Review: ‘Giant from the Unknown’ gets a home video makeover

B-movie fans are an accepting bunch. By their very definition, these films aren’t generally well-made, but we watch because we love the idea of them.

Plus, as I was reminded recently while watching “Giant from the Unknown,” we never know when we’ll be surprised.

Showcased in a new home video release from The Film Detective, “Giant from the Unknown” is one of four films made in 1958 by director Richard E. Cunha (the others are “She Demons,” “Missile to the Moon” and “Frankenstein’s Daughter”) that get lumped together as bad B-movies. But that’s being harsh when it comes to “Giant.” It’s an easy to watch jaunt through B-movie horror territory and Cunha shows a nice touch with imagery to keep his low-budget film interesting. That this film looks great (it is “resurrected” from the original camera negative in a new 4K transfer) is a bonus.

The plot is straight from the B-movie handbook. Something is killing the livestock and people of a small mountainside town in California called Pine Ridge. There are mutilated cows, missing chickens, talk of curses, legends surrounding an ancient Indian burial ground and reanimation. Throw in a scientist, a handsome young guy, a beautiful woman, a mysterious creature and an officer of the law and there’s your film.

Note that the film’s first image is of lightning – that will come in handy later. The movie opens with news of another death – “a brutal beating” of a rancher who was “torn apart like the animals we found.” The panicked townsfolk have gathered, talking in the type of monster movie jargon we love.

“No human being could do that,” one guy says.

“It’s supernatural, that’s what we think,” adds another.

“If you lived here as long as all of us, you would have heard the legend of the curse.”

Universal monsters headed to YouTube – briefly

You can never have enough of the Universal Monsters so it’s a good day when you learn you have more ways to watch.

Starting Jan. 15, NBCUniversal’s YouTube channel “Fear: The Home of Horror” is hosting seven movies starring such iconic creatures as “Frankenstein,” “The Bride of Frankenstein” and “The Mummy.” You can watch each film for free for one week from the premiere date and also purchase discounted digital copies of the films.

“The Bride of Frankenstein,” with Elsa Lanchester and Boris Karloff, is one of the Universal horror films that can be seen for free for one week at “Fear: The Home of Horror.”

Here’s the schedule, with films set to be released at 3 p.m. EST:

Jan. 15: “Dracula” (1931) and “The Mummy” (1932)

Jan. 16: “Frankenstein” (1931) and “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935)

Jan. 17: “The Invisible Man” (1933), “The Wolf Man” (1941) and the comedy “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948).

[Also read: How Abbott and Costello brought the meet-cute to horror films]

For longtime fans, this is simply another place to catch these films again, even if it’s just for a week. But this move also helps introduce the films to new viewers who may stumble upon them while looking at Fear’s more modern content like “Jaws,” “Chucky,” “The Invisible Man” (2020) and TV shows like “The Purge” and “Bates Motel.”

Recently “Fear,” which has more than a million subscribers, has been stocking up on some interesting Universal classics material including trailers, explainers, scenes and character introductions making it a good resource to find content on the Universal monsters. There’s some fun stuff, too, like side-by-side comparisons of the 1933 and 2020 versions of “The Invisible Man.”

A handy guide to nearly 100 horror films airing on TCM in October

It’s our time, horror movie fans.

Once again, Turner Classic Movies has curated a made-to-order fright fest with a schedule of nearly 100 horror films throughout October.

Friday evenings are devoted exclusively to scary movies starting Oct. 2 when horror author David J. Skal, whose new book with TCM is “Fright Favorites: 31 Movies to Haunt Your Halloween and Beyond,” introduces four films starting at 8 p.m.

Those four movies and many others in the book will be shown on TCM in October including “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” “Them!” and “The Wolf Man.”

TCM’s Star of the Month (#sotm) is horror great Peter Cushing, whose films will be featured in prime-time every Monday night in October. Though the first two weeks (Oct. 5 and 12) focus on Cushing’s early roles and non-horror work, Oct. 19 is devoted to his Hammer films  – including three Frankenstein movies – and Oct. 26 is all horror including two Dracula films.

