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Friday, July 27, 2018

Giant from the Unknown (1958)




Another Friday and another Fifties horror/sci-fi movie. You know somehow, I’ve never seen this one. Since most of my childhood was spent watching old movies that was a shock to me. But after watching it I know I would have remembered Giant from the Unknown if I had ever seen it before. Is that a good or bad thing? Let us see.

The story kicks off with us watching a group of locals complaining about the death of cattle, horses, and now Old Man Banks. All of the bodies have been crushed and beaten badly. All sorts of theories are floated including “Indian” Joe the angry drunk and the outsider Wayne who is in town to do some Geological surveys. The sheriff decides that Wayne is suspicious and immediately tells him not to leave town. Apparently, they really don’t like each other, or at least the sheriff really hates Wayne. This will be important later.

While this is going on Professor Cleveland pulls up with his lovely daughter Janet. They are in town to look for a legendary Spanish Conquistador named Vargas. He was infamous for being a nasty individual as well as being a giant of a man. One thing leads to another as the Professor is interested in some of the artifacts that Wayne has collected, and Wayne is interested in the Professor’s daughter. They go camping to check out the site and sure enough old Vargas is still alive or is at least alive again when he gets struck by lightning. Basically, he is back, has an axe and likes to kill. The sheriff blames Wayne because he hates him which leads to Janet getting kidnapped by Vargas and the locals chasing Wayne and then Vargas when it becomes clear they have a bigger problem. Get it bigger… Vargas is a giant… I’m a funny guy!

This is an above average entry into the creature feature genre. The standard characters get introduced including the wise older man, heroic guy, his love interest, and the local authorities (here the sheriff) that comes along to help save the day. I did find it interesting that the sheriff was played as so negative early in the movie. When he thinks Wayne has made an escape his immediate response is to tell a lynch mob, “I want that murdered dead or alive!”. Sure, he eventually realizes his mistake but damn. Authority figures are normally treated much differently by the horror genre in the fifties, so this was noticeably odd. They might dismiss those “darn kids” but here he is a bit bloodthirsty.

Cool creature!
I also think that the movie is clever in its creature. There is very little makeup involved with Vargas. All they did was cast a very large actor in the role and slapped a beard and padding on him. It is an effective job and works well on screen. He is every bit as creepy and scary as any other “B” movie monster you’ll see from this time period. Buddy Baer, brother of the famous boxer and uncle of Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies does a nice job as Vargas. I also feel the need to point out that in the midst of all the aliens and giant bugs that dominated the genre during this time we get something different here. Vargas is just a big evil guy that was somehow brought back to life by a twist of fate. I like that.

The only complaint I have about the movie is that the first thirty minutes are a bit slow as everything gets established and rolling. Once we get into the meat of things with the chasing of Vargas thru the woods it picks up nicely and is fun. I loved that they updated the villagers with torches thing by having the hunters carrying flares. I’m going to say that Giant from the Unknown is worth checking out. As of the writing of this review it is streaming on Amazon Prime.


© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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