One of the joys of DVD has been the resurgence of classic movies that aren't quite, well, classic. Most will associate that term with films like GONE WITH THE WIND and CITIZEN KANE. But the history of film is filled with little known or seen movies that kept studios alive and provided them funding for movies like that. They also drive-ins packed when they began showing double features to younger audiences who could care less about those types of films. These movies rarely got special treatment from major studios when home video took off and then changed to disc. That's all changing and a great example of that is GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN.
Geologist Wayne Brooks (Ed Kemmer) is in Pine Ridge, CA, when a series of animal mutilations begin taking place. When a local is found killed in the same way the townsfolk are concerned about these events. Sheriff Parker (Bob Steele) orders them to steer clear of the area but suspects that Brooks is somehow involved.
As he begins to question Brooks they are interrupted when Dr. Cleveland (Morris Ankrum) and his daughter Janet (Sally Fraser) arrive. They've arrived to do some archeological research in the area. It turns out that Brooks was once a student of Cleveland's and he agrees to help them out. Before moving on Sheriff Parker warns Cleveland about the local problem.
The next day the group begins exploring. Cleveland was drawn to this location due to some superstitious talk about an area known as the Devil's Crag. Artifacts have been gathered there before and he has some of them on hand. When they begin searching they come across items that lead Cleveland to believe that a Spanish expedition came through this area 500 years earlier known as the Diablo Brigade. The group was led by a bloodthirsty man called Vargas, known as Diablo Giant because of his size.
Going through the items that night Brooks and Janet discover a small lizard inside one of the rocks they found. The lizard seems to be in a state of suspended animation. Combining the two fields of study Brooks theorizes later that a recent electrical storm disturbed the area. It isn't long before we witness Diablo Giant rise from his own case of suspended animation to terrorize the locals.
The movie is more entertaining that one would expect from a low budget film like this that was definitely made for the drive-in circuit. One of the things that these films made an attempt to do was present science fiction as science fact with dialogue and performances selling the information they were providing. It didn't matter that it was pure speculation of the wildest kind, they made you believe it was real and did a convincing job of it.
The story offers plenty to chew on here from the romance that develops between Brooks and Janet to the suspicious Sheriff and the archeology theme. All items wrap around each other nicely with a few extra items tossed in for good measure like a brother and sister who seem enthuses by Brook's research. The death of the sister at the hands of the giant only pull the suspicious Sheriff in even more.
The acting here is better than one would expect in a low budget film. While most would think movies like this would have terrible actors the reality is that many unknowns or lesser known actors almost always came from local theater groups and did an amazing job. Everyone involved here makes their characters seem real and as knowledgeable as they are supposed to be.
In a world of CGI monsters the giant here would more likely than not evoke laughs from young people viewing it today. But when you place yourself in the timeline of when the film was released one has to imagine it gave just enough chills to young ladies at the time that they drew nearer to their dates. It's one of the reasons horror films permeated those drive-in double features. The giant's make-up was done by none other than Jack Pierce, the same Jack Pierce known for the jobs he did on the classic Universal monsters like Frankenstein and the Wolf Man. It may not seem as spooky as those did but it is effective.
Film Detective is releasing this film for the first time in blu-ray format and it looks marvelous. Not only have they brought the movie to life again they're including a number of extras that make it worth picking up for your collection if you're a fan. Those include an audio commentary track with authorhistorian Tom Weaver and a guest audio commentary by co-star Gary Crutcher, "You're a B-Movie Star, Charlie Brown" an all new interview with actorscreenwriter Crutcher, "The Man With a Badge: Bob Steele in the 1950's" an all new interview with authorfilm historian C. Courtney Joyner, a collector's booklet with still gallery and liner notes by Tom Weaver and the original trailer.
Let's face it, this is not a movie that was ever intended to be consider for an Oscar but it is fun well-made entertainment. It's the kind of movie not to be taken too serious and just have a laugh at. My guess is given the chance you'll find it that way too. Congrats to Film Detective for a job well done.
Review by kirbylee70-599-526179 from the Internet Movie Database.