The Giant Gila Monster
Only Hell could breed such an enormous beast. Only God could destroy it!
Year of Release: 1959
Running Time: 74 minutes (1:14)
Director: Ray Kellogg
Don Sullivan ... Chase Winstead
Fred Graham ... Sheriff Jeff
Lisa Simone ... Lisa
Shug Fisher ... Old Man Harris
Bob Thompson ... Mr. Wheeler
Janice Stone ... Missy Winstead
Ken Knox ... Horatio Alger 'Steamroller' Smith
Gay McLendon ... Mom Winstead
A giant killer lizard menaces the inhabitants of a small Texas town. They must flee their homes to survive.
The Giant Gila Monster, remindin' us that when it comes to automotive upkeep in rural America, all you really need is a kindred spirit in the form of a sheriff who'll look the other way while you're salvagin' parts off a totaled chassis anytime somebody gets t-boned tryin' to steer with their left patella comin' outta the Diary Queen drive-thru. Although to be fair, that's somethin' I think people're entirely too critical about. Cause you can't help but admire the level of commitment involved when somebody deliberately chooses an automatic over at Traitor Joe's Used Car Emporium an Bail Bonds just so they won't need that left foot to work the clutch. Though, if you're like me, you're prolly wonderin' what somebody'd have to do if they were gutsy enough to try eatin' an Oreo Blizzard while drivin' a manual transmission. After all, most of us regular folks who take drivin' serious'd never be willin' to let go of the steerin' wheel for much longer'n it takes to squeeze out a few ketchup an mustard packets onto our Code Blue Ribbon Burger an maybe blow the straw wrapper out the window, so drivin' like a maniac isn't somethin' that most of us can relate to. But the unfortunate reality is, as scary as you'd imagine it must be to try workin' the clutch, brake, an gas with only one foot, it's gotta be makin' you wonder how it'd even be possible to handle that, while still havin' that little matter of the gear shifter to contend with. Well, I don't wanna get too graphic here on account of my mama's prolly readin', but lets just say; think Deliverance, with the 8-ball gear shifter knob standin' in for Bill McKinney. I mean, by that point you'd be bitin' down on the steerin' wheel like a big, gunky teethin' ring anyway, which completely defeats the entire purpose. Where the heck was I goin' with this again... oh right, so anyway, support your local sheriff. Cause if you're friendly enough, they'll let you take your pick of the automotive guts at the various vehicular manslaughter crash sites an maybe even invite you over to choose from the less attractive, desperate inmates over at the conjugal visit trailers. But speakin' of people who like to grunt an squeak an squawk with the animals, zoologists absolutely love this one. Finally, FINALLY, we've got a giant creature feature that doesn't involve the nuclear boogeyman goin' all Fuki-nobyl to create one of these bloated behemoths an instead, is backed up with sound, scientific evidence provided by a magnanimous, if unseen, zoologist. A zoologist who authoritatively explains that when an animal's Debigulus gland gets switched off, it swells up like Lou Ferrigno on super weight-gain powder til all the muscle mass disastisizes, which invariably causes it to go apeshit an do the Tokyo Stomp. An I dunno about the rest of you, but I think it's great that cities who may not be able to afford a nuclear power plant are now able to live knowin' that a giant muskrat may very well pop up outta Lake Nematoada an start terrorizin' the populous of Asscratchewan, without havin' to live in some ritzy place like Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Now I don't wanna get too serious cause I'm pretty concerned about havin' my face freeze that way an endin' up permanently lookin' like Tagg Romney durin' the 2012 presidential debates, but I found it completely impossible not to notice how relevant this movie still is for our modern society after all these years. Why The Giant Gila Monster hasn't been enshrined in the National Film Registry for movies of an exceptional or historically significant nature, we may never know. But the movie serves as a fantastic guide that could sincerely help a modern, polarized society such as ours really come together an help us to understand an learn from one another. So for alla you pompous, derisive, self important city folks out there, I've taken the liberty of selectin' a few examples from the movie of how we ruralites're different'n you, but that also prove that wherever you go, people're basically the same. First, out here in parts unknown, we still have to worry about automotive theft, just like you do. Only around here, nobody tries stealin' anything that ain't at least 30 years old an looks like it hasn't ran since 1987. So your 2009 Toyota Camry with a scant 26,000 miles on it may just as well be a 1956 Schwinn with two flat tires an no seat cover. Sides, we only steal American. An if it turns out that the 1977 Gremlin we had our hearts set on won't crank an we got all dressed up like we're headin' to a Marilyn Manson concert for nothin', our next move is to come back once a week an make pitiful offers for it til the owner either gives in or gets P.O.'d an tries beatin' the tar out of us with a ball-peen hammer.
