In the introduction to my last review, I made mention of the fact that there are plenty of films from 2020 that I still needed to catch up on. I’ve since been able to give one or two a watch, but decided to travel back in time a bit further with today’s write-up. Back to the 50s to be exact. Read on to hear my thoughts on Richard E. Cunha’s 1958 sci-fi horror, Giant From the Unknown.
After a rash of inexplicable crimes to both animal and human alike, an archaeologist and his daughter, along with a scientific researcher they’ve just met, discover the armor of a 500-year-old Spanish conquistador. After an electrical storm hits the area, the crew quickly realizes it isn’t just the armor that they’ve discovered, but the behemoth known as the Diablo Giant, himself.
Re-visiting these oldies from time to time really is a fun experience. Sure, they don’t compare to a lot of the newer films we are used to in terms of pacing or even the level of terror, but they certainly are a thing to behold.
Giant From the Unknown, written by Frank Hart Taussig and Ralph Brooke, and directed by Brooke’s partner, Richard E. Cunha, is a mix of sci-fi and terror that only the 50s could grant genre fans. There is a giant centuries-old monster on the loose and he is willing to kill anyone who gets in his path… what more could we really ask for?
The acting throughout, albeit dramatic, is actually rather good from all parties. Frankly, I don’t think there was a such thing as “bad casting” in this era of cinema. In modern films, especially low-budget or independent horror, it is always a gamble whether you are going to get competent performances or not. In 1958, that was not an issue, and everyone from the teens playing siblings Ann and Charlie Brown (Jolene Brand and Gary Cruthcer, respectively) to Sheriff Parker (Bob Steele) and Dr. Frederick Cleveland (Morris Ankrum) to new lovers Janet (Sally Fraser) and Wayne (Ed Kemmer) did a wonderful job. Oh, and I can’t forget the movie’s main antagonist, of course, Buddy Baer as Vargas the Diablo Giant.
At a towering 6 feet and 7 inches tall, Buddy Baer was perfect for the role of Vargas. Having played a giant many times before in films like 1951’s Quo Vadis and Jack and the Beanstalk in ’52, Baer’s stature and forboding presence compared to his much smaller counterparts was perfect for Cunha’s Giant From the Unknown. He was an effective villain and although the character may not be as disfigured or mangled as most of today’s horror movie baddies, his conquistador armor and disheveled and muddied look (provided by make-up artist Jack Pierce who worked on Frankenstein and The Mummy) is certainly enough to make anyone want to steer clear of him.
Giant From the Unknown at Home
Giant From the Unknown will be available to own Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, January 19th from The Film Detective. A special limited-edition Giant Cult Film Box Set of this newly restored 4K transfer is also available and includes tons of goodies. Included in this massive collector’s set is a 13-month cult film calendar, a bookmark, a magnet, a custom playing card deck, and a lapel pin, as well as a surprise additional cult film from the The Film Detective Vault, also recently restored in stunning 4K.
The standalone home release does not include all of these bonuses, but fret not. Luckily it is not some bare bones release by any means; The new Blu-ray release by TFD includes multiple audio commentary tracks, interviews, an original trailer, and a collector’s booklet with still gallery and liner notes from film historian Tom Weaver.
The black and white 1958 film is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, runs a total of 77 minutes, and does include optional English or Spanish subtitle tracks.
With a big, booming and dramatic score by Albert Glasser, superb acting, and a menacing villain, Giant From the Unknown is a solid entry in the sci-fi and horror monster movies of yesteryear. It is rather short, at an hour and 17 minutes, so you shouldn’t have any trouble squeezing it when not looking for anything too serious to watch.
Check the film out for yourself as I give it 4 massive footprints out of 5.