Category Archives: 1958

Blu-Ray Review: Giant From The Unknown (1958).

Directed by Richard E. Cunha
Produced by Marc Frederic & Arthur A. Jacobs
Written by Ralph Brooke
Frank Hart Taussig
Music by Albert Glasser
Cinematography: Richard E. Cunha

Cast: Ed Kemmer (Wayne Brooks), Sally Fraser (Janet Cleveland), Buddy Baer (Vargas the Giant), Bob Steele (Sheriff Parker), Morris Ankrum (Dr. Frederick Cleveland), Oliver Blake (Cafe Proprietor), Jolene Brand (Anne Brown), Billy Dix (Indian Joe), Gary Crutcher (Charlie Brown), Ned Davenport (Townsman), Ewing Miles Brown (Townsman)

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1957-58 was an interesting time for the Horror Film. For starters, Hammer kicked off their rethink (I hate the word “reboot”) of the classic monsters with Curse Of Frankenstein and Horror Of Dracula. Jacques Tourneur gave us the masterful Night Of The Demon. And William Castle launched his string of gimmick-y horror pictures with Macabre. But there was something else brewing, with a bunch of unknowns, independents and upstarts cooking up their own scrappy little monster movies. Pictures like Attack Of The Crab Monsters, Earth Vs. The Spider, Curse Of The Faceless Man — and Giant From The Unknown. And while they’re lacking in what we normally think of when it comes to Good Movies, they’ve been beloved by fans since they first played drive-ins and turned up on the late show.

Giant From The Unknown works from a pretty kooky premise. After 500 years in the dirt, a Spanish Conquistador, Vargas the “Diablo Giant” (Buddy Baer), is resurrected by lightning and goes on a killing spree. The sheriff (Bob Steele), a geologist (Edward Kemmer) and a group on citizens from Pine Ridge, California, eventually take him down.

Shot around Big Bear Lake for about $55,000 — and going from idea to answer print in just 60 days, Giant From The Unknown is a hoot. Director Richard E. Cunha and producer Arthur A. Jacobs were making commercials before this first feature. Cunha would make three more low-budget monster pictures in the late 50s: She Demons, Missile To The Moon and Frankenstein’s Daughter. On this one, he was a cinematographer and editor, too. 

The Giant’s makeup was done by none other than Jack Pierce, the genius behind all the Universal Monsters. And it boasts a couple of terrific character actors, Bob Steele and Morris Ankrum. Buddy Baer is, of course, the father of Jethro Bodine himself, Max Baer.

The Film Detective brings Giant From The Unknown to Blu-Ray in a “Deluxe Edition” using a 4K scan of the camera negative. It’s absolutely startling, especially of you remember how it looked on TV or VHS. It looks like it was made yesterday, unbelievably sharp and clean. It comes with a terrific stable of extras — a couple commentaries, interviews, the trailer and a nice booklet.

I’ve loved this movie for decades, and I love what The Film Detective has done with it. It’s wonderful to have movies like Giant From The Unknown get this kind of treatment. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1958, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Jack Pierce, Morris Ankrum, Richard E. Cunha, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #321: Giant From The Unknown (1958).

Directed by Richard E. Cunha
Starring Ed Kemmer, Sally Fraser, Buddy Baer, Bob Steele, Morris Ankrum

The Film Detective has announced an upcoming Blu-Ray release of Ricard E. Cunha’s Giant From The Unknown (1958), due in January 2021. As you can see from this trailer, the 4K scan of the camera negative is stunning.

The set will come with all kinds of goodies —
• Audio commentary with Tom Weaver and guests
• Audio commentary with co-star Gary Crutcher
You’re A B-Movie Star, Charlie Brown, interview with actor/screenwriter Gary Crutcher
• The Man With A Badge: Bob Steele In The 1950s
• Interview with author/film historian C. Courtney Joyner
• Original trailer
Booklet with still gallery and liner notes by Tom Weaver

Available before that release, in time for the holidays, is a Limited-Edition Giant Cult Film Box Set with “exclusive collectibles that will thrill any cult classic film fan, including a 13-month cult film calendar, bookmark, magnet, custom playing card deck and lapel pin inspired by Vargas the Giant himself. And that’s not all!  Each box set will also include a surprise, TFD Vault cult film, recently restored from the original camera negative in stunning 4K and a one-year subscription to The Film Detective app.” The pre-order date for that one is November 13. Act now!

