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I had a pretty positive reaction to this movie, although my opinion is
surely biased because I saw it a couple days after watching the 2003
film Coronado and I was still reeling at how staggeringly bad that
movie was. Unbelievable, seriously. I'm not going to get over that
shock for quite a while, actually. The Giant Gila Monster is an example
of a classic b-monster movie with ridiculous dialogue and dismal
special effects that still manages to be entertaining. A lot of
reviewers have had a lot of really negative things to say about it,
which I'm trying to avoid because it's really easy to badmouth a movie
I bought a collection of 50 classic horror films and this one was included and, on the inside flap of the box is the following line, presumably meant to generate excitement in seeing the movie, "Marvel at the primitive special effects in Giant Gila Monster!" This is partly why I try to avoid bashing the movie too much, because it came in a collection of movies called "50 Horror Classics," which also includes such gems as Attack of the Giant Leeches, The Killer Shrews (which was originally released as a double feature with The Giant Gila Monster), Swamp Women, and The Amazing Mr. X. Surely I was not expecting a milestone film when I watched this movie, although it should be noted that the collection also features films like Nosferatu, Night of the Living Dead, House on Haunted Hill, Metropolis, The Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and White Zombie (which I have yet to watch, but with a title like that it HAS to be good).
The premise of the movie is that there is so much uncharted land around some suburban town that a monstrous lizard has been living there unnoticed for years. The movie starts out showing normal daily life of a lot of teenagers acting like I assume teenagers really acted back then (if someone tried it these days, however, they would have to have their wedgies surgically removed), until strange things start happening in the form of lots of car crashes that involve skidmarks perpendicular to the direction of travel, resulting in the big question, "What batters a car around like it was a toy?"
For most of the movie the cast dances around the possibility of any unusual life forms until the father of a boy who went missing early in the film insists that there could be a huge lizard out there, giving reasoning which makes absolutely no sense at all. He insists that a giant lizard could easily live out there for years unnoticed, get this, in the "underbrush." Well, maybe he just didn't understand the scale he was talking about, because given the size of the car that crashes into it at the end of the film, this lizard living in "underbrush" was probably a good 60 feet long. But even without having seen the thing, is "underbrush" the kind place where something big enough to push cars sideways could hide?
The size of the lizard, first of all, is blamed on out of control pituitary growth, then soon afterwards there's something about some river delta country where salts washed into the valley and got absorbed by the plants and then transferred to the animal, causing them to be giant. I don't know if the intention was to throw in some scientific processes and quickly confuse the audience, but I really can't say that I've heard of any salts that cause gigantism. But I'm no scientist, so what do I know.
At any rate, yes the special effects are primitive, but so is the movie. This is a special effects film that was made on a tiny budget more than four decades ago, so I'm willing to cut a little slack. The gila monster is never convincing even for a second, but at least there was some genuine thought put into the characters and the script. One of the biggest signposts of low budget science fiction and horror is when you can't tell how big the monster is, but remember that that is a sign of low budget, not low quality. I like to think that The Gian Gila Monster has at least some quality.
The movie, for example, contains at least one clever line of dialogue ("I ask you what time it is and you tell me how to build a clock, just answer the question!") and the singing that one of the main characters is always doing (as well as his disabled daughter) were genuine, and successful, in my opinion, efforts at creating three-dimensional characters, which is not something that you see often in these old monster movies. Or new monster movies, as it were.
Again, I may be being overly tolerant of this movie because I watched Coronado recently and I remain blown away at how god-awful it was, but while The Giant Gila Monster will never become a classic of any kind (no matter what kind of movie collection it is included with), it is certainly not as bad as so many people would have
I know this film is bad. I know the gila monster is nothing more than a live one put on the ground with some miniature trucks, cars, buildings, and even a train. I know the acting is overall very poor. The script is full of holes, and the special effects are not special. But I really like this film overall. What this film DOES have is a whole lot of heart. The story deals with people missing in a very small town. The sheriff(played very nicely by Fred Graham) is pressured by the local industrialist to find his son that has been missing. Where does the lawmen go for help? Well, he goes to a teenager that happens to work at a local garage, drive a souped up hot-rod, sing rock and roll in his spare time, and is a swell guy in general. Don Sullivan plays the young man, and I think he is actually pretty good. Sure, the film is hokey. What film wouldn't be with a title like The Giant Gila Monster? But this film is more than your typical B science fiction film of the 50's. It really tries hard to create characters rather than just stereotypes. There are scenes that you just would not find in your average teen science fiction flick. The scene where Chase sings to his crippled sister is just one example. This film was produced by Festus..I mean Ken Curtis who also had his hand in that other fun, campy science fiction film of the same year The Killer Shrews.
