Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Giant from the Unknown - Plus Sized Carnage in Devil's Crag

Giant From The Unkown
Directed by Richard E. Cuhna
Written by Ralph Brooke, Frank Hart Taussig
Starring Ed Kemmer, Sally Fraser, Morris Ankrum

Tag Lines:

A Hideous Monster from Beyond the Grave!

It came from another world!

Terror Stalks! Half Monster, Half Man!

Alternate Titles:
Giant From Devil's Crag (US Alternate Title)
Giant From Diablo Point (US  Alternate Title)
The Diablo Giant (US Alternative Title)
In den Klauen des Giganten (In The Clutches of The Giants) West Germany
O Gigante do Outro Mundo (The Giant of The Otherworld) Brazil

Theatrical:  US - March, 1958    W. Germany - September 1961
VHS: Vci Home Video - Englewood Entertainment - Sinister Cinema - First Look Home Entertainment
DVD:  Image Entertainment
Streaming: Netflix - Amazon - DailyMotion - YouTube

Characters of Note:

Wayne Brooks:  Our not-so-square-jawed hero.  Wayne's a bit of an odd duck, and a bit goofy, but as far as B-Movie heroes go, he ain't too bad!  Unfortunately for him, Sheriff Parker has got it in for him and wants to pin a rash of murders and animal mutilations on him.

Sheriff Parker:  The Law in the the sleepy little town of Pine Ridge, CA.  He's got a bit of a problem with some murders and animal mutilations.  Supposedly the whole town is under suspicion, but it does seem that he's already made up his mind that Wayne is his man.  Typical 5-0.

Charlie Brown:  No shit!  His name is Charlie Brown!  He's a local youth who's a friend to Wayne.  He's got a sister named Ann.

Ann Brown:  Charlie's Sister!  See?  I wasn't lying. She is pretty much Giant Fodder.

Dr. Frederick Cleveland:  A professor in town, looking for a buried giant Spanish Conquistador in the CA mountains.  Gee, he's like a 50's Scott Wolter, isn't he?

Janet Cleveland:  Professor Cleveland's daughter.  Janet's along on the trip to help out her Dad and play love interest to Wayne.  If you ask me, she gets the short end of the stick on this trip.  Essentially she's there to make them sandwiches and clean up the campground.  June Cleaver be proud.

Indian Joe aka Crazy Joe:  As you well know, every monster movie has got to have a crazy dude either warning everyone that they are DOOOOMED or at least spewing forth cryptic exposition......and we ALL know what's gonna happen to this guy.

Vargas the Giant:  The big man himself. he's not exactly a GIANT.  Still, he's a big dude and he's over five hundred years old....reanimated from a lightening strike after spending five centuries in suspended animation in the unusual soil in Devil's Crag.

If you want to know what the difference is between B-Movies of yesteryear and B-Movies of today, you need look no further than Giant from the Unknown.  These films were all about having fun, not trying to be the next big thing in Torture Porn.  Film making was quick and dirty.  Sure there were cast and crew that phoned in performances for a paycheck, but there were also people who loved and believed in these films despite knowing how goofy they were.

Pine Ridge....a nice place to get killed by Giant Conquistadors....

So Sheriff, this is the new town hearse, eh?
This little gem starts out in the pleasant looking town of Pine Ridge, CA.  There's a group of townsfolk that have gathered outside talking about the strange goings-on as of late.  Mutilated cows and pigs...a chicken coup that looked like it had been hit by a cyclone.....and now a murder.  A local man dead.  His bones crushed.  There's talk of a supernatural curse that plagues an area known as Devil's Crag....which is a place that includes an ancient Indian burial ground.  The local Indian drunk/crazy guy (Indian Joe) starts to spout off warnings from the spirits.  "Men who walk on Indian graves, die".  The Sheriff tells everyone that he'll be around to question them individually to get to the bottom of the murder.  Until our hero Wayne arrives, that is.  He gets back to town and it's like Sheriff Parker instantly made up his mind that he was to blame.  Kinda odd with absolutely NO evidence, except for a minor altercation between Wayne and the deceased a week earlier.

Figures...they had to stop for "supplies" at the cosmetics shop.

That's a rather sultry pose for metal detecting, isn't it?
Now enter into town Professor Cleveland and his daughter.  They're on an expedition to try and uncover the remains of a giant Spanish conquistador that was allegedly buried in the surrounding mountains by Indians some five hundred years earlier.  Supposedly, said Spaniard was part of the Ptolemy Firello expedition and mutinied along with several others.  They went off into the mountains in search of gold never to be seen or heard from again.  They run into Wayne, who attended some of the professor's lectures and offers his help.  The Sheriff, being his dickhead self gives the prof. a bit of a problem regarding some tent poles sticking out of his jeep.....and then warns them about the company they keep, alluding to Wayne.

Lookie what Janet found!  Sorta.

Of course Wayne and Janet are giving each other the googily eyes from the get go and the professor is fine with that, so long as Wayne shares some of his finds with him in his lab.  The trio sets out into the wilderness in search of the big guy.  In a hilarious, but very un-PC scene, Wayne and The Professor are setting out to make  a sweep with their metal detectors and Janet asks what she can do.  The Prof states:  "Well, you've made the beds so now you can do the dishes and clean up."  It was at this point that my wife let out a rather incredulous laugh.  Nuthin like a little 1950's Good Housekeeping mentality.  Oh yeah and they look at one of the most hilarious and awesome maps I've seen in a long, long time.

Best.  Map.  Ever.
Of course our Giant reanimates and rises from his rather odd resting place and starts to wreck havoc anew.  The Giant is your standard mute brute, running about crushing folks.  There is a scene that manages to create quite a creepy atmosphere towards the end where Wayne and Sheriff Parker go looking for Indian Joe and find him dead in his shack.  Then it's basically your standard mob vs monster chase through the woods.  The end is a bit of a cop-out and while I"m not going to ruin it, it was not at all a befitting end to the giant fiend.

Hey Indian Joe, we were just wonderi-

Oh.  Um.  Nevermind.

Midnight Cinephile Tally:

Body Count:  5 people die in total as a direct result of the monster.

Boob Count:  Get real, kid, this flick was made in 1958!

Beast Count:  ONE!  But, he's a big ol' bruiser!

Final Thoughts:
If you are a fan of 50's B-Movies, then there is a a very strong chance that you will love Giant from the Unknown.  The DVD transfer (as well as the streaming from Netflix and Amazon) is absolutely amazing.  It is quite crisp and clear with good sound, which to be perfectly honest, is astounding.  This is a film that is best watched with a like minded cinephile, but  if you've got some snacks and drinks, you'll have a blast!

Final Rating:

Four out of Five Pizza Rolls!

What good is it to be an evil Giant, if you're not gonna steal a girl?

Axe vs. stick.  Who will win?

That bridge looks a little unsteady....

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