The Giant Gila Monster (1959) Poster

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A Pleasurable Guilty Pleasure
BaronBl00d5 August 2001
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.
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Pleasant slice of life film
drmality-13 June 2005
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.
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In 2003, the digital effects team behind Independence Day made a worse movie than this one.
Anonymous_Maxine15 February 2005
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 like this.

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
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I am in love
mstomaso20 September 2006
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!
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Good-spirited drive-in fare.
onnanob218 April 2002
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.
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Fan of 50s sci-fi? This movie is FUN!!!
lespaulstandar31 July 2006
OK, I know I'm in the minority here, but I have to say I love this movie.

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!
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I bought this movie
horsegoggles29 June 2005
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.
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A Classic Monster Film From the PAST!!
whpratt118 May 2004
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!
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"There was this big pink and black thing drove right in front of me...."
classicsoncall9 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
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.
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A winningly cheap'n'cheerful piece of 50's giant monster creature feature fun
Woodyanders17 March 2006
Warning: 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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Yay! Too Stupid!
goodbear4019 February 2005
As an offering on AMC's Friday Fright Night, this film hardly qualified, other than being frightfully nostalgic and silly...but after ample quantities of Labatts and Yukon Jack, I thought this flick was big fun.

Okay, so that ukelele should've been broken over the dude's head the minute he started strumming it; so his crippled yet perky little sister was badly in need of an upper-lip wax; and I won't even reference the titular monster, as it's been commented on ad infinitum...

This is classic "ancient" cinema, the stuff your parents were supposed to be watching while they steamed up the windows in the back seat of your daddy's Plymouth; and I still think it beats the CGI "blockbusters" being pooped out of Hollywood every year.

To paraphrase Geena Davis in that remake of another cheesy sci-fi flick: "Be drunk...Be VERY drunk!" Highly recommended at 4 in the morning...
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Folks have been extraordinarily critical of this film…
MongotheDestroyer5 December 2005
And it doesn't deserve it, I'll admit, before I actually watched the movie I too was saying "By god, Americans can't make giant monster movies." But, I just happened to get it on a big DVD pack of giant monsters and decided to sit down through the movie. The story line is a very 50's esq. rock and roll movie that just happens to have instead of some other sort of detractor from our hero- a giant Gila monster. The most important thing to consider when viewing the film is of course how the lizard looks on screen, now when I went into the film, I was assuming that it would look very sedated and just sort of "there." However, the director took the time to get the lizard to do movements that reflected what was occurring in the movie. Overall, for being a film based around a magnified video of some lizard crawling around, the film is very smooth. The story line is relatively entertaining and at no point did I wanna punch the lead actor, which is always a plus.
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Univited visitor comes to the dance
chris_gaskin1234 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I've seen The Giant Gila monster a couple of times and quite liked it. This is one of several monster movies made at this time that mixes teenagers/hot rods and rock and roll. Others include Earth vs. the Spider.

A small town in Texas is invaded by a giant lizard, eating people. The first few victims are from car wrecks and a tanker crash, the lizard forcing the vehicles off the road. When the lizard destroys a railway bridge, a train crashes as it crosses and he makes a meal of a lot of the passengers. The lizard then interrupts a party and dance being held in a barn, featuring most of the town's teenagers. One of them, a mechanic gets some nitroglycerin and runs his hot rod into the lizard and blows it up. Life can now get back to normal.

The lizard in The Giant Gila Monster is rear projected and looks sleepy throughout, moving only slowly.

The cast is made up of unknowns, lead by Don Sullivan and Fred Graham as the Sheriff.

This movie is a must for monster movie fans like myself. Great fun.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
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1950's-Style Garbage Monster Flick
roddekker22 May 2015
Featuring some of the lousiest, z-grade effects ever, along with some of the most inept acting on Earth, The Giant Gila Monster is Sci-Fi/Horror that truly scrapes the absolute bottom of the barrel when it comes to cheap, worthless and incompetent film-making.

I would like to say that this dreadful clunker was actually so bad that it was good. But if I said that I would (truthfully) be lying.

