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”

October classic films, movie events in the Buffalo area

In October, the film schedule is full of treats for horror movie fans with  black and white classics, cult favorites and even horror films that make you laugh.

There’s also another multiday film festival and a pretty cool event with some very special guests.

The 14th Buffalo International Film Festival returns Oct. 10-14 in the North Park Theatre. This year’s festival spotlights some notable films that were made in Buffalo or have a local connection including “A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 11, “The True Adventure of Wolfboy” at 7:15 p.m. Oct. 12 and “Clover” at 9:45 p.m. Oct. 12. With films coming from around the world, there are too many to mention here, so check out the full schedule at buffalofilm.org.

If you know the abbreviation MST3K, you are in for a treat. The just announced “Mystery Science Theatre 3000 Cheesy Movie Circus Tour” with Joel Hodgson is coming to the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda at 8 p.m. Oct. 22. That’s right – Joel will be here along with Tom Servo, Crow and Gypsy. Tickets are $38.50 to $43.50.  There are very cool VIP packages available, too. Here’s a link to the info. Continue reading “October classic films, movie events in the Buffalo area”

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”

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”