Giant From The Unknown
Title: Giant From The Unknown
Year Of Release: 1958
Running Time: 77 minutes
DVD Released By: Image Entertainment
Directed By: Richard E. Cunha
Writing Credits: Frank Hart Taussig, Ralph Brooke
Starring: Ed Kemmer, Sally Fraser, Bob Steele, Morris Ankrum, Buddy Baer
1. It came from another world!
2. The creeping terror had rose from the depths of the unknown!
3. A Hideous Monster from Beyond the Grave!
4. Terror Stalks! Half Monster, Half Man!
5. It Came From Another World to Terrorize the Lives of Hundreds
6. A Thrill...A Chill...A Shock a Minute
1. Giant of Devil's Crag
2. Giant from Diablo Point
3. The Diablo Giant
Review Date: 9.1.20
Shadow's Title: "Gigante Ignorante"
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Priced OOP DVD
Sheriff Parker – This guy is living proof that one can be the local law officer as well as the local town idiot at the same time. With a savage murder to solve, he decides to blame Wayne Brooks and no amount of circumstantial evidence or witness testimony is going to dissuade him. Eventually realizes he’s been a major fool. I really hope he didn’t get re-elected.
Wayne Brooks – He’s a geologist that is temporarily living in the wide spot in the road known as Pine Ridge while he explores the nearby mountains for rock samples. He discovers a lizard preserved perfectly within a rock for thousands of years that returns to life when released. Instead of immediately rushing his find to the science community, he just tosses the lizard in a box and forgets about him.
Frederick Cleveland – An archaeologist who comes to Pine Ridge to look for traces of a Spanish expedition rumored to have vanished in the area 500 years previously. He’s especially interested in finding the remains of the group’s leader, a giant of a man named Vargas. This is his third summer trying to locate anything and he’s about to give up the whole affair.
Janet Cleveland – She joins her father on his summer time expeditions to find the “Diablo Brigade,” the name given to Vargas and his men, and she’s tired of the fruitless searching. She takes a shine to Wayne, who can’t stop drooling over her from the second he first sees her. At least one good thing came out of all these trips with her dad. She found a husband.
Charlie Brown – He’s a local who works at the lodge as a waiter. It seems he lives alone with his sister, Ann. No mention is made of what happened to their parents. Charlie is a little over eager to help out, especially after his sister’s violent demise. This just gets him into trouble and earns him a major ass beating.
Ann Brown – This hot little number is one of the locals. It would appear that she is infatuated with Wayne Brooks, as she smiles and gets this dreamy look whenever she sees him or he is near. He was probably too old for her. Definitely too old for her – by at least 500 years – was Vargas, who found her alone by a water well. We can only imagine what her last few moments of life were like after being manhandled by him.
Indian Joe – This guy was the resident Native American who warned all the ignorant white folks to not go messing around with the Indian burial grounds, as if anyone had never seen the movie Poltergeist. Apparently there was a curse attached to it, but in the end it was Vargas and not some old Indian spirits that did in old Joe here.
Vargas – 500 years ago he lead an expedition of Conquistadors to find Indian gold. They all died from illness, except him. He just fell into a coma and was mistakenly buried. Lucky for him the soil in those parts had miraculous preservative properties and he was awakened by a lightning strike to begin his spree of killing and rape all over again. I think the first thing he’d do was take a freaking bath.
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Lightning streaking across a stormy sky, starting things off on a [sarcasm]positive note[/sarcasm]. We see what seems like the business end of an old poleaxe slammed into a log while rain splatters all around. The title appears and the opening credits unfold by scrolling upwards. Fade out.
Fade in. In the mountain town of Pine Ridge, a bunch of the locals have gathered in what constitutes the center of town and are discussing recent events. One youth brings news that the Sheriff is returning with “the body.” It seems there have been cattle and horses “ripped apart” and now some guy known as Old Man Banks has been found dead under peculiar circumstances. One guy mentions a chicken coop that got obliterated and another brings up all the missing sheep. One guy thinks it’s not so much of a coincidence that all these events have occurred near some place called Devil’s Crag. Would it have made a difference if the place in question was named Kittentown or Puppy’s Point?
Sheriff Parker now arrives in a pickup truck, the body of Old Man Banks in the back under a tarp. Parker explains that Banks died from a beating at the hands of a person or persons unknown. One of the locals lifts the tarp to view the body and recoils in horror at what he sees. What, was old man Banks not wearing his adult diapers when he got beat and soiled his pants something fierce? He likens the state of the body to that of the animals that have been all torn up. The body is driven away to the closest morgue, presumably by the deputy (but which turns out, is just another local).
The townsfolk are convinced that something supernatural is afoot and tell Parker that they want protection. What the hell do they expect him to do? Call in the ghostbusters? Pray a lot? One young woman named Ann Brown calls bullshit on the idea of it being supernatural. The locals remind her that if she had lived in the area long enough, she would be aware of the legend about “The Curse.” Oh, shit, here we go, another rural community with a local legend and curse that goes along with it.
“All white men die!” a voice now exclaims. No it’s not Louis Farrakhan, but a local Native American Indian who goes by the name of “Indian Joe.” He’s sitting on the second step down near the door to the local souvenir shop and is laughing his ass off. If Joe is Native American, then I’m the direct descendant of Sitting Bull himself. This guy looks whiter than some of the townsfolk! A shitty wig of long black hair sits atop his head like a bunch of dirty yarn and a headband completes his look. I want to know why all Indians are called Joe? Why not John or Rich or even Skip? I want to see an old movie where the Native American guy walks into town and then locals say, “There goes Indian Llewellyn!”
One guy grabs Joe, who is now sitting on the third step down, and wants to know if he had anything to do with the murder or animal killings. Sheriff Parker steps in and Joe says that no one listens to him and that now the spirits of his people are returning for their revenge. Parker tells him to keep that nonsense to himself since the locals have already got themselves worked into a near panic. He then tells him to get lost before he runs him in on another vagrancy charge. Joe gives him a look like the Sheriff just killed and ate his favorite dog and then turns and walks away, but not before imparting one last warning: “People who walk on Indian grave die.”