Second, though with far less frequency, we have murders, just like you do. Only instead of draggin' the rivers right outta the chute like they prolly would in your neck of the hoods, we don't bother cause all the criminals around here know that it wouldn't be more'n half an hour before the corpse got hooked an hauled out by some cantankerous old white-hair who'd be down at the sheriff's office within minutes demandin' compensation for the reel he burned up tryin' to land the goll durn thing. So our search parties always start way out in the boonies, usually in a real thick area that by the time the search's over, everybody looks like they rolled down one of them real steep hillsides where nothin' but goat-heads'll grow til they eventually came to rest in the barbed-wire fence waitin' at the bottom. An it has to be that way, cause around here, nobody'll really believe you gave your best effort if you don't look an smell like Pigpen after Snoopy got rabies an chewed 'im up like a side of beef at Boss Hogg's place after it's all said an done. You guys have these kinda people too, cept you generally figure they've put forth absolutely no effort towards anything in their lives an call 'em beggars. An third, we've both got an abundance of barns. It's just that, instead of dresses an pottery, we use ours to shelter cows an old beer bottles that our grandparents accidentally left in the windowsill back in 1949 so we can sell 'em as antiques when those hippies from American Pickers show up. Now ya see? We're not so different. So lets call off the hostilities, alright? In fact, if you'll just agree to quit comparin' us to the cast of Wrong Turn, we'll promise to quit dribblin' our chaw-spittle into your Denny's Grand-Slam breakfasts. Now how's that sound?
The movie begins with these two kids out neckin' when all the sudden Tila Tehgila shows up an tries givin' 'em a push start an accidentally unleashes 'er wrathelete's foot an goes all Studebreaker on their ride as it rolls down an embankment. Meanwhile, this packa terminally uncoordinated kids're dancin' over at the malt shop wonderin' where the heck Toejam & Earl are til Jed Clampett (Harris) comes in an has to fend off attempts by the head of the White Bread gang (Chase) to buy his car so he can't take it into the body shop an gimp his ride. Elsewhere, the sheriff (Jeff) goes to see this old crank (Wheeler) who wears a tie under his bathrobe in case a board meetin' breaks out in his rumpus room so the guy can demand the safe return of his missin' son an try to forget about the fact that his kid prolly ran away just to escape his ragin' penis insecurity. He's also gonna have Jeff's badge if the kid ain't returned to 'im before any of his regular prostitutes show up an find out he ain't even a big enough man to control his own kid. So Jeff goes over to the mechanic shop where Chase works an asks 'im if the missin' couple was "in trouble," or if he thinks they'da left town to elope. Seems Wheeler's gone all Threatsey Wetsemself at the prospect of his thoroughbred son marryin' the trailer trash from down the street on account of what the boys at the club'll say, an the effect it may have on his property values, but Chase tells Jeff that he's pretty sure neither of those things were the case, cause they seemed pretty happy to him. Then Chase's boss (Compton) rolls in an apologizes for takin' so long to get back an tells 'im that he's only late cause he had a heck of a time pryin' those nitroglycerin blocks outta their protective containers without droppin' his cigarette ashes onto 'em an Chase gets this look on his face like he just sat on a bear trap an has to fight the urge to go all Drayton Sawyer an slap the nap-haired idiot around for bein' so simple. But about that time Chase's illegally wiretapped phone starts ringin' an he decides to hold off on tannin' Compton's hide long enough to grab it an listen in on a call about a reported car wreck to the sheriff's office an drives his wrecker over to the scene to see if he can't make a few bucks an interfere with a police investigation. Then Jeff shows up an finds Chase already waitin' an gives 'im this look like he just opened up a terribly forged progress report from Chase's English teacher an asks 'im if he found the driver an Chase says no, but that wherever they are they must be lookin' about like they were on the receivin' end of a vampire fang bang cause there's more blood in the cab of the car than the nether regions of an old folk's home's residents on free Viagra day. Meanwhile, a short distance away, Tila gets so P.O.'d about havin' to find out via Maury Povich that not only is the guy she believed to be 'er daddy really not, but that she's also actually a Mexican Beaded Lizard, that she has to squish a hitchhiker into a tamale pie just to try an cool off. I'm not really sure how she didn't know, I mean, the family resemblance between this beast an Strom Thurmond is undeniable.
