After seeing films grace the big screen with giant spiders, giant ants, giant men and giant women, what could one possibly follow them up with? There seems to be only one logical answer and that would be a giant Conquistador. The only problem that a giant Conquistador presents is that he is not necessarily a ‘Giant From the Unknown.’ As is stated in the movie a few times, and as history will tell a person, Conquistadors are from Spain, though at one time Spain could have been considered an unknown many hundreds of years ago. So as one might ask, why this? To which another might answer, why not?
Starring Ed Kemmer and Sally Fraser, the movie finds Fraser’s character Janet Cleveland and her father as played by Morris Ankrum, head out to Pine Ridge in California to do a little research, Dr. Cleveland being an archaeologist. They are soon joined by Wayne Brooks, one of the locals who just so happens to have the lay of the land, and together are soon combing the forest for the remains of Spanish Conquistadors, lost many years previous. It is not long before they discover what they are looking for and while doing so, unwittingly awaken a giant of a man named Vargas, a Conquistador who lay in suspended animation. After a few unexplained incidents and the murder of a young woman, the hunt is on for the fabled Diablo Giant, Vargas the Conquistador.
Though it might sound a little silly at first, like the makers of this film including director Richard E. Cunha had run out of ideas, it turns out to be a highly enjoyable romp through the absurd. It is never really explained just how or why Vargas survived for hundreds of years in a California forest, but no explanation is needed. It is enough to simply accept that a giant of a man, a soldier from the Spanish Empire is alive in the here and now, possibly confused and mad and enough so, that murder is on his mind. Interestingly, legendary make-up man Jack Pierce would be responsible for the look of Vargas and while it was nothing exemplary compared to the work he did on the Frankenstein Monster or on The Wolf Man, the man would indeed look like a Conquistador awakened after centuries of sleep. Kemmer and Fraser did a fine job as the leads of the film, the two having a great chemistry between them, Fraser in particular playing the damsel in distress quite perfectly. Thanks to her and the other actors in the film, Vargas – who was not really as gigantic as he could have been, was made to seem a viable danger and as such, hunted down in a very clichéd, yet exciting finale.
Truth be told, Giant From the Unknown is a perfect example of how to make a great film from a hokey premise. By making the most of their budget, employing actors and actresses that knew what they were doing and not going too far off the beaten path to create something entirely implausible, this story of a time-displaced Conquistador ended up being quite a good time.
3 out of 5