The group of locals still want to know what the Sheriff plans to do and he says that as of now, Devil’s Crag is closed. He wants anyone who lives near there to be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary. Does that include obvious white dudes dressed up like Native Americans? Parker adds that he’ll be interviewing everyone and they all had better account for where they were at the time of the murder. One guy suggests talking with Wayne Brooks, as he had a run-in with the late Old Man Banks. In fact, Banks apparently ran Wayne off with a shotgun. Parker then tells everyone to go about their business.
Brother and sister Charlie and Ann Brown see Wayne Brooks approaching and wondering if he is hurt, walk over to see him. He’s just returned from three days in the mountains and had not yet heard the news that Old Man Banks is now dead. Charlie even relates how every bone in his body was broken, having seen the corpse for himself. They warn him that the Sheriff may be looking for him, so he walks down the block to where Parker is still conversing with one of the locals.
When he asks if the Sheriff wanted to see him, Parker gets a gleam in his eye. You can see right then and there that the Sheriff is not only overly suspicious of Wayne, but that in his mind, the guy is most likely guilty. He asks what he knows about the recent murder, to which Wayne replies that he just heard about it, having spent three days in the mountains collecting rock samples. When Parker asks about his confrontation with Banks, Wayne explains that a week back he had cut across the old man’s land while hiking in order to save time and Banks didn’t take too kindly to that. He adds that he hasn’t even seen Banks in over a week. Parker wants to know if he can prove that. Wayne holds out his hands in front of him and asks the Sheriff if he wants to arrest him now or does he have time to go home for a toothbrush. Parker says he had him pegged as a wise guy since he arrived in town and tells him not to plan anymore trips.
I can see it already. The Sheriff has grisly animal killings and a horrific murder on one hand and on the other he has a horde of townsfolk demanding protection. He’s under pressure to solve the case, so he goes to the easiest answer he can find, which in this case is blaming Wayne, since he is not a local and has only been staying a town for a short while, though the evidence is purely circumstantial. Of course it’s lazy and short sighted, but that is what the locals elected in this area.
Long about now a jeep rolls into town carrying Professor Frederick Cleveland and his hot daughter Janet. Janet is played by Sally Fraser, who only appeared in a handful of cheapie horror flicks back in the late 50’s and is my favorite actress of the era, just barely ahead of Mara Corday. Sadly she passed away in early 2019 at age 86. Janet calls Pine Ridge a wide spot in the road – which it most certainly is – but her father thinks it will be a great place to conduct his research.
Janet gets out of the jeep in order to enter the general store for a few supplies. Wayne, having finished his conversation with the Sheriff, sees her and rushes to open the door for her. He follows her into the store. Meanwhile Sheriff Parker walks up to Dr. Cleveland, who is waiting in the jeep. He notices the equipment in the rear of the jeep and asks to see Cleveland’s driver’s license. He reminds him of the ordinance requiring warning flags on anything protruding from the back of the vehicle, in this case some tent poles. He then grills Cleveland on his plans. The Doctor explains that he is an archaeologist and that he will be camping in the area. Parker wants to know if that means Devil’s Crag, but Cleveland says he does not know, as he is unfamiliar with the area.
About now Janet exits the store with her purchases. Wayne is helping her carry her bags to the jeep. He recognizes Cleveland as a Professor at some university and says that he attended some of his lectures. He then notes that Cleveland has already met “Nosy” Parker, referring to the Sheriff. Parker doesn’t look happy and advises the Clevelands to be on guard at all times, since there was just a violent murder in the area. He adds that they should be very careful who they associate with, looking directly at Wayne as he says this. Then he walks away. Cleveland notes that the Sheriff seemed to be warning them about Wayne. Wayne shrugs it off as a private feud and says he will explain it some time. He then sees their equipment and asks if they are staying a while. Cleveland says that they’ll be in the general area for a week or more. Wayne offers his help as he knows the mountains like the back of his hand and then invites them to be his guests at the lodge for a steak dinner than night, which they accept.
Later that evening Wayne and Cleveland are enjoying drinks before Janet arrives. Wayne labels the Sheriff as bullheaded and as someone throwing his weight around under the current circumstances. He then explains about the recent murder and animal killings around the Devil’s Crag area, which have revived talk about the local curse. It seems there is an Indian burial ground nearby and a few members of the local tribe still live in the area. They claim that one day the angry spirits of their ancestors will rise and destroy the valley. No need for that! Just give it time and the white folks will do it for you with their pollution.
Professor Cleveland seems interested in the devil’s Crag area and Wayne admits that he has found a few artifacts in the region, though they are out of his field of expertise. Cleveland says he would love to see them and it may save him a great deal of time. Wayne then asks what exactly Cleveland is looking for in these mountains. The Professor says that he is looking for a giant and then further explains that he is writing the definitive history of Ptolemy Firello, a Spanish Conquistador who explored a great deal of what is now California. One his Lieutenants was a giant of a man named Vargas, who abandoned the expedition and with a band of followers, headed inland in search of Indian gold. Vargas, in addition to being a man of extraordinary size, was also a degenerate, depraved man. Cleveland is hoping to locate any signs or artifacts that may reveal what happened to Vargas and his men. Wayne is fascinated by it all and says that he would like to hear more. Yeah right. All it took was one look at Janet and we all know what he was most interested in! I bet he’s being so helpful because it will get him closer to her and the possibility of some boom-boom. Speaking of Janet, she now arrives for dinner. There is some playful banter where Cleveland promises to not talk shop during dinner, Wayne promises to show his artifact collection and Janet promises to let Wayne escort her to some movie theater for a show.