As a monster movie, this is far from the best, but as a look at life in
50's rural Texas, it's top notch. The settings are authentic and
realistic and the people talk like real people. Especially good is Fred
Graham as the kind-hearted Sheriff...the opposite of the way most cops
were portrayed in teen movies. Don Sullivan is not bad at all as hero
Chase, a decent kid who just happens to love racing fast cars. With the
exception of the rich Dad, everybody in the movie seems decent.
As for our title monster, he's pretty sleepy looking, but I always thought Gila Monsters were pretty cool. The somber, eerie background music helps this one a lot. Speaking of which, some of Sullivan's singing is OK, but "Laugh, Little Children" should be taken out and shot.
If the effects had matched the rest of the movie, it would have been a minor classic. As it is, it's a fun "time capsule" type movie.
Enjoyed viewing this old time classic film with the old Hot Rod cars of the 1930's with rumble seats and the 1959 Dodge car which the Sheriff (Fred Graham),"Mom & Boy",'72 was able to acquire from his town. Don Sullivan(Chase Winstead),"The Rebel Set",'59 helped the Sheriff try to solve all the strange happens with people and their cars, especially their Hot Rod leader. Lisa Simone(Lisa),"Missile to the Moon",'58 added some romance to this black and white film. This is one of the films that were made during the period when Monsters were animated and then magnified because of the low budget the film producers had to work with. A few of these pictures that followed this same procedure were: "Attack of the Crab Monsters",'57 and "The Black Scorpion",'57. If you like old classic films from the late 1950's this is a film to view and enjoy!
Hot rods and gila monsters! - now there's a mix that absolutely demands
attention. "The Giant Gila Monster" opens ominously enough with
sinister music but quickly turns into "At the Hop", at a pace that is
repeated enough times in the movie to keep you off balance.
It's difficult to get a fix on just how monstrous our title monster is in the early going, as frequent close ups of the creature merely reveal a rather normal lizard. As the film progresses, the creature seems to grow in stature, as when he's sized up against oncoming vehicles or when he manages to destroy a railroad trestle causing a train wreck. Presumably this beast was responsible for the disappearance of two teenagers and an oil rig driver in the early going, as crack detective work by the local sheriff fails to uncover their whereabouts.
The movie actually has a lot going on, the film's hero Chase Winstead (Don Sullivan) befriends a local disc jockey by getting his car out of a jam; the DJ repays the favor by cutting a demo record for the would be singer. Chase's little sister needs a pair of braces in order to walk and they're provided by Chase's girlfriend Lisa (Lisa Simone). Comic relief is provided by the town drunk Harris (Shug Fisher), who happens to witness the creature up close and personal a couple of times, but who's buying his story?
I remember as a kid watching any number of TV shows and movies of the 1950's in which nitroglycerin was a major factor in the outcome of a story. With four quarts of nitro just hanging around, young Chase manages to steer his souped up hot rod into the path of the looming monster to insure a successful and fiery finale.
Even back in 1959, it seemed that corporate sponsors were a factor in movie production, you'll need more than one hand to count the number of times Mobil Oil gets it's message across.
With all said and done, "The Giant Gila Monster" is one of those campy 1950's gems that requires at least one viewing so you could say you've been there and done that. Try to get your hands on the DVD box set of fifty sci-fi and horror films neatly packaged with a mix of downright terrible offerings like "The Beast of Yucca Flats" along with screen classics like "Nosferatu". You'll enjoy yourself for weeks and increase your knowledge of "B" and "Z" grade films to the delight of your friends and neighbors.
The acting is embarrassing, the special effects are terrible, the photography is okay except for consistently bad lighting, the dialog is awkward, and the locations of the shots are difficult to mentally resolve. I love this movie. It's like a movie I would have tried to make, and wish I had made. I would be proud of it today if I had. I bought it, it's that good/bad. It's not as bad as "Plan 9 From Outer Space", in fact it's Academy Award material compared to Plan 9. It's one of those 50's low budget movies that I can't get enough of. I would love to have a collection of movies like this one. One thing I never quite understood was how a Gila Monster survived in Texas or possibly a Midwestern locale. It obviously wasn't Arizona... Forgot to mention the singing, makes the acting look good.
OK, I know I'm in the minority here, but I have to say I love this
Most people may think the acting is corny and special effects are lousy, but there is a certain kind of charm this movie has that stays with you. It's the kind of movie, if you saw it as a kid, you would never forget it.
I even think the Gila Monster is kind of cool .. Hey, he's cooler than some of those stupid Japanese monster movies (ever seen those Gamera flicks?)
The characters all have personality and charm (even the drunk is great!). The eerie music is great (it defines 1950s sci-fi), the hot-rods are cool and the low-lit scenes are great too. It just adds to the charm of the movie.