Giant From The Unknown has a number of things to recommend it. The giant’s makeup was done by Jack Pierce, who did Karloff’s Frankenstein (1931) and other Universal classic monsters. It’s good to see Bob Steele in a more sizable part, and Morris Ankrum is always a treat. And there’s something about Richard E. Cunha’s low-budget, one-week pictures I like — he was the cinematographer on this one, too. It played in twin bills with his She Demons (1958) starring Irish McCalla.

Between my two blogs, I’ve said this about a million times — seeing cheap movies like this get such stellar treatment makes me feel good. And for fans of this kind of stuff, this one is easy to recommend.

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Filed under 1958, DVD/Blu-ray News, Morris Ankrum, Richard Cunha, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #308: Hammer Films – The Ultimate Collection (1958-1971).

I’ve been really impressed with Mill Creek’s Hammer releases. They don’t have the extras we get from someone like Scream Factory, but they look good, they’re often in double bills or sets (with us DVD/Blu-Ray collectors, shelf space is always a concern), and the price is certainly right. 

Mill Creek’s newest Hammer project is the 20-picture Hammer Films – The Ultimate Collection. It’s got some great stuff — some are repeats from previous MC releases, some not. It focuses on Hammer films that were distributed by Columbia in the States. Here’s the lineup:

The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958)
The Snorkel (1958)
The Camp On Blood Island (1958)
Yesterday’s Enemy (1959)
The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960)
Never Take Candy From A Stranger (1960)

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The Stranglers Of Bombay (1960)
Cash On Demand (1961)
Scream Of Fear (1961)
Stop Me Before I Kill! (1961)

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The Terror Of The Tongs (1961)
The Pirates Of Blood River (1962)
These Are The Damned (1962)
The Old Dark House (1963)
The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb (1963)
Maniac (1963)
The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964)

The Gorgon (1964)
Die! Die! My Darling (1965)
Creatures The World Forgot (1971)

I can’t wait to get my hands on this thing. These films are essential stuff. A few of these I haven’t seen in quite a while — and never on Blu-Ray. It’s coming in November.

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Filed under 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1971, Arthur Grant, Christopher Lee, Columbia, Don Sharp, DVD/Blu-ray News, Freddie Francis, Hammer Films, John Gilling, Kerwin Matthews, Mill Creek, Oliver Reed, Peter Cushing, Stanley Baker, Terence Fisher, Val Guest, William Castle

Blu-Ray News #299: Universal Horror Collection, Volume 6.

I’m really excited about this one, as Shout Factory’s Universal Horror Blu-Ray series moves into the 50s. This is announced for release on August 25.

The Black Castle (1952)
Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Starring Richard Greene, Boris Karloff, Stephen McNally, Rita Corday, Lon Chaney, Jr., John Hoyt, Michael Pate
You could say this was the last of the true Universal-type horror movies, with all the trapping and a few of the actors we associate with such things. It was Nathan Juran’s first time as director. He was on the film as art director, but was moved into the director’s chair when Joseph Pevney walked.

Cult Of The Cobra (1955)
Directed by Francis D. Lyon
Starring Faith Domergue, Richard Long, Kathleen Hughes, Marshall Thompson, Jack Kelly, William Reynolds, David Janssen
This story of a cult of snake worshippers, a deadly curse and the beautiful, deadly snake goddess (Faith Domergue) making their way to New York went out as the second feature behind Revenge Of The Creature (1955).

The Thing That Couldn’t Die (1958)
Directed by Will Cowan
Starring William Reynolds, Andra Martin, Jeffrey Stone, Carolyn Kearney
Running just 69 minutes, shot by the great Russell Metty and with terrific poster art from Reynold Brown (up top), this played with Hamer’s Horror Of Dracula (1958) in the States. It’s about a telepathic head that’s discovered in a box at a dude ranch.

The Shadow Of The Cat (1961)
Directed by John Gilling
Starring André Morell, Barbara Shelley, William Lucas, Fred Jackson
A cat witnesses a murder, then helps both solve it and bring the culprits to their just rewards. Shot in black & white by Hammer’s ace cameraman Arthur Grant.

Scream Factory has come up with some real gold in this one, and it’s good to see these more obscure Universal horror pictures get a chance to shine. They’ll be seen in their original widescreen aspect ratio, with the exception of The Black Castle, which predates the shift to widescreen. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1952, 1955, 1958, 1961, Arthur Grant, Barbara Shelley, Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray News, Faith Domergue, Hammer Films, John Gilling, Lon Chaney Jr., Marshall Thompson, Nathan Juran, Reynold Brown, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #294: War Of The Colossal Beast (1958).

