - both were preoccupied with telling fantastic stories than journalism, so FM had the field wide open to fill an in-demand niche.  And did so astoundingly well.

The first issue of FM was so well-received by young fans, that what originally was conceived as a one-shot became a magazine series in print from '58 to 1983 (Famous Monsters is still in print, but in a different incarnation than what Ackerman's/Warren's).  What FM was especially successful in doing, and what is a tradition among horror fans today, was exalting the importance of horror history and making a case for the dignity of the genre.

Ackerman looked to the past as much as he gazed to the future.  He was adamant about conveying the wonder and pleasure of experiencing the very first modern genre wonders, among them:

  • Lon Chaney's performance in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Fritz Lang's Metropolis
  • Chaney again: London After Midnight
  • H.G. Wells' Things to Come
  • The brilliant horror, sci-fi and fantasy stories from the pulps (which greatly influenced Ackerman) by such authors as H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs and many more.

Famous Monsters was as much about past horror cinema as then-current offerings, and there were reasons for it.  One, Ackerman truly loved the 1920's and 1930's era, the time he grew up in.  Two, FM was created to capitalize on interest in syndicated horror movies (by AIP) being shown on broadcast TV in the late '50s - those movies routinely featured creature features from the '30s and '40's, including the Universal classics.

To this day it's tough to find a horror fan who DOESN'T love and talk about old films as much as current ones - even more so.  That's because the importance Famous Monsters stressed on how crucial it was to preserve and study vintage horror cinema is still wholly influential.  And we are damned proud of that!  You won't find any other genre aficionado who appreciates the past as much as a horror fan.  We all have an innate sense to keep that tradition alive and flourishing as long as possible.

From the '50s to the early '80s, horror fans could enjoy articles on Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney (Sr. and Jr.), Basil Rathbone, Vincent Price and others with welcome regularity in FM.  This formula was so successful, other publishers were influenced to start their own, similar 'zines.  The best-known were: Castle of Frankenstein and The Monster Times.  Castle of Frankenstein boasted superior writing contrasted to FM, which usually relied on simple sentences and puns to appease their adolescent readership.  To distinguish itself from other magazines on the shelf, The Monster Times' gimmick was being a newspaper, not a mag.  As such, they covered obscure and B-movies - not just classics and big studio productions.

Famous Monsters held steady until the rise of the slasher film in the late 1970's/early '80s.  Times were changing, and due to the success of Halloween and Friday the 13th, horror fans now demanded gorier images and more mature journalism.  Thus came Fangoria in 1979.  Initially, Fangoria was not specifically a "gore" mag (its original title was "Fantastica"), and took a few issues to settle into that reputation, with notorious cover images from splatterfests such as Motel Hell, Xtro, and Fulci's Zombie.  Those blood-spattered, full colored images mixed with more sophisticated on-set reporting and reviews made Fangoria an instant hit with the fans, who seemingly left behind the innocence of Famous Monsters.  The torch had been passed, for better or worse.

Fast forward past the decline of the horror film in the late 1980's through most of the '90s, its resurgence in 1996 with Wes Craven's Scream, to the popularity it enjoys today.  We now have an odd, transitory climate where print magazines have to duke it out against the tidal wave of journalistic amateurism on the weird wide web, in which content is almost always "free".  Just recently, it seems, fans are (finally!) getting back to the notion that print is still king - a professional format consisting of genuine writing skill and reporting talent - and are willing to pay for a subscription or purchasing issues at newsstands.  The whole notion of a monster or horror magazine is romantically linked to print.  Many horror fans collect monster magazines and cherish them as a cornerstone of their acquisitions.  They have a deep appreciation for the informative content they entomb, and a genuine fascination with the images they convey, be they publicity photos or illustrated horror stories.

Truth be told, even in 2013 there is not shortage of in-print horror magazines.  Go into any bookstore that sells them and you'll see a healthy heaping of horror periodicals.  Fangoria has never been out of print since 1979 - that's 34 years, folks.  Famous Monsters is still in print, but as mentioned previously it's a different incarnation.  Canada's Rue Morgue is a fan favorite, with excellent cover art and industry coverage of equal quality.  And there exist a plethora of more.  Tim Lucas's Video Watchdog is popular among fans - well written, introspective reviews, and a film theory perspective on horror makes this a thinking man's periodical.  HorrorHound caters more to the collector, and is another popular title among fans.  Like Video Watchdog, Videoscope - Phantom of the Movies features well-written reviews and contains rare interviews.  For the classic horror fan, it's tough to beat Scary Monsters/Monster Memories, Dennis Druktenis's loving homages to vintage horror of a more innocent age.  For the horror/cult movie reader who desires premium presentations, check out Thomas Eikrem's Filmrage magazine.  Actually, more like a high-end coffee table book, Filmrage is a hardbound masterpiece of cult cinema coverage.