Later, they return to Wayne’s place, which he has turned into a small field lab. As Wayne and Cleveland talk about some old Indian relics, Janet let’s out a scream. She had opened a wooden crate and was startled by the small lizard within it. Wayne explains that the lizard is the subject of a thesis he is preparing. He further explains that the lizard was found sealed within a rock, which is sitting nearby on the table. When Wayne cracked open the rock, out came the lizard, alive and perfectly preserved for thousands of years in some sort of suspended hibernation brought about by the composition of the rock itself. Cleveland finds it interesting but would rather focus on the Indian artifacts at the moment. Wayne and Janet leave him to putter around the lab while they head off to the late night double feature picture show…by RKO…in the back row (I want to go). No one notices Indian Joe staring angrily in through the window, as if someone just swindled him out of his life’s savings in a Ponzi scheme, which in a way, is what the white man did to his people.
Sometime later, Wayne and Janet are returning from the movies. It’s supposed to be dark, but the day for night photography isn’t completely convincing. Wayne – who is driving the Clevelands’ jeep – stops the vehicle and starts to slide over toward Janet with a big smile, like a wolf about to gobble up a lamb. Before he can say or do anything, Professor Cleveland yells at them to come inside as he has discovered something. What? That if you turn the left faucet on at the same time as the right faucet, you can actually get a flow of water that is neither scalding hot nor freezing cold? Nothing gets past this guy! However, what he has discovered is that by piecing together several different components, he has assembled an old symbol of the cross, one that was made by Indians. He thinks that this proves that the “ancient” Indians were influenced by Europeans earlier than expected, perhaps even by that band of merry Spaniards for which he is looking.
Cleveland is excited to get started and if it wasn’t already dark outside, I’m sure he would be out there loading up the jeep within minutes. He asks Wayne where he found those artifacts and Wayne says rather than tell him where it was at, he’ll take them there himself. He wants to grab some of his own gear as they will be going above the snowline and he wants to be prepared. They make plans to meet early the next morning at the lodge for breakfast. When Cleveland asks where it is that they will be going, Wayne says…you guessed it…Devil’s Crag. Cue ominous music. Fade out.
In the morning we see Sheriff Parker at the café, having breakfast and being subjected to a story by the owner about his close encounter with something spooky. As Parker asks him questions, he looks out and sees Wayne and the Clevelands leaving in the jeep. Parker then hops in his car and heads out after them. After several shots of each vehicle driving, Wayne stops at their destination. He says the Indian burial ground is just on the other side of some large rocks. As they are getting out of the jeep, Janet thinks she sees a face in some bushes a few yards away. Before Wayne can investigate, Sheriff Parker comes rolling up.
Parker accuses Wayne of leaving town the minute his back is turned. Wayne says that he has not left town and if the Sheriff wants him, he’ll be camped out here with the Clevelands (hopefully sharing a tent and sleeping bag with Janet). He adds that Parker has no evidence to hold him. The Sheriff adds that this area was off limits. Before Wayne gets himself arrested by picking a fight with Parker, the Professor jumps in and shows his permit from the commissioner of public lands which allows him access to perform his research. He adds that Wayne has been kind enough to offer his assistance and says that he will assume full responsibility for his presence there. Parker gives up and leaves, but not before telling Wayne to not leave the county without contacting him. With the Sheriff gone, they set about the task of getting their camp set up before it gets dark, forgetting all about the face that Janet thinks she saw in the bushes.
Wait a sec…before it gets dark? I thought they met early for breakfast and then set out from the lodge? What time was that? We saw Sheriff Parker having coffee and what looked like a breakfast at the café when they left. Are you telling me that it took them ALL DAY to get here? Worse than that, are you saying that Parker just drove all day following them, just to lecture them once he caught up to them? It just doesn’t seem logical.
Sometime later, they’ve got two tents erected, a fire going, a table and chairs set up and what looks like a large portable grill positioned near the fire. Where did all of that shit come from? There’s no way all of that fit into the back of that little jeep! Janet exits one tent and says good morning to her dad. I guess that means this must be the next day. The Professor and Wayne have already been up for hours. The latter is out having a “preliminary” look around, so I suppose they have not yet started digging the place up. While looking around, Wayne sees some snapped tree branches on the ground. As he examines the area closer, he is unaware that Indian Joe is a few yards away, hiding behind a large rock and aiming a rifle in his direction.
POW. Either Joe is drunk, is a lousy shot or misses on purpose. He fires and Wayne ducks behind a tree. When Joe approaches, Wayne emerges and wants to know why Joe shot at him, as he thought they were friends. Joe claims he was shooting at a rabbit. Yeah, right. Joe then asks him what he and the others are doing there and Wayne says they are looking for something. Well, that clears it up! Joe is worried that they are going to disturb the graves of his people, but Wayne assures him that they won’t and that they are looking for signs of some Spanish explorers that stomped through the area 500 years back. Joe says that Wayne is not like the others (meaning other white folks I guess) and that he always speaks the truth. Joe says that Wayne is his friend and warns him that this is a bad place to be. Only evil can come from it. Then he wanders off to rabbit hunt elsewhere.
Wayne returns to camp. We see the Professor sitting at a work table with a trunk open on top of it. Just more stuff that they seemingly pulled out of thin air. Cleveland heard the gunshot and asks about it, but Wayne just passes it off as a random hunter. He then says that he was last in the area about two weeks prior and that a lot has changed in the time since. He thinks about it and then blames it on the recent electrical storm. Wayne has also prepared a map of the area, showing where the Indian burial ground is located and where he and the Professor can get started with their metal detectors. They head out, leaving poor Janet to clean up after breakfast, tidy the camp and prepare for lunch.
Several minutes of Wayne and Cleveland wandering around, waving their metal detectors back forth above the ground now ensue. A close up of the detectors show their ends to be made out of painted wood. Well, no wonder they haven’t found shit. At one point while Cleveland is going over the map, Janet approaches and lectures him on his quest. She thinks he is not going to find any proof of this Vargas having existed and after three summers of his searching, she’s tired of it. Well, who said you had to go with him each year, toots? He agrees to call it quits at the end of the day.