Produced and Directed by Bert I. Gordon
Starring Sally Fraser, Roger Pace, Dean Parkin

Scream Factory has announced a July release for another of the “Arkoff AIPs,” Bert I. Gordon’s War Of The Colossal Beast (1958). It’s a sequel to The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), with a different cast (the monster’s mangled face hides the fact that it’s a different actor this time). One thing that hasn’t changed are the less-than-special effects. The last scene was shot in color, though the ads give you the impression that the whole movie would be. It ain’t much of a movie, I guess, but it’s a lot of cheesy fun.

It’s great to have another AIP picture getting the terrific Scream Factory treatment. Can’t wait.

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Filed under 1958, AIP, Bert I. Gordon, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-Ray News #291: The H Man (1958) & Battle In Outer Space (1959).

Mill Creek’s been offering up some really good stuff lately, and this one’s gonna be terrific. Here’s a Blu-Ray twin bill of Toho pictures from director Ishirō Honda — The H Man (1958) and Battle In Outer Space (1959).

The H Man plays like a bit of a Japanese radioactive tiff on The Blob (1958), with some gangsters thrown in for good measure. Columbia cut some of the criminal element out for its US release, making it 8-9 minutes shorter than what Japanese audience saw. Still, it’s a cool movie.

The great Eiji Tsuburaya at work on Battle In Outer Space.

Battle In Outer Space, aside from the English dubbing, Columbia left alone. It’s set in the future, 1965, with Earth being attacked by the planet Natal, which is causing natural disasters and other chaos from afar. Eventually, the UN battles it out with the saucer fleet from Natal. Toho’s special effects genius Eiji Tsuburaya had a real field day with this one.

Both pictures were in Eastmancolor and Tohoscope, and they should look great in high-definition. Coming in June. Boy, us grown-up monster kids are getting spoiled these days!

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Filed under 1958, 1959, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Eiji Tsuburaya, Ishirō Honda, Mill Creek, Toho

Blu-Ray News #289: King Creole (1958).

King_Creole_advertisement_-_Modern_Screen,_August_1958Directed by Michael Curtiz
Starring Elvis Presley, Carolyn Jones, Walter Matthau, Dolores Hart, Dean Jagger, Vic Morrow

Paramount has announced “Paramount Presents,” a new line of Blu-Ray releases and limited theatrical runs. Along with Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief (1957), they’ll be launching the line with King Creole (1958). One of Elvis’ better films, with one of his best performances (I’d say Flaming Star is his best), King Creole should make for a terrific Blu-Ray. It’s for a great cast — Carolyn Jones, Walter Matthau are both excellent, good songs (“Hard Headed Woman” is awesome) and fabulous B&W cinematography from Russell Harlan.

They’re promising deluxe packaging and a slew of extras. Watch for ’em in April.

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Filed under 1958, Carolyn Jones, DVD/Blu-ray News, Elvis Presley, Paramount, Walter Matthau

Blu-Ray News #277: The Spider (AKA Earth Vs. The Spider, 1958).

Directed by Bert I. Gordon
Starring Ed Kemmer, June Kenney, Eugene Persson, Gene Roth, Hal Torey

I absolutely love the 50s Big Bug movies. So I was excited to hear the big news that Scream Factory’s AIP series (of the Arkoff-controled pictures) will include Bert I. Gordon’s The Spider (1958). It’s announced for an April release.

Bert I. Gordon made a number of movies about big stuff: The Amazing Colossal Man (1957, giant guy), Beginning Of The End (1957, giant grasshoppers), War Of The Colossal Beast (1958, sequel to Colossal Man), Attack Of The Puppet People (1958, a switch to tiny people this time), Village Of The Giants (1965, giant teenagers and duck), The Food Of The Gods (1977, giant rats and wasps), Empire Of The Ants (1977, giant ants, naturally).

Originally titled Earth Vs. The Spider (which appears in the film’s credits), the titled was shortened after The Fly (1958) became such a hit. For those who like this sorta thing, this one’s highly recommended. And isn’t that hot rod up top gorgeous?

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Filed under 1958, AIP, Bert I. Gordon, DVD/Blu-ray News, Samuel Z. Arkoff, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-Rays News #270: How To Make A Monster (1958).

Directed by Herbert L. Strock
Produced & Written by Herman Cohen
Starring Robert H. Harris, Paul Brinegar, Gary Conway, Gary Clarke, John Ashley, Morris Ankrum

This news is like Christmas is coming early this year. Scream Factory is not only promising Roger Corman’s Day The World Ended (1955) on Blu-Ray, but How To Make A Monster (1958), too!