The Giant Gila Monster is a typically predictable mix of 1950s, hot-rod teen-mentality and the bizarre appearance (for no explicable reason, whatsoever) of a mutated monster. This time it being a 70 foot gila monster.

Set in rural Texas - Minor, 50s pop sensation, Don Sullivan plays the sickeningly sweet bad-boy and car fanatic, Chase Winstead.

Chase and the bungling town lawman, Sheriff Jeff, unite as a team and join forces to try to find a way to combat and destroy this ferocious beast who, besides already gobbling up several town-folks, has had the sheer audacity to actually bulldoze its unwelcome way into the teens' barn-style sock hop.

In between all of the mayhem and carnage, our darling, little Chase manages to take some time off from all the heroics in order to sing some truly god-awful songs, like - Laugh, Children Laugh and My Baby, She Rocks.

Yep. This film is pure rubbish.
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Great B Movie
hhfarm-17 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
It's cheesy and silly but how could you resist the plot: good guy Chase works at the local garage but is taking correspondence courses (engineering) to better himself; he can't afford to replace a headlight in his car because he just spent his extra cash on braces so his baby sister can walk; he's got a French girlfriend; he writes songs and sings part time, and helps the Sheriff by organizing search parties and analyzing causes of wrecks.

And what a great guy: towing a wreck in and fixing the fender: $2. loves his little sister; couldn't be more caring and polite to his mom.

Plus he knows a lot of cool stuff: how to tune cars, build motors, mix race fuel. And that gila monsters "always go in a straight line" - not many people know this.

The best though is the story: the monster attacks a train and multiple people see it. But the troopers write that off to shock. Not the sheriff though: he calls our hero and asks "Do you still have that nature book with pictures of lizards?" And there are the low-angle shots of a regular-size lizard who seems to eat victims clothes and all.

It's not "so bad it's funny" it's "so 50s and they tried so hard it's funny".

The script has a few oversights but the only annoying one is that the hero takes a headlight from a 4-headlight 59 Pontiac and uses it in a 2-headlight hot rod. Different size: what were they thinking?
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One of the biggest duds of all time
mrush3 May 2008
This movie has it all--bad plot ,bad script,bad acting,bad special effects ,bad lighting...and on and on.What a total waste of film this thing was.

A small town in maybe Texas is terrorized by a giant Gila monster for some reason.The local sheriff,who mostly talks on the phone a lot,and a kind hearted young dragster,Chase,set out to rid the town of this threat.Chase races around town in his souped up car and beats the sheriff to all the wrecks and bad stuff that the monster does.Save this tidbit for later---Chase,for some ungodly unexplained reason, also has access to nitroglycerin that apparently comes in what looked to be coffee cans with "XXX" stenciled on them.

This movie was clearly trying to capitalize off all the teen trends of the late 50's---kids and their hot rod cars and their music,Elvis was mentioned, and all that.Chase is a good wholesome teen who is helping his single mom raise his crippled little sister.This cool cat is also trying to get a singing career off the ground.Anyway there is some singing and some DJ comes to town for a dance party and all the while this giant Gila monster is walking around.

Now the giant lizard is never really explained...the sheriff and Chase have some lame talk about gullies and washes and 'salts' that could have caused this lizard to grow to be a monster.But we never really learn how the lizard got so big and why it seemed to be the only lizard who was so affected by the 'salts'.

None of these people could act whatsoever....well one little guy could ..Shug Wilson ,I think was his name and he ended up on a few episodes of the Beverly Hillbillies and some other stuff like that.Everything else was terrible in this movie.....a shot of the monster crashing through the side of the building at the dance party was clearly just a lizard with it's head through a piece of cardboard.

A train wreck caused by the monster was simply a model train rolling off the end of the track down into some dirt.No grinding of metal or massive dust clouds thrown up or anything,just a little train flopped down in the dirt with some dubbed in screams from the 'passengers'.Anyway after the sheriff sits in his office a whole bunch Chase goes out and ends the movie in a really implausible silly finale.

I don't want to give too much away but there wasn't really a giant Gila Monster in this movie,it was just a regular sized Gila monster shot really close up amid some really crappy looking little models of stuff.