While the Professor and Wayne are taking a coffee break, Janet takes one of the detectors and walks off to give it a try. Cleveland tells Wayne he has decided to quit. Wayne thinks they gave it a good try. Cleveland now figures why postpone the inevitable and thinks they should just pack up and leave now. Wayne goes to retrieve Janet who is sitting on an old log, taking a break. The first thing she did after sitting down and setting the metal detector to the side was to reach into her purse and retrieve her compact so she could check her make-up in the mirror. Talk about vain! Wayne approaches and says that she strayed out of the search area. He grabs the detector and they turn to go when she remembers her compact, which must have fallen on the ground by the log. Wayne props the detector against the log and bends over to pick up the compact when the detector makes a sound, denoting that it has detected metal. Note that the detector makes a sound like that of a Geiger counter rather than the normal whine. Wayne excitedly calls for the Professor and soon enough they’re digging a hole in the ground. What should they unearth, but several old Conquistador helmets, armor pieces, tools and weapons. Eventually they uncover a complete body buried in its gear, now only a skeleton.
Later, back at camp the Professor is all happy that his theories have been proven true. He’s eager to break camp and get all the artifacts they have found to the museum for further analysis and study. He only regrets that they never found any trace of Vargas. Right about now I’m beginning to regret watching this movie, Sally Fraser or not. We’re close to the halfway point and nothing has happened. Just one conversation after another. Sure, there was a murder, but we didn’t even get to see that. Anyway, Janet wonders why all the Spaniards were buried so close together and in their armor, even if there is no sign of Vargas being among them. Cleveland thinks it was because they all died at the same time, most likely due to illness. Hmmm…either that or the local Indians got tired of them looking for gold in their backyard and shot arrows up all their asses.
It seems there is a storm brewing, so the pair head off to find Wayne, who is doing some field work of his own, examining lots of rocks. Wayne says that he has located where lightning struck during the last storm and says that it caused the rock in the area to become exactly like the rock in his lab that preserved the lizard for thousands of years. He sends the others back to camp as the current storm is about to let loose on them. Just as he turns to go he notices something on the ground. There’s the handle to a very large battle-axe sticking out of the ground. He tries to pull it out but can’t. With the storm now raging, he gives up and heads for camp.
Once he leaves, we see that not far from the axe, a large hand begins to stir in the soil. After few seconds, an entire man pulls himself out of the dirt and leaves. It’s Vargas! Oh, shit! I have a big problem with this and one that requires further examination. As we saw just now, Vargas was buried in loose dirt and dried leaves. He was not encased within a stone like the aforementioned lizard was. So how can he be alive if he was just lying there in the dirt for 500 years? The answer of course is he cannot, even going by the ridiculous logic of the movie. When thinking about this, keep in mind a few things that the movie has already established:
There have already been brutal animal killings and a horrific murder
in these parts.
The only conclusion we can come to is that what we witnessed just now was not Vargas returning to life after 500 years of preservation. No, that happened earlier off screen and before the events of the film, when the previous storm released him. Since that time he has wandered the area, killed lots of animals and put a fatal ass-beating down on Old Man Banks. He’s most likely been somewhat disoriented and he probably returns to this location to rest, given how his men were buried here and no doubt this is where he awoke from his time in stasis. What we saw just now was him waking from a literal dirt nap.
One last thing. Professor Cleveland keeps talking about how Vargas lived over 500 years ago. This movie was made in 1958, so 500 years before that would be 1458 or there about. That would have placed it a good 44 years before Columbus made his first voyage and “discovered” the new world. How in the hell could Spanish Conquistadors get to what is now Southern California – on the far side of North America – 44 years before Columbus even made landfall in the West Indies, thousands of miles to the East? You’d think someone in the production crew would have cracked open a history book before filming began.
So the next morning Wayne leads the others to where he found the axe, but now it is gone. They look around some and unearth a huge breastplate and a large medallion. The Professor is overjoyed that they have found Vargas, but Janet points out one crucial thing. There’s no body. His stuff is there, but not his body. Then everyone gets a horrified look on their face as if they were all locked in a closet together and someone just farted. Wayne thinks Vargas might still be alive, preserved in much the same way the lizard was. It would explain many recent events, he adds. Contemplating the idea of such a “depraved, demented” man of that size being on the loose, they all sit there and look afraid. Yeah, you never know what a guy like that is capable of doing…he could join the WWE or become an actor or worse yet, run for President. Fade out.
Fade in. They’ve collected Vargas’ stuff and hung it from an old stump of a tree. That young guy named Charlie Brown – who works at the lodge in town – is out hunting and comes across the scene. Wayne tells the others that he will get rid of him. He then asks Charlie to not mention to anyone what he has seen, using the pretext that if word got out about the armor and gold medallion, people would come flocking into the hills in droves and they would then be unable to finish their work. He wants Charlie to keep quiet for just a few days. Charlies agrees and then leaves, but not before remarking that he hasn’t seen a rabbit all day. Fade out.
Fade in. Sheesh, this movie has a lot of fading in and out of scenes! Evening has come and the Professor, Janet and Wayne sit around their camp fire. Cleveland is ready to turn in for the night, but Janet and Wayne don’t feel a bit sleepy. Wayne decides to show her how beautiful the area is and leads her away. It’s dark outside, how much can you really see? They walk a ways and arrive at a small lake that apparently is frozen in time, literally. The ripples we see on the lake don’t move at all. Looking closer we see that it is a still image and the scene in question is using rear projection. Wayne compliments Janet’s eyes and she says that with all the talk of bones and giants, she has forgotten that she’s a woman. “I haven’t forgotten,” Wayne says and then he kisses her. Yeah, I’m sure the words bone and giant are still on his mind but for completely different reasons.
She breaks off from the kiss early, thinking that she heard something. Then she explains how she has been jumpy ever since they got into the area. There is some annoying talk between them where she teases him about his friend Charlie’s sister and when she notes that she will be leaving soon, he thinks she has someone waiting for her back in the city. She responds to this by grabbing him and kissing him. They then decide to head back to camp. The entire time they’re out on their little excursion, we get glimpses of Vargas as he lurks about in the woods, spying on them.
