The directing career of Hawaiian-born Richard Cunha
may have been brief, but he left us with a handful of
precious, no-budget cinematic gems. What this body of
work lacked in intrinsic merit was more than compensated
for by his enthusiasm and productivity.
Within a mere three-year span he produced Frankenstein's
Daughter, Giant from the Unknown, Missile to the Moon,
She Demons and The Girl in Room 13.
Cunha was later to serve as principle photographer
on another workmanlike yet enjoyable cult film outing,
Blood Lust (1961), a low-budget, energetic retelling
of the classic Most Dangerous Game featuring
Robert (Brady Bunch) Reed and an enjoyably hammy
Wilton Graf as the deranged manhunter.
Following his late-fifties spurt of creativity, Cunha
moved into television commercial production even as
his films were beginning to haunt the late show. He
was never to direct another feature. Berate them or
adore them, but let's celebrate the films of Richard
According to Cunha, makeup man Harry Thomas, working
with NO budget, had all of two hours to transform a
male stuntman into Frankenstein's DAUGHTER! A
dab of lipstick was smeared across the mangled male's
putty-plastered kisser. Pressed for time, Cunha had
little choice but to "roll 'em!" The film's
true highlight is Harold Lloyd Jr. singing Daddy
Bird, poolside, backed by the swingin' Page Cavanaugh
Giant From the Unknown (1958)
Ex-prizefighter Buddy Baer is a malicious conquistador
resurrected by a bolt of lightning after a 500-year snooze.
Capable Ed Kemmer, Commander Buzz Corry of Space Patrol
fame, is the likable hero. Applying the putty to Baer's
face was Jack Pierce, who created Karloff's Frankenstein
and Mummy makeup, Chaney's Wolf Man
and just about every other classic Universal monster.
She Demons (1958)
The closest Cunha came to an all-star cast. Super pinup
Irish McCalla, TV's Sheena, Queen of the Jungle,
finds herself stranded on an island crawling with mutant-breeding
Nazis. Washed up with her is Victor Sen Yung, Charlie
Chan's No. 2 son, soon to become Ponderosa chef Hop
Missile to the Moon (1959)
When Cunha needed a second feature to co-bill with Frankenstein's
Daughter, he chose (or was told) to remake the 3-D
schlock masterpiece, Cat-Women of the Moon. Highlights
are the flabby suited rock men and the same giant spider
doll that found its way into any number of B shock pics.
The Girl in Room 13 (1961)
Cunha's final film was lensed in Brazil and stars an
aging Brian Donlevy as a taciturn private dick. Tacky
and muddled with amateurish performances, the ambient
sound of the outdoor scenes -- honking horns and rustling
leaves -- nearly drowns out the dialogue.
WITH RICHARD CUNHA