This is just a bad mess by people who had no clue about any facet of movie making.It isn't so bad it's fun either.It's just plodding and boring and a waste of time-not entertaining in the least.
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Fantastic late night watching
teapot-55 February 2008
This film is a real classic late night "horror" that is a real comedy. The acting is honest with all the characters played with competence without really pushing any boundaries. The plot is quite simple, and typical of this genre. What I really like about the film is the number of clichés it includes, there is the grumpy Sheriff trying to cover up for the misunderstood hero, the invalid child, the broke and honest good guy with a bad reputation and the giant monster who wreaks havoc amongst the model sets. The hip language used by the youths is really fantastic, especially since they all dress like they are fifty. Overall the film wins no points for acting, plot, special effects or cinematography (watch the train wreck), however it all comes together to make a classic late night horror for after the pubs have closed.
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another for the so bad its good list
mrsaffleck-217 May 2007
As anyone who has ever read one of my reviews knows, there's nothing I like more than subjecting my poor boyfreind to really bad movies and I think I won a prize for this one.

I stumbled across it as a free download from a film archive and after checking the details here proceeded to acquire it. An hour and a half later I was in spasms of laughter ( one of the kids actually came out to see who was choking a seagull) This movie has it all, real bad special effects, terrible acting, very bad editing, it goes back and forth from night to day at an alarming rate, ha just bad all over.

BUT! and hers the but, I hav'nt laughed so much at a movie in a long while, for the exact same reasons sited above. It follows a basic storyline of young lovers gone missing (due to gila) investigation follows, giant monster(ha ha ha ha ) comes and goes,People are eaten often, Jhonny be good visits his poor crippled sister and sings for her, Jhonny be good realizes somethings up then Johnny be good helps investigate and saves the day yay! Seriously if your a fan of B-movies, this is right up your alley, and I don't think I'm getting my prize, the boyfreind laughed as much as I did
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Chase Winstead: Hot-Rod Hero!
Attillio19 June 2006
Wow, I remember watching this film on television as a kid, back in the 1960s, and being literally glued to the set! "Several" years later, I still think that this is a terrific flick! We first meet Chase Winstead (actor Don Sullivan), good-guy mechanic/aspiring correspondence-school engineer/hot-rod driving enthusiast AND hopeful rock & roll superstar! I mean, this guy is such an outstanding individual, that he's almost like Wally Cleaver of "Leave It to Beaver," fame (except, that instead of having a precocious, little brother like "The Beaver," Chase has an adorable, little sister, who is bravely battling polio AND no Ward Cleaver, as a wise and venerable father figure). In addition, we soon meet the paternal Sheriff Jeff (portrayed by veteran cowboy actor/stuntman Fred Graham, who, if I recall correctly, once got into a barroom brawl with Kirk Douglas and Dewey Martin in the great Howard Hawks' epic western, "The Big Sky"). Sheriff Jeff and Chase are soon on the trail of all of these truly-puzzling missing person cases in the area. Of course, the "culprit" behind these disappearances is a giant gila monster (which, according to a recent Animal Planet Channel special on this film, wasn't even a gila monster, but some other lizard type, that I just can't quite seem to remember at the moment). I love the part in the film, in which Sheriff Jeff (in attempting to provide some pseudo-scientific, mumbo-jumbo-like explanation for the lizard's humongous size) comments that "scientists have recently found some 'unusual' salt deposits in Lake 'Tang-an-yee-kee' over there in Africa." (One has to wonder if, instead of the New Mexico-born Mr. Graham delivering that memorable line/lake mispronunciation, one of my fellow New Jerseyans, like, for example, actors Joe Pesci or John Travolta, had tried to correctly pronounce the name of that famous, east-central African body of water, Lake Tanganyika (pronounced "Tang-guhn-YEE-kuh"!?!), in a Garden State "patois"? Anyway, after singing some cool and heartfelt songs ("My baby, she rocks and rolls..."), Chase saves the day in, ironically enough, his brand new, soup-upped hot-rod. I think that I'll always remember that scene, where we see that uber-cool hot-rod, with Chase "Mr. Sangfroid" Winstead resolutely behind the wheel, as some truly classic rock & roll music (sounding like something from the soundtrack of "Eddie and the Cruisers") is blaring away! I tell you, when I "grow-up," I want to be just like Chase Winstead, with a "hot" French girlfriend, and an even "HOTTER" hot-rod!!!
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always had a soft spot fot this film
monsterlover5827 December 2003
I cant say this is one of the "great" sci-fi films of the 50,s It barely classifies as a "B" picture but I,ve always enjoyed this movie. got hot rods,crazy teens,crazy adults,{boozehounds} and a giant creature stalking victims in the Florida whats not to love? This is one of those really hoakey plots with