Back at camp, after another kiss, Janet heads to her tent while Wayne joins the Professor in the other one. We see Vargas peering through the bushes, presumably having followed them back to camp. Janet is looking all happy, probably thinking about what the future may bring with Wayne. Then she gets a look on her face like a man just asked her to pay for dinner. She opens a case and removes a revolver. She places it under her pillow. In the meantime, Vargas has spied his equipment hanging in the tree, retrieved and donned it, and is now spying on Janet’s silhouette as she changes clothes before bed. Vargas gets a creepy smile on his face. After all it’s been over 500 years since he got laid!
Vargas approaches the tent. Female intuition kicks in and Janet stops brushing her hair. She senses that something is wrong. Vargas accidentally kicks a metal pail with his foot while creeping around her tent. This causes her to scream and grab for her pistol. In her panic she fires it off. Luckily it was pointed away from anything important…like the other tent. Vargas goes running off while Wayne and the Professor come hauling ass. Well, as much ass as the Professor can haul given his age. Janet emerges from her tent and says she heard heavy footsteps. Wayne has his own pistol and looks round. He notices that Vargas’ armor is now gone. They look down and see some huge footprints in the soil. They all claim to not know what it means. Are they stupid or something? Wayne himself espoused the theory earlier that Vargas could be alive, preserved just like the lizard. Now he doesn’t know what is going on. Giant foot prints in the soil and the oversized armor now gone. Does he think Sasquatch came and absconded with it? Anyway, they prepare to stoke the fire and keep watch for the rest of the night.
We now see Charlie Brown talking to his sister Ann. It seems the two of them live alone. The film doesn’t say what happened to their parents. Charlie is about to leave for work, but doesn’t want to leave Ann alone at their cabin. She says that she will be all right and has their father’s rifle. So Charlie leaves and Ann grabs a bucket to get water from the well. While she is doing this, Vargas comes creeping up. When she turns and sees him, he smiles and lets out a groan. She drops the bucket and tries to run but he cuts off her escape. She just backs up to the well and screams while he closes in on her. What an idiot. She could have at least tried to run in the other direction. Given his size and all that armor he is wearing, Vargas might not have been able to keep up with her.
We return to the campsite where Professor Cleveland is sitting by the fire. Wayne comes up, having been patrolling the area and is nearly shot by the Professor, who is admittedly getting a little jumpy. Of course, if Wayne gets a little too friendly with the Professor’s daughter, he might end up getting shot anyway. Cleveland asks him if he noticed anything strange about Vargas’ armor, like the fact that it was better preserved than the other armor they found. Cleveland has come to the conclusion that there is some unknown substance in the earth in this region that acts as a preservative. Isn’t that is what Wayne has been saying all along in conjunction with his lizard (not that lizard)? The Professor now comes up with this theory how the Spaniards all died from some illness. All except for Vargas, who due to his great size and strength, only fell into a coma (much like people watching this movie, no doubt) and was mistakenly buried with the others by the Indians. His body was preserved for centuries and the nearby lightning strike was enough to wake his ass up after 500 years of snoozing. Long about now Janet awakens and as she exits her tent she overhears the last of what they are saying. Wayne says they need to get to town and warn the Sheriff.
Speak the devil’s name and he shall appear. Right at that moment Sheriff Dumbass arrives to arrest Wayne for the murder of Ann Brown. Wayne claims he hasn’t seen her in a week. The Sheriff presents him with Vargas’ medallion, which Ann was clutching in her hand. Her brother identified it as the one he saw at their campsite, thus linking it to Wayne. The Professor tries to explain what is going on, but of course Sheriff Dumbass doesn’t want to hear it. He’s already got visions of Wayne squirming in the electric chair. He marches Wayne back to his car. Janet and her father know Wayne is innocent and realize that the Sheriff is just as big a dipshit as Wayne described. The Professor knows they need to help him, but first he needs to make a plaster cast of Vargas’ footprint otherwise he won’t have any proof to aid in Wayne’s case.
Just a side note. We now know that poor Ann Brown is dead. While we can assume that she may have been beaten to death like Old man Banks, the vicious glee in Vargas’ eyes coupled with the fact that he has been asleep for 500 years and most likely itchin’ for some female company, makes you wonder what he did to her before he killed her. Given his immense size and…well…girth, I’m sure it was a most painful and agonizing experience for the poor girl. I wouldn’t be surprised if he nearly ripped her in two while going at it. Yes, my mind goes to those dark places at times like this.
At the Sheriff’s car, Wayne tries to talk sense into Parker, but it’s a hard sell. He explains that someone entered their camp earlier and stole some items, including the medallion found with Ann’s body. Whoever took it must be the killer. He claims Indian Joe’s shack is not far away and figures the rest of the stolen items will be there. He then guilts the sheriff into going by Joe's place by saying that if another murder occurs while he is custody, Parker will be held half responsible for it and become the laughing stock of the county. The Sheriff agrees to check on Joe’s place. When they arrive, Parker warns Wayne that if he tries anything funny, he’ll blow his head off. Inside they find Joe, hanging from the rafters, as dead as the deer hanging next to him.
Back at camp the Professor is pouring plaster into that footprint while Janet is packing stuff up inside her tent. Then she hears her father make a sound like he just had a bowel movement after eating a pound of cheese. She comes out to find him gone. She looks for him, wandering around from location setting to cheap studio set back to location setting before she spots him laid out on the ground. However, Vargas is there and he chases a screaming Janet back through the studio set to the location setting where their campsite is situated. She jumps in the jeep and tries to start it, but quite predictably it refuses to comply. As Vargas approaches, Janet just faints and rests her head on the steering wheel. Vargas pushes the backseat out of the way, reaches in and grabs her. Meanwhile, the Professor has roused himself and comes running. He finds the empty jeep, the backseat now returned to its normal position, no less. He hops in, manages to get it started and races away.
