If you want to know how much of a tedious experience “Giant from the Unknown” is, it clocks in at barely an hour and twenty minutes, and the monster doesn’t show up until forty minutes in (!). Before that it’s an absolute slog to sit through. When the monster is not on screen there’s the vapid romance between characters Janet (Sally Fraser is absolutely wooden) and Wayne, one of whom is always a damsel in distress. For a movie that advertises a giant, it’s disappointing when it does rear its head, as it tends to look a lot more like a muscle bound Bela Lugosi from “Son of Frankenstein.”
Dr. Frederick Cleveland (Morris Ankrum) and his daughter Janet (Sally Fraser) are joined by scientific researcher Wayne Brooks (Ed Kemmer) in the pursuit of ancient artifacts from Vargas (Buddy Baer), a giant 500-year-old Spanish conquistador. After a lightning storm interrupts their search, the team finds much more than artifacts when the hulking, long-lost Vargas returns to life with a murderous rage and an axe to grind. Now they have to take him down as he begins wreaking havoc on the research team.
Richard E. Cunha’s monster movie garners probably one of the most uncharismatic monsters (zombies?) ever created (who had zombie conquistador on their monster movie bingo card?). Is he seeking revenge? Is he looking for his treasure? Does he want women? Who knows? Why is Vargas depicted as a tragic creature? The writer doesn’t spend too much time on the monster, as most of the movie spends time on the mystery of the zombie conquistador and tracking him like big foot. There’s so much padding in this movie that if you cut out the filler you’d probably have a solid thirty minute movie altogether.
There’s also the sub-plot of the aggressive and overzealous Indigenous farm owner (who speaks in broken English, of course!) who is, for some reason, planted as a red herring as probably pretending to be the creature. But that’s completely thrown out the window by the second half. Who can also forget spunky teen sidekick Charlie Brown? “Giant from the Unknown” is fine if you love low budget monster movies with narratives that go nowhere. But you’re better off being more selective with your monster pics.
The 4K 4Deluxe Edition from the Film Detective includes an Audio commentary with author and film historian Tom Weaver and other special guests; it’s a fun commentary with Weaver showing a real sense of humor, and has some great conversations with former surviving stars and producer Arthur A. Jacobs. There’s an Audio commentary with co-star Gary Crutcher, which is also quite enjoyable, and a bit more somber and sentimental.
The fourteen minutes You’re a B-Movie Star, Charlie Brown is a sweet, funny interview with co-star Gary Crutcher. The ten minutes The Man With the Badge: Bob Steele in the 1950’s is a great, fascinating overview of Steele’s work, and so goes a good deal beyond the 1950s, both before and after. C. Courtney Joyner offers good biographical background. Finally there’s the original “Giant from the Unknown” Theatrical Trailer.
The Blu-Ray includes an insert booklet featuring a great essay by Tom Weaver.