Diabolique, Fangoria's recent resurrection of Gore Zone, Paracinema, Cinema Retro, Screem, Shock Cinema, Lunchmeat (for VHS collectors) - so many fantastic titles with outstanding writers, photographers and designers.  PLEASE consider subscribing to one of these print magazines.  Re-discover the joys of holding a monster magazine in your hands, not just on a computer screen.  eReaders are...adequate, but nothing beats the experience of collecting REAL PRINT monster magazines.  I guess what I'm saying is subscribe to an eMagazine if you must, but try like hell to possess the REAL THING - print!  So celebrate the past and support the present and future by buying/collecting old issues and supporting current publications!  Print magazines will never have a more supportive ally than Cult Movie Mania - and you too.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

THE MONSTER MASKS OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS


One of my favorite B-list monster movies has always been MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS. Made in a couple of weeks on a budget of about $50,000, it has remained true to its purpose -- a quickie shocker for the drive-in viewer with a cute girl and a nasty monster running amok.

Noted mask maker Cathy Tharp memorialized the Piedras Blancas monster by sculpting a likeness of Jack Kevan's original creation. I have seen this mask for sale at a few auction sites (pictures here are from liveauctioneers), but never available as a mass-produced item.






Another version of the Piedras Blancas monster mask with a price tag of $150 remains sold out at the Halloween-mask.com page.



Jeanne Carmen was the love interest in MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS. Extremely photogenic, she never missed a chance to smile for the camera.







Monday, August 26, 2013

MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT ARCHIVES VOL. 1 ON DVD


Readers of Jim Clatterbaugh's award-winning magazine, MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT already know that this is one classic monster resource that we would have a hard time living without. Those that have missed some or all of the early issues (including me) need not fret, as Jim has come up with the great idea of releasing the first 10 issues as PDF files on one DVD.

Most of these issues are long out of print and usually demand high collector's prices. At a mere $25.00 (postage included) that makes each issue in this collection only $2.50 apiece! What makes it even easier is you can purchase with a credit card or PayPal.

MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT is an indispensable guide to the history of vintage monsters and it has always received MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD'S highest recommendation. Now, we can catch up on issues that we have missed. Jim has also announced that he will be issuing two more DVD's that will bring us to the present. What are you waiting for? Shamble on over to MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT and order your DVD now!


MONSTER CARD MONDAY






Saturday, August 24, 2013

I'M THE WEREWOLF OF LAVILLE, FIGARO!


"A year after the end of world war two," the tale begins, "the tiny hamlet of Laville, lying on the outskirts of inhabited Quebec, received two emigrants from Europe."

Karl and Emma Schneider are French-speaking Germans. The townsfolk treat them with a certain measure of contempt, for here are two from the bloodline of the race that invaded their home country and subjugated its citizens through brutality, torture and murder.

They were right. Karl is an ex-Nazi who still harbors a hatred for the untermenchen. Why it is that they chose to come to Canada is not quite clear . . . until later in the story. Karl goes out into the woods on longer and longer hunting trips, the always-barren Emma suddenly becomes pregnant, and the suspicions grow along with her.

Karl spends more and more time in the woods that remind him of his beloved Black Forest of home. He lets his hair and beard grow, then his nails. Finally, he brings a deer home that has obviously been brought down without the aid of a rifle. Then the howling in the middle of the night starts . . .

This fictional tale, told in the form of a real-life adventure, was typical of the mens' magazines that proliferated after the war. Many of them found ways to incorporate the hysteria and mistrust of Germans. The Werewolf of Laville is one example. The townsfolk have reason to be suspicious as Kurt is, indeed, an ex-Nazi -- ex-concentration camp guard in fact -- who would love nothing more than to wreck havoc again. His hatred metaphorically takes on bestial dimensions and it is only by the quick-thinking of his unwitting wife that he is stopped from a reign of werewolf terror!

The Werewolf of Laville, written by Lee Ellision, and appearing in the May 1953 issue of MR., was a typical men's magazine of the day, combining features, fiction, sports and humor, along with a dash of spice in the form of pin-up gals in various stages of undress. The inclusion of a full-page photo of Universal's The Wolf Man makes this even more worthy of Monsterologists.








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