In town, the Sheriff has arrived with Wayne to find another sizable crowd gathered in front of the café. He tells Wayne to stay in the car while he finds out what is transpiring. He gets out and walks over to the crowd. Meanwhile, the Professor is careening back to town. He pulls to a stop next to the Sheriff’s car and tells Wayne that Vargas is alive and that he has taken Janet. “Quick, climb in,” Wayne says and slides over behind the wheel while Cleveland hops in. When the Professor asks about the Sheriff, Wayne says, “Don’t worry, he’ll follow.” Then he starts the car (Parker must have stupidly left the keys in it), flips a U turn and races out of town. The Sheriff turns away from the crowd, draws his gun and fires! He yells at everyone to go after them, as he wants “that murderer dead or alive.” This guy is a not only a colossal douche, he’s stupid beyond belief as well. I’ll admit, stealing the Sheriff’s car wasn’t the brightest thing to do given the circumstances, but Parker still does not have a shred of concrete evidence linking Wayne to any of the crimes, yet he’s utterly convinced that Wayne is a murderer. He’s likely to shoot Wayne on sight and then later when proof comes out that he was one hundred percent innocent and was actually trying to help people, Parker will just shrug and say, “Oops, my bad.” How this fool got elected is beyond me and his behavior, as fictional is it is here, does nothing to improve the image of some police officers as dangerous and reckless with civilian lives.
So everyone is racing back up the mountain. Parker and some other guy are in the Professor’s jeep and at one point the Sheriff leans out and shoots at his own car up ahead. Cleveland and Wayne arrive, jump out of the Sheriff’s car and race to the campsite. Wayne needs to get the handcuffs off, so he places his hands down on a stump and the Professor raises an axe and…do you really want an old guy using an axe so close to your hands? Even the Professor is unsure he can do it without injuring Wayne, but at the other man’s insistence, he chops away. It really would have been ironic if he’d missed and chopped off both of Wayne’s hands. I could see the blood spraying, Wayne screaming in pain, the Professor screaming in fear and the severed hands flopping to the ground, the handcuffs bouncing off of them as they hit the ground. Alas, no blood or severed body parts. The chain linking the handcuffs is broken. Wayne then grabs a rifle and heads out to look for Janet. He tells the Professor to stay behind and tell Parker what has happened when he arrives. I just hope the Professor gets a chance to say anything. In his current mood, the Sheriff may very well jump out of the bushes and fill the old guy full of lead as much as talk to him.
Out in the woods, Wayne is poking around. Back at camp, everyone else has arrived and the Professor has managed to tell Parker what has happened without being arbitrarily gunned down. Parker has all the men spread out, keeping twenty feet apart and then begin a sweep into the woods. We see Vargas running with Janet thrown over his shoulders like a sack of potatoes. He must be really moving slow if the Professor was able to drive all the way to town, fetch Wayne and get back with enough time for Wayne to catch up to him. Especially since earlier in the film, it took them all day to just make that trip one way. Now they’ve completed a full roundtrip in record time. Seeing Wayne behind him, Vargas pushes over a dead tree that has not yet fallen. The tree crashes down, but Wayne evades it. The sound alerts the Sheriff, who comes running.
There are more pursuit scenes across real locations and studio sets. One shot has the camera in front of Wayne, pulling back as he advances. The problem with this shot is that the camera rig disturbs the bushes as it passes and we see them moving as Wayne draws even with them. Eventually Vargas hides behind a large boulder. He drops Janet to the ground and readies his axe, waiting for Wayne to round the corner. You’d think that by taking him by surprise, he’d take off Wayne’s head or split him in two with a swing of that axe, but Janet awakens at this point and screams a warning. Wayne evades the axe and circles around to face Vargas face to face. Seeing them like this really illustrates that while Buddy Baer was quite big, he was by no means the giant of a man that the movie has made him out to be. I think Andre the giant was bigger or that last guy to play The Mountain on Game of Thrones. Anyway, Vargas raises his axe again. But a few shots from the newly arrived Sheriff send him running. With him gone, the other three beat a hasty retreat.
At camp the Professor is tending the fire when they arrive. Janet embraces her dad, who leads her to a tent for some rest. Alone now with Wayne, Sheriff Dingaling admits that he was wrong. Wayne says it is ok. They just need to work together now to stop Vargas. They make plans to get the professor and Janet back to town and then use the campsite as a base of operations. Wayne then smiles and asks the Sheriff to unlock the broken handcuffs still on his wrists. I wonder if he’ll get billed for breaking those.
Later, after Charlie Brown has driven the Clevelands to town and returned with more guns, ammo and supplies, the Sheriff has him guard the camp while the search parties head out. When Parker meets up with Wayne, he’s informed that Vargas has been spotted in an area known as Box Ledge which only has a single way out. They’ll have him trapped if they move fast. Quickly flares are distributed and the group moves out, herding Vargas in the desired direction. As they close in, they snuff the flares so as to not reveal their movements. As the group moves forward, one guy says he saw something move up the hillside. We then see Vargas holding a giant papier Mache rock over his head. Everyone dives for cover as he throws it at them, but one poor SOB gets nailed with it. I don’t know if he’s dead or just suffering major broken bones.
Vargas then starts hurling smaller rocks at the group as they fire back. One guy gets nailed and falls over. No one seems to give a shit about these poor sods that are getting hurt. Parker notes that Vargas is boxed in all right, it’s just too dark to get a beat on him. Wayne says he can fix that and tells the Sheriff to have his men stand ready. He then creeps through the brush close enough to light a flare, toss it and have it land near Vargas. Now lit up for everyone to see, Vargas starts taking incoming fire from the group. He gets hit a few times and responds by throwing more rocks. He then withdraws out of sight back between some large boulders. We see Wayne retreat from his position, pushing against a large boulder as he rises. The boulder shakes as he touches it, denoting its foam status.
