In the middle 1980s, way down on Level 31 Randy Clower and Richard Malmos, machine-gun toting Film Vault Technicians First Class hosted this neglected cult show.
Balladeer’s Blog continues its celebration of the program’s THIRTIETH anniversary year.
ORIGINAL BROADCAST DATE: Saturday June 8th, 1985 from 10:30pm to 1:00am.
SERIAL: Before showing and mocking Giant From the Unknown our members of the Film Vault Corps (“the few, the proud, the sarcastic”) showed and mocked an episode of the Mascot Serial The Phantom Empire (1935).
In that classically campy serial Gene Autry played a singing cowboy who saves the world from an advanced underground civilization that comes complete with killer robots who wear cowboy hats.
HOST SEGMENTS/ COMEDY SKETCHES: A handful of Texas 27 Film Vault fans have insisted this is the episode with the comedy sketch where Randy was dressed in a Conquistador outfit. That renowned sketch required a record number of takes since Randy and Richard had shown up for filming after “a very substantial Happy Hour” as Randy put it in my exclusive interview with him.
The Conquistador outfit would tie in with the movie Giant From the Unknown so it is definitely possible that this was the week that sketch was performed. However Randy has repeatedly said the sketches did not necessarily always parallel the night’s movie, so we cannot yet be sure. Randy did not recall if the sketch was done for this movie or not.
THE MOVIE: Giant From the Unknown has been loved by fans of bad movies for decades as the only 1950’s monster movie in which a giant Conquistador comes out of 500 years of suspended animation and goes on a killing spree in California. Hey, at least it was a change of pace from big bugs, aliens and Commies.
Ed Kemmer, former star of Space Patrol, got top billing in this movie, which came out the same year as Earth vs the Spider, in which the stiff, awkward and less-than- versatile Kemmer played basically the same type of character. In Giant From the Unknown that character was college professor Wayne Brooks.
B-Movie mainstay Morris Ankrum portrayed Dr Frederick Cleveland, a former instructor of Wayne Brooks (of course). The good doctor’s obsessed with proving a large force of Conquistadors made its way to California 500 years earlier, which would be way too early but it’s just that kind of nonsensical movie.
Sally Fraser, another veteran of schlock, played Dr Cleveland’s daughter, who becomes the love interest for Kemmel’s lead character (double “of course”).
Western film legend Bob Steele played Sheriff Parker of Pine Ridge, the remote redneck community in which the giant Conquistador of the title goes on his rampage. Pasty-faced Steele is very, very short it turns out, so it’s often pretty funny seeing him practically dwarfed by the other actors in the movie.
Billy Dix plays Indian Joe and embodies all the 1950’s stereotypes about Native Americans. Indian Joe publicly gloats about all the white people getting killed by the marauding Conquistador so naturally the Bitch Goddess of Karma ensures that he, too, falls victim to the freakish giant before the film is over.
Gary Crutcher plays a teenage character named Charlie Brown, making all conversations which include him orgies of straight lines just waiting for a punch line. Jolene Brand portrays Charlie’s sister -no, not Sally – Ann, who has a crush on Wayne Brooks and gets offed by the giant Conquistador.
And Buddy Baer, younger brother of boxing champ Max Baer, is the hulking, monstrous Conquistador, Vargas. That giant figure is crazed from centuries in suspended animation and communicates only in growls and roars.
Giant From the Unknown presents an example of a lizard held in suspended animation inside of minerals, the way less complex life-forms sometimes are. The movie wants viewers to believe the same thing happened to Vargas the giant, preserving him alive but unconscious for 500 years.
The biggest flaw in the movie is the fact that as the story opens multiple murders and cattle mutilations have ALREADY been perpetrated in Pine Ridge. It’s implied that Vargas the giant must be the cause but the movie also shows us that the Conquistador is not found and revived from suspended animation until the film is at least a third over!
So technically, whoever committed the previous murders and mutilations must still be at large when the movie ends, not that the half-assed script bothers to address that angle.
Kemmer’s professor is doing mineral digs in Devil’s Canyon, just outside of Pine Ridge, and at first is mistakenly suspected of the killing and cattle mutilating. Sheriff Parker has several face-to-chest talks with Kemmer, warning him not to leave the county until the sheriff can solve the crime wave.
Professor Cleveland and his daughter show up to research his theory about pre-Columbian Era Conquistadors on the west coast. Naturally our lead character helps them out and love blossoms between him and Fraser.
More to the point the trio’s excavations (with help from some California mudslides) uncover Vargas and upon exposure to the air the big bad guy revives. Because this is a 1950’s movie he goes into monster mode and, after some timid surveying of the terrain begins killing at will.
You can guess how it all ends up. Our hero is cleared of suspicion for the crimes committed both BEFORE and AFTER Vargas was revived, he and the Professor’s daughter become an item and Vargas gets killed.
Just a few of the memorable screw-ups in this movie include:
The way the voice-over narration reflects Wayne Brooks making a big deal about how he left the Indian Burial Ground off their map even though the visual aide on-screen shows it clearly labeled on said map. Oddly, he even drew little crucifixes (?) over the graves.
Late in the film, after escaping Sheriff Parker but still bound in hand-cuffs Wayne has Professor Cleveland chop the cuff’s chain with an axe. But mere moments later, when Parker realizes that there really is a giant Conquistador doing the killing we get a reconciliation scene between the sheriff and Wayne. We see Sheriff Parker showing Wayne that he knows he’s innocent by unlocking the hand-cuffs our hero got out of already!
A hilariously awkward process shot tries to convince us that a bridge over a small pond is really over a huge, raging waterfall.
An even more hilariously awkward process shot shows … well, ATTEMPTS to show Vargas falling to his death into that waterfall at the film’s climax.
This one has been shown by just about every Movie Host show over the years and deservedly so. It’s a lot of fun to laugh at almost all the way through.
IN THE NEAR FUTURE BALLADEER’S BLOG WILL PRESENT MORE TEXAS 27 FILM VAULT MILESTONES.
Be here to share the Film Vault Corp’s mission of “safeguarding America’s schlock-culture heritage”.
FOR ADDITIONAL INFO ON THIS SHOW –https://glitternight.com/texas-27-film-vault/
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