Direction: Richard Cunha
Screenplay: Frank Hart Taussig and Ralph Brooke
Music: Albert Glasser
Special Effects: Harold Banks
Producer: Arthur A. Jacobs
When you see the word "giant" in a movie's title, how big do you expect the menace to be? Twenty feet tall? Thirty? Forty? How about 6'6"? Less than amazing or colossal, you say? Such is the size of the menace in 1958's misleadingly titled Giant from the Unknown.
However, once you get past the initial disappointment over the "monster's" piddling stature, Giant from the Unknown is an economical if wholly predictable slice of 1950's American monsterama.
Yes, everything in Giant is pretty perfunctory. The script is a strictly by-the-numbers example of assembly-line fifties sci-fi/horror. No doubt the most thankless task falls upon poor Sally Fraser, who trips about smiling and doting over her father and the film's hero. She also gets to overreact at the slightest provocation, such as spying a small, harmless lizard inside a box. When asked what she can do to help, Sally is told by the men that she can wash the dishes and get their next meal ready. As she watches them troop off into the woods, Sally cheerily sighs that men get to have all the fun. Hmm. Something tells me Giant from the Unknown would not win NOW's seal of approval.
Again, the main problem in Giant isn't the film itself, which is straight-forward Grade-B stuff, but rather the menace. A "giant" revived conquistador (Buddy Baer was only 6'6") just doesn't have much scare potential, though it was admittedly offbeat for a fifties genre item. But the standard alien or "missing link" or radiation-created mutant would have been preferable to Vargas the Giant.
Still, fans of Grade-B sci-fi/horror offerings will want to see Giant at least once. The film is stocked with familiar fifties faces, such as the aforementioned Sally Fraser (War Of The Colossal Beast, It Conquered The World), as well as Ed Kemmer (Earth Vs. The Spider) and the great Morris Ankrum (Invaders From Mars, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, Kronos, and many others). The music echoes all the familiar motifs of Grade-B 1950's genre items, no surprise since it was written by Albert Glasser (The Amazing Colossal Man, The Cyclops, Monster From Green Hell, etc.).
Director Richard Cunha has become something of a cult figure, though his other films (Frankenstein's Daughter, Missile To The Moon, and She Demons) are far worse than Giant. While not a "good" film, Giant still pushes all the familiar fifties Grade-B movie buttons. It may be threadbare and a little tawdry at times, not unlike an old couch whose cushions are poking out of the upholstery, but like that old couch, it has a lived-in and quasi-comfortable feel, and you just can't bring yourself to throw it out.