One guy in the group sneaks forward and comes up behind the wounded Vargas. I guess he feels somewhat chivalrous as rather than shoot the giant in the back, he flips his rifle and whomps Vargas over the head with it. Of course, this doesn’t really faze him, especially since he is wearing a helmet the size of a bird bath. Vargas turns around, grabs the screaming guy and lifts him over his head. Look closely and you can see the wires attached to the victim, making it easier for actor Buddy Baer to lift him up. A quick change of shots now shows Vargas holding a mannequin over his head, which he then hurls down the hillside. The poor guy screams the entire time, maybe because when grabbing him and picking him up, Vargas grabbed him by the balls. The Sheriff decides they need to get all the wounded men back to camp for medical attention. He leaves one guy name Bill behind to keep guard and to make sure Vargas doesn’t leave the area. As for Vargas himself, he isn’t looking very well. He still hasn’t taken a bath, so he’s still crusted up with dirt. Plus, he seems to be in pain and sporting some fresh wounds.
Back at camp, the Clevelands have returned, bringing sandwiches with them. Janet goes to help the wounded men while Wayne talks with Charlie, who wants to join the hunting parties. Wayne thinks he should stay behind, but Charlie feels he has more reason than anyone to join the hunt…and he’s right. Vargas did kill his sister. As Wayne sits and chats with the Professor about how wounded Vargas may be and how they’re going to wait until daylight to continue the hunt, Charlie gets this look on his face that means trouble. When no one is looking, he grabs his rifle and heads out.
Note - It is at this point that the movie enters its final segment, so if any of you really feel the need to watch this film and not know the ending ahead of time, skip the rest of this section.
Charlie makes his way to where that Bill guy is on guard, only now he seems to be sitting there snoozing. Charlie goes to wake him up, but Bill just keels over dead. Of course, there’s no sign as to how he died. Did Vargas break his neck? If that’s the case, then why wasn’t his head twisted the wrong way? Did Vargas knock him over the head? Then why wasn’t he laid out on the ground? It seems that no matter how Vargas killed him, he still took the time to set him back up in a sitting position.
Back at camp everyone is lounging around when three shots fill the air. They wonder who it could be since everyone is accounted for. Uh…did anyone think it was poor Bill, who was left on guard duty? Wayne notices that Charlie is missing, so he and Parker grab their guns and go running off back into the woods…again. When they get to the scene, they find Bill dead and Charlie on the ground, badly hurt. Charlies says he shot Vargas three times and wounded him for sure. Parker runs back to get help while Wayne stays with Charlie, who tells him that he needs to go after Vargas now. It seems Vargas is heading toward some mill with a dam nearby. If he is able to get across the damn, no one will be able to find him. Wayne tells Charlie to inform the Sheriff of where he went and then goes after Vargas.
Not far away he finds the giant’s discarded helmet. The snow is beginning to fall now, so he tightens his coat and moves onward. He arrives at the mill which seems to be out of commission and abandoned. Inside Vargas is hiding and sees him approaching. Wayne pokes around some and enters. He bends down to examine a footprint on the floor, not seeing Vargas hiding in the shadows. Vargas sneaks up and takes a swing with his axe. Wayne barely manages to dodge it and roll out of the way, but in doing so he drops his rifle. He runs for a window, which is boarded shut. He pulls at the boards as Vargas slowly approaches from behind, raising his axe again. He swings just as Wayne loosens the boards and throws himself through the window. Vargas tries to grab him, but he gets loose.
Vargas now runs around to the door. Wayne picks up a long tree branch and waits for him, ready to swing as Vargas exits the mill. Bullets haven’t stopped him. A blow directly to the head only pissed him off, but now Wayne starts wailing on him with a branch that is no wider than a pipe and Vargas is recoiling from the blows. I must assume that Wayne is hitting him where he was shot, causing him further pain. Whatever the case may be, Vargas is bouncing around all over while Wayne continues to beat on him.
A quick cutaway shows Sheriff Parker, Professor Cleveland and Janet all approaching in the snow. When Janet sees Wayne fighting with Vargas, she lets out a needless scream. This distracts Wayne just long enough for Vargas to push him away and then turn and run. Wayne picks himself up and goes after him. Vargas is crossing a long wooden walkway that runs along the top of a dam with a large waterfall below. This a composite shot with two separate elements – the walkway and the waterfall – spliced together in a shot that doesn’t look too bad. Anyway, Wayne runs up behind the staggering Vargas and hits him again with his long tree branch. Vargas turns, grabs the branch out of his hands and then takes a swing back at him. Wayne ducks, but the momentum of the swing causes Vargas to break through the flimsy wooden railing and fall over the side. A cheap effect then shows him plunging into the falls.
Wayne walks back to the others, the broken railing magically mending itself in the subsequent shot. He exchanges a few words with Parker and the Professor, then heads over to see Janet. The Professor asks the Sheriff for help in recovering Vargas’ body, but Parker says the river empties into a volcanic crater lake and no one has ever found the bottom. That doesn’t mean the body can’t be found! You can still try! Lazy ass. The Professor wonders if the world will ever believe their story and then comes to the conclusion that it won’t. Has everyone forgotten about the lizard back at Wayne’s place? There’s some evidence right there! Parker draws his attention to “the youngsters” and we see Wayne and Janet locked in a kiss. The music swells. Fade out.
The narrative in this film is a little bumpy when getting to A to Z. When the film begins, there have already been animal mutilations and a murder. Yet later on we see Vargas rising from the earth, implying that at that moment, he was revived. So if he only revived at that moment, who was responsible for the earlier killings? One has to really pay attention to the dialog and sequence of events to figure out what transpired. Other than that, the film unfolds like a muted adventure film. Summed up succinctly: people going exploring in the mountains and encounter a monster. In this case the explorers are archaeologists and the monster is all too human. Still, for being a low budget film, it manages to hold your attention.
