Sunday, June 27, 2010

Giant From the Unknown

GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN: A small movie with a big heart.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this film. I wish I had been alive in the 1950s to see it on the big drive-in movie screen. It may be small on budget and talent, but it makes up for it with big fun, excitement and eerie atmosphere. This may be director Richard Cunha’s best film. Cunha helmed such schlock drive-in masterpieces as: Missile To The Moon, She Demons and Frankenstein’s Daughter. His producer-partner, Arthur P. Jacobs, went on to bigger projects in producing the Planet of The Apes films. The working title for this film was: The Giant From Devil’s Crag.

Professional fighter Buddy Baer plays the giant murdering Spanish Conquistador, who is revived by lightning from his three hundred year grave to attack local natives and livestock in the small town of Pine Ridge, California. The opening sequence of this film is a bit confusing to me because it depicts the sheriff, played by cowboy serial star Bob Steele, and locals glancing at a corpse in the back of a pick-up truck. The locals comment that a monster is killing people and livestock in Pine Ridge. This sets up the idea that the giant is already on the loose and killing locals. However, it is not until much later in the film that we see the giant revived and crawling out of his grave as lightning strikes it. Does the giant return to his grave every evening after his killing sprees, or is he revived just this one time in the film? This is the confusion I have always had with the film. Nevertheless, I love it just the same.

Actor Ed Kemmer, star of TV’s Space Patrol, and pretty blonde actress Sally Fraser also star in the film. Both actors would team up once again for Bert I. Gordon’s The Earth vs. The Spider. Fraser also starred in Gordon’s War of The Colossal Beast, sequel to The Amazing Colossal Man.

It should also be noted that make-up genius Jack P. Pierce created and applied Buddy Baer’s Spanish Conquistador make-up for the film. Pierce is best known for his make-up work on Boris Karloff in the 1931 version of Frankenstein. It is unlikely that Giant From The Unknown ever appeared on Pierce’s resume. The real star of the film, however, is the eerie atmosphere and sense of isolation you feel when you view it. Giant From The Unknown is not to be missed by any fans of low-budget 1950s horror films. Don’t miss it! Don’t forget the popcorn!!

Steve D. Stones

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