When it’s announced that American International Studios is going to quit making horror movies and focus on musicals and comedies, the makeup man (Robert H. Harris) who created the creatures that made the studio successful vows to get revenge.

This sets us up for a very contrived (they had no studio) look at the inner workings of AIP. It’s cool to see Paul Blaisdell’s masks and stuff sitting around, and the crossover from I Was A Teenage Frankenstein and I Was A Teenage Werewolf (both 1957) is terrific.

If all that wasn’t wonderful enough, the last reel was shot in color. When I saw How To Make A Monster on TV in the 70s, the color wasn’t color anymore — the print was B&W all the way, and I felt so cheated. I’m sure that won’t be a problem when this arrives on Blu-Ray next year. Scream Factory will certainly have it all in tip-top shape. Highly recommended.

As a kid, I completely agreed that ditching monster movies for musicals should be a capital offense.

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Filed under 1958, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray News, Herman Cohen, John Ashley, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-Ray News #257: Hammer Volume 4 – Faces Of Fear.

The folks at Indicator have done a terrific job with their Hammer Blu-Ray sets — and I expect just as much from this one.

Scream Of Fear (1961; UK title: Taste Of Fear)
​Directed by Seth Holt
​Starring Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd, Christopher Lee

Hammer made a string of Psycho-inspired thrillers in the early 60s. One of the best of the bunch is Scream Of Fear, which borrows more from Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques (1955) than it does from the Hitchcock picture. Susan Strasberg is terrific as the handicapped young woman who is being systematically scared to death by a conniving couple. Jimmy Sangster’s script, Seth Holt’s direction and Douglas Slocombe’s black and white photography are all top-notch.

The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Eunice Grayson, Francis Matthews, Michael Gwynn

The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958) is the second entry in Hammer’s Frankenstein series, coming after The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957). Hammer went a different route than Universal — they follow the Doctor, not the Monster, which lets the stories go in all sorts of different directions. And more important, it established Peter Cushing as a leading horror star through the 70s.

Revenge picks up where Curse left off. Frankenstein escapes the guillotine, flees to Carlsbruck and builds a successful practice under the name Stein. Of course, he’s conducting his usual experiments on the side — and they go horribly wrong. Frankenstein transplants the brain of a willing assistant into the newly constructed monster, giving the crippled young man a stronger, straighter body. Or that’s the idea anyway.

This, for my money, is one of Hammer’s finest films. Cushing is terrific as the brilliant doctor completely taken over by arrogance and misguided ambition (making it quite appropriate during this Presidential election). Eunice Grayson and Francis Matthews are good as the nurse and young doctor caught up in Frankenstein’s mayhem. Michael Gwynn is really superb as the monster, perfectly balancing the sympathy and horror the part requires. His performance is what makes the movie work as well as it does. Jimmy Sangster’s script is more disciplined than usual, free of the diversions that can lead his films astray. And Terence Fisher’s direction is as assured as ever.

The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960; US Title: House Of Fright)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Paul Massie, Dawn Addams, Christopher Lee, David Kossoff, Oliver Reed

Hammer always put their own spin on the horror standards they tackled, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde is no exception. Their Dr. Jekyll (Paul Massie) is rather boring, but his potion transforms him into the suave, yet lecherous and murderous Mr. Hyde. Minus the murder part, this seems like a precursor to Jerry Lewis’ The Nutty Professor (1963). This framework provides ample opportunity for everything from rape and murder to snake-charming — the kind of stuff censors pounced on, resulting in a cut-up American release from American International.

The Damned (1963; US Title: These Are The Damned)
Directed by Joseph Losey
Starring MacDonald Carey, Shirley Anne Field, Viveca Lindfors, Oliver Reed

Fleeing the harassment of a motorcycle gang (lead by Oliver Reed), a couple (MacDonald Carey, Shirley Anne Field) winds up in a cave occupied by a group of children — the product an experiment to create a race of radiation-friendly humans.

Hammer sat on this one a while before releasing it, and in in the States it was cut to just 77 minutes. It’s never been given its due, though it’s cherished by fans of Joseph Losey. Indicator, of course, is offering up the original cut, not the chopped-up American thing.

Coming November 18, this Region-Free set loads each picture up with extras — from interviews and trailers to commentaries and photo galleries. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1958, 1960, 1961, 1963, AIP, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Indicator/Powerhouse, Oliver Reed, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher