Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Phil's Cult Classics: Phil watches THE MILPITAS MONSTER (1974)-JULY 2, 2012

Hello there people and welcome to a new segment that I call Phil's Cult Classics! So after attending the 15th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, I was really inspired to see more locally made films, like the ones that Broncho Billy Anderson made in Niles a hundred years ago. Now fortunately at the museum, they have a local history section that contains books, DVDs, and other cool items. It was here that I finally picked up one of the most famous local indie films ever made. So let''s take a trip back to 1974 to witness the cult classic THE MILPITAS MONSTER.

Original Movie Poster (1976)
The film takes place in the small town of Milpitas, located a few miles north of San Jose. It's famous for having a landfill near the town, which its foul odor would fill up the town. But when the landfill starts to overflow and the pollution reaches critical mass, a creature rises out of garbage. Dubbed The Milpitas Monster, the creature grows in size everytime it eats garbage. Eventually some high school students find out about the monster and team up with the local drunk to destroy it.

This movie started off as a project for photography teacher Robert Burrill and his class at Samuel Ayer High School. The students were told to create a fake movie poster for Halloween for their art class assignment. Burrill suggested the title of THE MILPITAS MONSTER, and then student David Kottas created the design of the monster (which looks like a hybrid of giant fly and Marvel Comic's Man-Thing wearing a gas mask). The students then made a ten minute short, which they sent to local Channel 2 television show Creature Features, hosted by the late, great Bob Wilkins. Soon after their segment on the show, Burrill began receiving phone calls from all over the Bay Area. Eventually the whole high school and then the community got involved with the project (Even Paul Frees did the narration for the film). The movie took two years to complete, and it was finally released in 1976. The film was eventually released on VHS and then on DVD under the alternative title THE MUTANT BEAST.

The movie is a time capsule of a bygone era; when the town Milpitas was nothing but fields, farm lands, and the landfill. Now I can remember San Jose looked exactly like Milpitas. The special effects were very primitive, and the budget for the whole film was only $11, 000. The film is just oozing with cheesy goodness, complete with overdubbed dialogue, not so special effects, and a guy dressed in a giant monster suit. But in the end, it's a testament to a community coming together and supporting their town's students that created something greater than themselves.

THE MILPITAS MONSTER is a local film treasure that continues to be loved by everyone here in the Bay Area as well as an inspiration to local filmmakers. So if you haven't seen this movie yet, or you want to purchase a copy for yourself, visit Robert Burrill's website at www.milpitasmonster.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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