sub-standard acting..but somehow the film comes off pretty good... Its got some good comedy scenes interjected as well as unintentional laughs...Originally double billed with "The Killer Shrews" this was definitly aimed at a teen audience and released to the drive-in circuit...So grab some popcorn,a coke,your favorite gal..check this one out for laffs and to see what hot rodders were doin in 59.... Its not a GREAT film..but it is GREAT fun....
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Classic B-Movie of old
jluis198429 May 2006
"The Giant Gila Monster" is one of those films of old that despite its numerous flaws retains a certain charm that adds a special mystique to the experience of watching them. Often labeled as one of the movies with worst special effects in history of cinema, this small Drive-In classic shines among similar movies due probably to the same naiveté that made Ed Wood's movies legendary. Like Wood's movies, "The Giant Gila Monster" has more good intentions than talent behind the camera, and that probably is what makes it so special.

The plot starts when people starts disappearing in the roads near a small Texan town. The sheriff Jeff (Fed Graham) is puzzled by the case as the victims seem to vanish leaving no trace. With the aid of his good friend Chase (Don Sullivan), he starts an investigation that will lead them to discover that a monster of huge proportions has been hiding and is eating its victims.

The movie is centered around Chase and the Sheriff's friendship, and the parental relationship that exists between them. Despite having no father and with a handicapped sister, Chase never loses his optimism and is willing to help everyone, from his best-friend the Sheriff to his girlfriend Lisa (Lisa Simone), who is an immigrant and wants to get a job. All this is charged with the 50s innocence and that naiveté that gives the film its charm.

Acordign to history, this movie was the brainchild of Gordon McLendon, a Texan millionaire who wanted to make movies with good Christian values and moral lessons to fight against the movies that were "corrupting" the youngsters of his time. This purpose is notorious through the film as the victims of the monster seem to be punished because of their sins, and becomes blatantly obvious when Don Sullivan sings the movie's theme.

While the movie may have failed as a Christian movie, it has gained a popularity among fans of 50s B-movies because it presents the classic elements of the Atomic Age creature-features. The primitive and simple special effects and the poorly written dialogs are really obvious flaws but the film as a whole has a certain charm due probably to the innocence of its makers and probably of the 50s as a whole.

Don Sullivan is a good lead, and also performs his songs with natural ease. Fred Graham and Lisa Simone are also quite good despite the silly dialog the movie has. Director Ray Kellogg handles the movie with the typical 50s style probably to make it appealing to mainstream audiences. The special effects are indeed poor and it is easy to notice that the Giant Gila Monster is nothing more than a normal Gila Monster walking over a cheap scale model.

To judge "The Giant Gila Monster" under the standard of our times would be a mistake, so it's better to say that the film delivers entertainment and a good glimpse to the idealized society of the 50s. People expecting a classic horror movie will definitely be disappointed, but fans of Atomic Age monsters or of B-Movie classics will find a minor gem to enjoy. 5/10
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Surprisingly Good Cult Picture
Alien_I_Creator22 July 2006
Chase Winstead is a good ol' American small town boy. He's into hot rods and rock n' roll, he has a steady job at a garage, he's in good with the local sheriff. His bombshell-of-a-girlfriend was nice enough to buy his polio-stricken sister leg braces. Why, he's even got a record deal for having such a beautiful Elvis-like voice. What could possibly go wrong? How about (of all things on Earth) A GIANT GILA MONSTER ATTACK!

