GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN (Film Detective Blu Ray)
Original theatrical Release: Astor Pictures March ,1958 B&W 77 min.
The Film Detective release Jan 19, 2021 Region A $24.95 https://www.amazon.com/Giant-New-4KRestored-Version-Blu-ray/dp/B08KJ66H5B/ref=sr_1_2?crid=20MY9UTNI5XR2&dchild=1&keywords=giant+from+the+unknown+blu+ray&qid=1608513823&s=movies-tv&sprefix=giant+fr%2Caps%2C177&sr=1-2
Film Detective has released some interesting films of late. Their copy of THE VAMPIRE BAT (https://www.amazon.com/Vampire-Bat-Special-Detective-Restored/dp/B01LTIAUJ2/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1LKAB9WDI072G&dchild=1&keywords=vampire+bat+blu+ray&qid=1608514341&sprefix=vampire+bat+blu+r%2Cmovies-tv%2C154&sr=8-1 ) recreated the color sequences to the independent Majestic Pictures 1933 release .
Now Film Detective has given the 4K cleanup restoration to GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN. G.F.T.U. was a low budget quickie that came and went to theatres back in 1958. It was often a co-bill with SHE-DEMONS, another Astor Picture, both directed by Richard E. Cunha (1922-2005). Cunha also directed two other Astor horror flicks that year, FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER and MISSLE TO THE MOON.
G.F.T.U. is most notable today for it being one of the low budget films that make-up genius Jack Pierce worked upon after Universal International booted him from the studio in 1946. The man who created the definitive look of Frankenstein’s creation was now working on films shot with extraordinarily little resources and less time for creative experimentation. Pierce’s output for 1958 included applying hair to 51-year-old stuntman Gil Perkins to turn him into the TEENAGE MONSTER (Howco,1958) as well as the fuller’s earth coating of 6’ 6” actor Buddy Baer for G.F.T.U.
The plot: A series of animal mutilations have recently happened in an area called Devil’s Crag (one of the working titles for the film were “Giant of Devil’s Crag “) and now a local known as old man Harold Banks (an inside joke, as that was the name of the picture’s special effects man, as well as visual effects on MISSLE TO THE MOON) has been found murdered.
The body is brought into town by Sheriff Parker (western star Bob Steele, who had portrayed Curly in the classic OF MICE AND MEN, Hal Roach, 1939) The townspeople talk of the area being cursed, and Indian Joe (western actor Billy Dix, in a wig. Dix also had a small part as a storm trooper in SHE DEMONS.) talks about the area being a burial ground for his ancestor and talks of the curse.
Sheriff Parker goes to Geologist Wayne Brooks (Ed Kemmer ,who had starred in the ABC-TV science fiction classic SPACE PATROL from 1950-5. In 1958, he also headlined Bert I. Gordon’s THE SPIDER, AIP) who has been working in the area. Brooks is also a suspect since it seems he did not get along with the late Banks.
Brooks becomes friends with Professor Cleveland (Morris Ankrum, HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER, AIP, 1958, as well as a gruff military type in many 1950s sci fi films), an archeologist, and his daughter Janet (Sally Fraser, WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST, AIP,1958, as well as THE SPIDER, both for Bert I Gordon). Both had arrived when the townsfolk were discussing the murder of Banks as well.
Cleveland has been studying the history of the area to a group of Spanish Conquistadors led by Vargas (Baer). Vargas, a giant of a man, was a violent man who broke away from the main expedition and vanished with a few followers up in the Devil’s Crag some 500 years ago. Meanwhile, Brooks makes an amazing discovery about the soil in the area, wherein he finds a lizard long thought extinct preserved and alive. He theorizes that the soil induces a sort of suspended animation and preserves living creatures.
Having found an old broken cross that he believes is from Vargas’ party, they use a metal detector to search the area for other artifacts. Janet is the one who finds the location of the burial area of the lost Spaniards. A thunderstorm comes through and freshly cleared soil shows more of that preservative dirt that saved the lizard, as well as spotting a giant battle axe. They decide to retire to their camp site for the night and investigate further in the morning.
During the night, Vargas comes alive, and stumbles down to their campsite. Janet, however, has a gun with her, which she fires off, startling the giant. The man out of his time goes staggering off, only to find other victims.
The film has a lot of plot and continuity errors. We hear of animal mutilations and the murder of Banks as the film begins, but Vargas is not shown rising from the earth until 36 minutes into the 77-minute film. Who then was responsible for the killings before Vargas arises? During a climatic fight, it begins snowing but in certain shots there is no snow, etc. The joys of low budget filmmaking. The budget for the film was $54,000 for a six-day shoot, so retakes and time are not luxuries afforded to indie filmmakers. The budget was 30K on hand as well as $24K deferred. That includes renting locations, transport, feeding, housing, as well as film stock, cast and crew salaries, plus optical effects costumes and makeup.
The film has long since slipped into public domain and thus has been seen in prints on television and home video releases varying from good to very scratchy and splice ridden.
Now, FILM DETECTIVE has gotten the original camera negative and made a brand new 4 K transfer. The print is incredibly sharp, complimenting director Cunha’s photography (he did double duty on the picture).
They also have provided yellow easy to read optional subtitles, though there are a few misspellings in the extras section (the director’s name, for instance, or Grauman’s Chinese Theatre).
Other extras with this blu ray release are
A running audio commentary by Tom Weaver, filmmaker, and film fan/filmmaker Larry Blamire (LOST SKELTON OF CADAVRA, Columbia, 2001, inspired by films like G.F.T.U.). Weaver reveals a personal connection to this film, and the kindness that the filmmakers bestowed upon him. The commentary also uses audio clips of the late filmmaker, and some sound effects that seem influenced by Ghoulardi.
A second running commentary with co-star Gary Crutcher, who has fond memories of his first film role some sixty-two years later.
Ballyhoo Motion Pictures provides two new featurettes.
The first is YOU’RE A B-MOVIE STAR, CHARLIE BROWN -an interview by Daniel Griffith with co star Gary Crutcher, covering some of the same territory as his running commentary, but fascinating and fun, nonetheless.
THE MAN WITH A BADGE: BOB STEELE IN THE 1950s- C. Courtney Joyner (screenwriter of PRISON, Empire ,1987) and how big a deal it was to have Steele (January 23, 1907 – December 21, 1988) in this film.
A Booklet enclosed inside the disc case written by Tom Weaver about the making of the picture with some nice photos.
If you love 1950s B movies, this looks to be a must have to add to your collection.
Film Detective has truly gone all out on this one.
ONLY 1,500 copies pressed.
Do not miss out!!
–Kevin G Shinnick
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