It's hard to describe, but the movie is like one of those scratchy old record albums you've loved since you bought it as a kid.
I surfed the internet after seeing the movie and found a site dedicated to the movie and its fans (the guest book is loaded with praise from the many fans who signed it).
In short, this movie is FUN, bad acting and all ... it's just a good time. Enjoy it!
Well... maybe I'm in strong like.
The Giant Gila Monster is undeniably idiotic, but it is also a thoroughly enjoyable fusion of stereotypes - the '50s sci-fi craptacular, the 1950s teen rebel film complete with really sexy hot rods and a modern day Tex-western - all genres well overdue for retro movements.
The film features some of the most inept special effects of all time, vast continuity chasms, and shockingly good characterization. Regardless of how sub-cretinous the script sometimes becomes, the characters are actually well developed human beings with interesting relationships to one another - united by their existence in a town where nothing interesting ever happens, until a giant gila monster starts terrorizing a long, lonely stretch of highway on the outskirts of town.
Don Sullivan is likable but sickeningly sweet as the bad-boy Texas drag racer turned responsible budding good-boy rock-a-billy star. His acting is not too bad, and some of the rest of cast act as well, but generally, the performances are a bit ridiculous. Nevertheless, the film really does develop its characters and its plot in somewhat unique and original ways. And besides, when you're not being entertained by the virtual variety show which passes by between the action scenes, you can laugh at the tonka toys getting walked on, the flaming toy train, and the giant sand grains (almost as large as the grain of salt you should take this film with) that appear near the camera in most of the scenes featuring the gila monster.
If films are supposed to entertain, this will certainly satisfy fans of pulpy sci-fi like me. I can't honestly recommend it for those who do not enjoy camp and kitsch. Enjoy!
The Giant Gila Monster is another creature feature from Ray Kellogg (The Killer Shrews) that usually gets passed over with bad reviews. The story is about a giant, people-eating gila monster, which usually lurks in the thick brush near an isolated community. The main character, Chase Winston, (Don Sullivan) is a teen leader, car mechanic, and rockabilly/folk singer who sort of reminds me of singer Jimmie Rodgers. The acting is fine to passable for this type of low-budget movie, and the film is well shot. The Giant Gila Monster may be too slow for younger audiences used to today's action-packed fare, but for older audiences it might be a fun reminder of the era in which it was made. The music is creepy and nicely captures the mood of the isolated areas. The special effects (like the gila monster attacking a wrecked train) may bring on some good laughs. Throw in some rock & roll, teen lingo, a French exchange student (Lisa Simone, who was also in Missile To The Moon), a big city disc jockey, and some hot rods, and you've got a late 50's, drive-in flick which can be easily enjoyed for the type of movie it is.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
More divinely dumb no-budget shot-in-Texas over-sized thingofabobbit on the murderous rampage creature feature tomfoolery from the same fine folks who gave us the equally inane, but still immensely entertaining "The Killer Shrews." This time it's a laughably lethargic giant mutant reptile terrorizing libidinous teenage hot-rodders in a dusty desert armpit burg. The ludicrously melodramatic opening narration deftly sets the enjoyably goofy tone for the ample unintentional high camp hilarity to come; this honey's other winningly wretched bad film vices (or is that virtues?) include clunkily sincere acting, sluggish pacing, grainy black and white cinematography, a spacey theremin-ripping score, a dreary excess of dull talk, and an ahead-of-its-time heavy-handed "have sex and die" moral which later became a fundamental component of 80's slasher flicks (the beast's first two victims are a pair of young lovers doing just what you think in a car on lover's lane). The gila monster itself is a big, fat, hissing, sleepy, pitifully unimpressive and unconvincing not-remotely-scary-for-a-second lizard that's made to appear enormous and intimidating by having it lumber around on riotously obvious chintzy miniature sets and by shooting it with crummy macro lens photography, neither of which even come close to making the drowsy behemoth seem slightly fearsome or threatening. Drippy goody-goody two shoes would-be teen scream idol lead Don Sullivan belts out a sensationally sappy'n'stinky wimpoid Christian pop song at a swinging barnyard sock hop which our titular monster rudely crashes by sticking its head through a wall. Producer Ken Curtis eventually found greater fame playing Festus on the popular, long-running Western TV series "Gunsmoke." Director Ray Kellong, who also did second unit work on both John Ford and Howard Hawks pictures, went on to give John Wayne his thesping orders for the notoriously abysmal rightwing Vietnam war movie atrocity "The Green Berets." Sure, "The Giant Gila Monster" is extremely dopey and silly, but overall it's way too good-natured and strangely pure in its very clumsiness to dislike. Okay, I'll admit it -- I really dug this baby and think it's a good deal of amiably asinine two-cent fright film fun.
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