The Giant Gila Monster (1959)
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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.
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
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!
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!
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.
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...
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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....
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
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.
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.
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!