Oct. 14 is Tod Browning Day with seven of his films programmed including three with Lon Chaney. The month culminates in around-the-clock horror films on Oct. 30 and 31.

Here is the list of films to help you plan your viewing and DVR schedule. Continue reading “A handy guide to nearly 100 horror films airing on TCM in October”

File under animal films: Classic creature movies

It was embarrassing, there’s no other way to spin it. On a recent Friday night, I was hunkered over my tablet like a kid studying for a quiz seeking answers to this question: Is (fill in the blank) an animal?

And that leads to your questions.

1) Shouldn’t an adult already know the answer?

2) Why would anyone research that in the first place?

Blame it on social media. I wanted to take part in one of those fun Twitter questions/polls, but was hesitant to give a “wrong” answer. The topic: movies with an animal in the title – no proper nouns allowed. So  “Lassie” was out, but “Reservoir Dogs” was in.

As a fan of creature horror movies, I had to participate. It would be a chance to draw attention to these entertaining movies.

“Tarantula,” one of my favs, came to mind first but was quickly shot down by doubt. A tarantula is a spider which comes from the arachnid family so does being an arachnid negate it from being an animal?

Once I thought about it, my mental capacity dropped to that of a preschooler. Doubts were everywhere as I questioned each movie title in my head.

“The Fly.” “Deadly Mantis.” “Black Scorpion.” “Attack of the Giant Leeches.” “Giant Gila Monster.” “Attack of the Crab Monsters.”

Is “The Fly” an insect, an animal or both?

What was an animal and what wasn’t? Is an insect solely an insect or an animal, too? I grew more embarrassed with each search, but kept going.

Well there’s a good reason for the confusion – the kingdom Animali is massive and includes mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, amphibians and fish for starters. As it turns out, many of my favorite horror movies are animal films. Victory was mine – and I was off to watch “Tarantula.”

Continue reading “File under animal films: Classic creature movies”

TCM unleashes ghosts, witches, curses and creatures in a feast of October horror films

Movies teach us lessons.

Like think twice before accepting an invitation to stay overnight in a mansion. Don’t visit an English village – especially in the 17th century. If an inheritance involves an old house or meeting relatives for the first time,  you might want to politely decline. And Dracula is never really dead.

Those are some of the recurring themes in the more than 70 horror films being aired in October by Turner Classic Movies.

TCM’s annual October scarefest returns with a night of themed horror movies every Thursday in October: “Betwitched” is the theme on Oct. 3, “Black Magic” on Oct. 10, “Ghost Stories” on Oct. 17, “The Undead” on Oct. 24 and “Horror Classics” on Oct. 31.

Friday nights are devoted to the TCM Monster of the Month, Godzilla (who brings along a few friends). You’ll find other horror films sprinkled throughout the schedule, too, with a horror marathon starting at 8 p.m. Oct. 30 and concluding in royal fashion with “Dracula, Prince of Darkness” at 6:45 a.m. Nov. 1.

This is what we have to look forward to: at least 10 movies from Hammer Film Productions; 8 movies starring Christopher Lee; 6 films each that  feature Vincent Price and Peter Cushing; 4 with Karloff and 3 films directed by Roger Corman. Multiple movies carry the names of Barbara Shelley, Val Lewton, Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Matheson and American International Pictures (AIP), another favorite studio for horror fans.

Continue reading “TCM unleashes ghosts, witches, curses and creatures in a feast of October horror films”

July on TCM: It’s ‘Out of This World’ for sci-fi fans

Giant ants, pod people, trips to the moon, journeys back in time and close encounters with aliens both friend and foe. It’s a dream lineup for sci-fi movie fans.

We get all of that and more during the TCM Spotlight “Out of This World: A Celebration of Sci-Fi Movies” every Tuesday in July.

The series has 34 sci-fi films broken into weekly categories.

It starts July 2 with a night of early sci-fi films including the one considered to be the first in the genre: “A Trip to the Moon” by George Méliès.

July 9 is dedicated to films of the 1950s, a highly influential film decade that gave us such classics as “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “It Came from Outer Space” (see photo, above).