For me, the most notable aspect of this film is the characters. They all seem believable as real people. Sheriff Parker is something of a jerk, the Professor is a kindly older man engrossed in his search, Janet is supportive of her father but is beginning to draw the line and Wayne is an earnest man of science. The film succeeds when we get annoyed at Parker’s needless suspicion and persecution of Wayne or when we feel happy for Professor Cleveland when his theories turn out to be true, or even when we hope than newly minted couple Janet and Wayne can make a go of it. Characters that seem real, will engender real emotional responses within the audience. While this movie will never be on the same level as a renowned drama, it succeeds with what it has with which to work.
Alas, there are two characters that come up a bit short. First we have Vargas, who is portrayed like a dumb brute with limited intellectual capacity. Yes, the film paints him as depraved and degenerate, but I would like to think that after waking up to find the world a very different place, one would take better stock of their surroundings before launching into a renewed pillaging spree. Then again, one can rationalize that after a 500-year nap, he’s a little groggy and running on pure predatorial instinct. The only truly bad character is Indian Joe, who not only fails to look in any way Native American, but is such a stereotypical caricature that I’m surprised the producers didn’t have him constantly drunk off the white man’s “fire water” and threatening to do a rain dance.
The music is from Albert Glasser, who turned out music for numerous monster flicks of the day including Monster from Green Hell (1957), Beginning of the End (1957), The Cyclops (1957), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), War of the Colossal Beast (1958), The Spider aka Earth vs. The Spider (1958) and Teenage Cave Man (1958). The movies may have been low budget, but he always seemed to provide music that, if a little antiquated by modern standards, fit both the film in question and the era very well. Nothing I’d want to listen to over and over, but those films would not be anywhere near the same without his contributions.
As for the makeup FX, this was provided by the legendary Jack P. Pierce, who had worked at Universal in the 1930s and 1940s during that studio’s classic horror era. He worked on and/or created the make-up and looks for Dracula (though Bela Lugosi insisted on applying his own make-up), Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy and The Wolf Man. He left Universal when the studio merged with International Pictures after WWII and replaced many of its department heads. He ended his career working television projects and low-budget independent films such as Giant From The Unknown. Here he provides a muted look to the character of Vargas, having him crusted with dirt and soil while having dry, matted hair with leaves stuck in it. Nothing otherworldly, but potentially terrifying all the same given the proper circumstances.
to sum things up, the movie is by no means classic, its “monster”
is a bit of a stretch and the hoops it has to jump through to explain
his presence is just flat out idiotic. The monster’s rampage is
only adequate and not exactly thrilling. However, the performances are
good and it moves along fast enough to keep one interested. The music
is well done and the make-up FX provides a natural look to the giant
himself. Sally Fraser being easy on the eyes certainly doesn’t
hurt and genre veteran Morris Ankrum gives his usual convincing performance.
Look for old western star Bob Steele as the annoying sheriff. Check
it out if you love 50’s genre films like I do, otherwise you may
as well just skip it.
Action – There is a brief car chase with the Sheriff – in the pursuit car – firing his pistol at his own commandeered vehicle. It’s about as exciting and action packed as watching old reruns of This Old House.
Crazed Killers – Vargas is described as a degenerate and depraved man, which must mean that he enjoys tofu and hummus. In addition to that, he likes to kill people by beating them to death. I have to imagine that he does other things with his female victims first. Yick.
Forest Hijinks – The entire movie is set in the forested mountains of California. The only time the characters are not surrounded by trees is when they are filming in the studio…with fake trees all around them.
Gunplay – There are a lot of shots fired in this movie as one person or another takes a shot at Vargas. The marksmanship on display is only about one magnitude better than your average group of Imperial Stormtroopers.
Romance – There’s a relationship of some kind born between Wayne and Janet that gradually develops throughout the film. I can understand his motives: she is hot. As for her…maybe she wanted to get away from daddy.
Violence – We only hear about people being beaten to a pulp or half torn apart, but never see it. We do see Vargas fight with Wayne a couple times and there’s an instance where he picks up some other fool like a rag doll and tosses him.
Alcoholic drinks consumed: 0
Cups of coffee consumed: 9
Cigarettes smoked: 6
Times Professor smokes his pipe: 2
Times Janet kisses Wayne: 4
Times Janet screams: 7
Stock footage shots: 6
Rear screen projection shots: 10
Dissolve cut scene transitions: 12
Fade in/out scene transitions: 10
Fading in and out viewers: Plenty
Min – A dark and stormy night. Not the most promising beginning.
Shadow's Drinking Game: Every time someone says the word GIANT, take a drink.
for larger image
Indian Joe's words of wisdom.
Indian Joe: "I go, but remember what I say. People who walk on Indian grave die."
Shadow’s Comment: And man who go through airport turnstyle sideways going to Bangkok.
Professor Cleveland starts pulling theories out of his ass.
“This shows that the ancient Indians of this area were influenced
by Europeans long before the earliest recorded white settlers arrived.
Possibly by the very band of men that I’ve been looking for.”
me one cuz the horseshit is getting thick around here.
||This Film &
As noted many times before, in 1983 my mother bought for me a book entitled The Great book of Movie Monsters. This tome introduced me to many, many films I had never even heard of, let alone seen. One such film was Giant From The Unknown. As a great enthusiast of monster movies from the 50’s, the movie sounded interesting, but kind of silly given the nature of the “monster.” This was around the time when older such films were no longer being aired on TV. So I waited. A few years later I started collecting 50’s monster fare on VHS, but I was never able to find this movie. I did see it listed as a mail order option at places like Sinister Cinema, but I didn’t have a lot of money for those and when I did manage to scrape some funds together to make an order, I opted to purchase other films. So it wasn’t until the great DVD boom of the early 2000’s that I found this film and was able to buy it. I really was expecting a total crapfest on par with an Ed Wood film, but I was surprised at how well it played. Plus, it had Sally Fraser (RIP), who I just adore. Not a favorite of mine, but not something I’d go out of my way to avoid, either.
Shadow's rating: Four Tombstones