Unknown… or Just Spain, Really

By 1958, monster audiences knew how this genre worked. Giant from the Unknown doesn’t stretch out its mystery. In the opening scene, people in a small town chatter about dead cattle and a mutilated farmer. Usually in such movies, those scenes happen later; the hero stumbles on the bodies. There’s no need in something like this.

While excising the usual first act, Giant from the Unknown doesn’t change afterward. If anything, Giant from the Unknown needed said tension, if only for atmosphere. There’s none here.

Not as dismal as… cheapies of its ilk, Giant from the Unknown isn’t a significant leap either

A rudimentary script weaves between stock players and events, even themes. From the ‘50s, that fear of outsiders, here exposed by a paranoid sheriff who distrusts an out of town scientist. Then the monster itself, the revived Spanish conquistador trampling native American lands, even if Giant from the Unknown casts the very white Billy Dix in a dismal role as local native, “Crazy Joe.” Any sympathy for tribal plight is quickly trounced. It’s not much better for Janet (Sally Fraser), less than even the usual love interest in ‘50s sci-fi/horror. Here, Janet is directly told to make the men a sandwich and do the dishes. Ouch.

Not as dismal as say, Phantom from 10,000 Leagues or cheapies of its ilk, Giant from the Unknown isn’t a significant leap either. It’s illogical and dull, strained for excitement, even if Buddy Baer’s sizable stature makes an impression as the reanimated zombie. Star Ed Kemmer doesn’t stand a chance to lead this dud considering the material. In a climatic showdown, Kemmer and Baer brawl in a clumsily staged fight that seems Kemmer winning with a rotted, broken board. In terms of action, that’s Giant from the Unknown’s highlight.

Giant from the Unknown spends the rest of its time on sluggish dialog exchanges, none invigorating. Typical for the genre, bunk science concerning suspended animation and lightning strikes explain the how, the characters otherwise useless fodder until the end when they need to band together to fend off this undead invader. For a movie in such a rush at the outset, there’s no urgency later. In terms of Red Scare parables, others fill that void, and with infinitely more enthusiasm.

Video

Film Detective debuts a new master and restoration for this Blu-ray, which at the source is nearly impeccable. Occasional damage, mostly tears near the frame’s edges, represent the worst faults. A stray scratch hardly registers.

Generous resolution doesn’t create the sharpest imagery, yet supersedes any previous attempt to present Giant from the Unknown at home. Some minor flicker does cause concern. Watch the opening shot, specifically the store signs on the left. Clothing causes a similar issue if a complex texture, albeit rarely.

Of greater detriment is the encode, struggling to handle an inconsistent grain structure. Varying film stocks isn’t a surprise for something low budget. However, the mess caused when inside Wayne’s lab disappoints. It’s too digital, less film and more blocking.

Average gray scale avoids extremes on either side. Dry contrast lacks peak brightness, never more than light gray. Passable black levels drive enough dimensionality into things. Not great, but deep and rich.

Audio

In DTS-HD mono, Giant from the Unknown’s vintage audio sports fine clarity, resolving high treble sans issues. Lower chords don’t fare as well. Deeper horns/drums muddy themselves when pushing through the limited sonic space.

Dialog carries slight static. The detriment is tiny, but it’s there, showing age and wear.

Extras

Any Tom Weaver commentary is a good commentary. This one too, of course. There’s an additional track from actor Gary Crutcher. Most of the cast sadly passed away, so his perspective is a rarity now. Crutcher then sits down for a 14-minute interview. C. Courtney Joyner speaks on star Bob Steele for nearly 10-minutes. Inside the case, a fine write-up by Weaver in a 10-page booklet.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Giant from the Unknown
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Movie

Even at 77-minutes, Giant from the Unknown tests the patience of any ’50s monster fan.

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