July 16 is broken into two parts. Prime time is dedicated to “moon” movies in tribute to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Late night (or very early morning) programming screens some great creature features including a giant reptile named Ymir.

July 23 is all about the 1960s with films from directors George Pal and Stanley Kubrick. Continue reading “July on TCM: It’s ‘Out of This World’ for sci-fi fans”

‘The Gorgon’: A look at Hammer’s most underrated monster

It was an easy decision to take part in the second “Great Hammer-Amicus Blogathon,” a celebration of two studios that have given so much to fans of horror and fantasy (like me).  Once again, the blogathon is hosted by Barry P of Cinematic Catharsis and Gill Jacob of RealWeegieMidget reviews. It’s a fun idea with such an abundance of options that it’s hard to choose just one movie.

My initial thought was to write about my favorite creature: the vampire. An important member of the Hammer family, the vampire enjoyed its greatest cinematic transformation under the studio where it was made over from feared beast to a sensual killer, setting a new tone for vampire films to follow. (Thank you Christopher Lee).

But let’s be honest – the vampire, mummy and werewolf get all the horror film love (and the bulk of the movies, too). So I thought about a creature that has yet to get its due and there was only one choice for me: the snaked-haired Gorgon from Hammer’s 1964 film “The Gorgon.” (How underrated is “The Gorgon”? Even one of the in-depth books on Hammer Films brushes off the film in six paragraphs!)

Just thinking about the Gorgon freaks me out.

Many film buffs know this creature as Medusa from the inventive work of Ray Harryhausen in the 1981 film “Clash of the Titans.” In Greek mythology, the Gorgones (Gorgons) were three winged sisters– Stheno, Euryale and Medusa. They had hair of living snakes and could turn people to stone.

Continue reading “‘The Gorgon’: A look at Hammer’s most underrated monster”

5 favorite films from the 1950s

For Classic Movie Day on May 16, Classic Film TV Cafe hosted a blogathon asking movie fans to share their 5 favorite films of the 1950s. I missed the original announcement so it was too late to participate in the blogathon, but I did join others on Twitter by listing my five choices:

“Best of Everything”
“House of Wax”
“Picnic”
“Tarantula”
“Vertigo”

It’s an odd mix, I know. The only common denominator  is that I saw each for the first time as an impressionable kid, so my emotions are elevated with all of these 5 films. I do adore this misfit list that has creature feature/horror, romance, melodrama and masterpiece. Here’s a brief look at why.

Hope Lange, left, and Diane Baker start their new jobs at a publishing company yon the same day in “The Best of Everything.”

“Best of Everything” (1959)

Hollywood in the 1950s knew how to do drama and this Cinemascope soaper is one of the best. (It’s based on the first novel by Rona Jaffe.) I think I could love it simply because Johnny Mathis sings the romantic theme song that is repeated throughout the film.

Continue reading “5 favorite films from the 1950s”

Chaney, Lee, Karloff, Price: TCM sets wonderfully horrific lineup for October

Horror fans rejoice! Turner Classic Movies has once again packed a horrific lineup for October programming including a creature of the month, a night devoted to ghostly encounters and 200 years of Frankenstein.

Plus, there’s  not one star of the month but four as TCM showcases four greats of the horror genre. Lon Chaney, Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price will each have a Wednesday night devoted to them in October. The series starts at 8 p.m. Oct. 3 with Chaney and includes five of his silent films.

The misunderstood Mummy is the designated creature of the month, earning a slot every Sunday night starting at 8 p.m. The schedule includes some cool Universal films in the “Kharis” series on Oct. 7 and a trio of mummy films with a sense of humor on Oct. 14.

The Bowery Boys even get in on the action with a night of horror films starting at 8 p.m. Oct. 30.

Here’s a look at the schedule broken down by topics with some descriptions:

The Mummy

Oct. 7

8 p.m. “The Mummy’s Hand” (1940). Depending on your point of view, this may or may not be a sequel to the Universal original. It is the first in a series with a mummy named Kharis. Continue reading “Chaney, Lee, Karloff, Price: TCM sets wonderfully horrific lineup for October”