This campy classic is the cousin to another cult cinema gem, The Killer Shrews. It is not to be missed by fans of Roger Corman, Ed Wood and the like. It's got fast cars, rock music, cheesy effects, but, quite a good script and above par acting. Great to watch by itself or, as it was once featured, on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. It's not too long, not too short, and there's never a dull moment.
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Almost as poisonous as a real Gila Monster
frankfob5 November 2003
Terribly made, pointless, ultra-cheap '50s monster movie that tries to cash in on the hot rod/monster/rock n' roll genre and fails miserably. The gila "monster" is a normal-sized animal plopped down on miniature sets (that, like everything else in this picture, are tenth-rate) which slithers around trying to figure out where it is (and what the hell it's doing in this awful movie). The acting is sub-grammar-school level; veteran stuntman Fred Graham as the sheriff is one of only two professional actors in the cast and he can't do much with the stilted, senseless dialog he's forced to recite. "Star" Don Sullivan has absolutely no screen presence whatsoever; he's apparently going for the Robert Mitchum "sleepy eyed" look, but manages to seem more like he just woke up. Even more irritating, he warbles (badly) two of the most insipid, brainless "rock" songs ever written. One is called "And the Lord Said Laugh, Children, Laugh", which consists mostly of that particular phrase repeated for three solid minutes, and the other one has lines like "my baby rocks me when she rocks and rolls me when she rolls", whatever the hell that means.

In any case, the movie is an exercise in boredom. It fails as a teenage rock movie (the music's awful), it fails as a teenage monster movie (there's no "monster", just an over-sized lizard on an undersized set), it fails as a teenage J.D. movie (all the teenagers are sickeningly clean-cut, freshly scrubbed and law-abiding), it fails at everything it tries to be. Good for an unintentional laugh or two, but that's about it.
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Bad enough that you may enjoy watching it just to laugh at the whole mess!
MartinHafer25 February 2007
There are two types of bad horror films--those that are so dull and atrocious that no one likes them (except masochists or mental patients) and those that are so inept and silly that they are great for a laugh (such as PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE). I would put this one in the second category, though it is a bit duller than some of the cheesy old horror films from the 1950s. I would say that it's more fun than watching ROBOT MONSTER but not quite as much as TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE.

The film is about, you guessed it, a giant gila monster that terrorizes a small town. One by one, it causes auto and train wrecks and then feasts on the inhabitants! While this all sounds very ridiculous and funny, the film actually plays most of the plot very straight. However, inexplicably, it also chooses to insert a lot of 50s rock and roll into the film--even at moments where it makes absolutely no sense at all. For example, near the end of the movie the sheriff finally realizes that the accidents were being caused by the giant lizard but doesn't warn anyone. So, naturally, the teenagers stage a big dance right where the gila monster resides. But to make things worse, even though many people have just died, the lead actor begins to sing (a la Arch Hall, Jr. in EEGAH!)! Huh?! About the only decent thing about the plot was the role of the sheriff. Aside from the big brain lapse mentioned above, he seemed like a nice guy and actually liked the teens and listened to them--not like MOST sheriffs in these sort of movies (like the cops in THE BLOB and INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN and countless other films who ignore the warnings).

Considering how slowly the gila monster moves in the film, it's a great metaphor for the rest of the movie. Not exactly action-packed but still silly enough to provide a few chuckles to bad movie aficionados--but probably of no interest to others.

By the way, in one scene late in the movie, the sheriff and another local jump into the leading man's jalopy. As they pull out, the shadow of the boom microphone is very clearly seen in the foreground. Considering the low budget and lower expectations for this film, it's not too surprising that they didn't edit this out or re-shoot the scene!
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This movie has trivia
julianbristow-11 May 2005
The Giant Gila Monster is the story of a former child star named Scotty Beckett going under the name of Don Sullivan in an effort to salvage his career and someone named Ken Curtis who made a decision that being an actor is far better than being a horror movie producer. I couldn't help noticing those facts when I watched this movie. It's always fun to look behind the scenes and see a another story unfold over the present one. But going back to the movie, it was another one of those grade B- "quickys" meant to try and cash in on the teenage monster craze of the late 50's. Cheap sets, a pet lizard and a bunch of nutty teenagers make up for just about all of this show. The story was routine with the hero coming out ahead. It's not a bad movie if you like cult shows. If you see it around, go ahead and watch it. It will make you laugh and think about the good old day's.
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