Giant From the Unknown
As "Giant from the Unknown" (1958) opens, the modern-day town of Pine Ridge is terrorized by mysterious killings and an archeologist searches for the grave of Vargas, the Diablo Giant, a Spanish conquistador who was the scourge of California natives centuries ago. Can a human be revived from a 500-year-old coma? In this sci-fi classic, the answer is: of course!
Though the film's main preoccupation is clearly with telling a spooky, action-oriented story, the question of whether it's ethical to disturb human burial sites arises several times. Early on, the character named Indian Joe expresses concern about the archeologist's activities near tribal burial grounds. Later, the archeologist's daughter Janet muses on whether they shouldn't have left the conquistador's effects alone. Though the film doesn't offer a considered response to these questions, 21st century viewers may enjoy considering how scientists often must strike a challenging balance the mandates of engaged inquiry with a respect for cultural tradition and belief.
American boxer Buddy Baer plays Vargas, who at six and half feet tall found a second career playing giants in film and television productions, including the Abbot and Costello version of "Jack and the Beanstalk" (1952). But size alone doesn't make Baer's turn as a murderous conquistador convincing: his makeover by legendary make-up artist Jack P. Pierce adds sweet menace to the boxer's visage. Considered by many to be the preeminent monster maker of 20th century film, Pierce contributed to the groundbreaking look of Bela Lugosi's "Dracula" (1931) and Boris Karloff's characterization of "Frankenstein" (1931) and "The Mummy" (1932).
Dr. Sam ZeveloffDr. Sam Zeveloff, a Presidential Distinguished Professor in the Department of Zoology at Weber State University, discusses dormancy and the film Giant from the Unknown.
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