Then Chase goes to see his girlfriend (Lisa) an she tells 'im that Wheeler (her foreign exchange sponsor) suffered some third degree burns from the boys at the club after they found out his French maid was datin' a grease monkey an that if they don't break up he's gonna crate 'er up an mail 'er back to France where all the women'll ostracize 'er for shavin' 'er pits. But Chase tells 'er not to worry cause he knows a guy with a strawberry farm that'll keep 'er hidden away from immigration so she'll quit blubberin' like she just heard Jerry Lewis was retirin' from show business. Then Chase takes off an has to tow this guy who's drunker'n Wesley Snipes after checkin' his bank balance into town an pound his fender back into place while the guy clutches his head like he just took a Balls Mahoney chair shot til he ends up havin' to tap out an pay Chase to quit singin' while he works an get the heck outta there. So later on while Chase's burglin' the tires offa the abandoned car quicker'n an Asian street gang just outside of Ninja Guy Dan's Chop Shop Suey: Home of Refurbished Auto Parts an Chinese Takeout, Jeff shows up an tells Chase to assemble the dork squad so they can go beat the bush an find Wheeler's kid before Jeff gets busted down to mall cop. That's a fine establishment, Ninja Guy Dan's, I mean. I do all my tradin' over there ever since I was won over by that fantastic slogan he's got that goes: "Hot from the street to your back seat in under an hour or your bail's on us." But anyway, then alla the hip cats goose it out to the back forty an Chase an Lisa head into this gulch an follow these tracks that look like Fats Domino got dragged around by the scruff of his neck while Tila slinks along all quiet like behind 'em doin' the stealth Stromber. Then the rest of the varsity squad starts layin' on their horn like the bulb just blew out on the projector at a drive-in til Chase an Lisa get back to the car an the Raleighwood Squares tell 'em they spotted the missin' Compackard about three miles down the gulch. So everybody gets their wazoos loaded up into the cherried out chariot an go hook the wrecker up to the Bustang an haul it outta there while Tila watches an eventually balks at the idea of askin' Chase to go steady. Then everybody heads back to the repair shop an Jeff comes by to tell 'em that it'd be totally hep if they wouldn't completely trash any crime scenes they might happen upon in the future an takes off to try an come up with a good excuse to keep Wheeler from takin' his badge an crumplin' it up into a Borg cube. Meanwhile, up the road a piece, Compton's drivin' this gas truck over to the Clampett homestead to see if he can't sneak an illegal fill up from their oil rig when Tila comes outta nowhere an starts usin' 'er tongue to whip it like Indiana Jones at a Devo concert til she blows it apart like a redneck's metacarpals on the Fourth of July. Normally she uses 'er tongue to blow the tops offa other things, but she's pretty well on the war path by this point.
Then Chase goes home an sings fruity folk songs to his gimped up little sister an watches 'er take 'er first steps with the new braces he was able to buy for 'er after months of griftin' just about everybody in town. But the Kodak moment gets under-exposed around the time Jeff calls an tells 'im Compton's gone all wimp on the barbie an so he meets Jeff an Harris out at the carbeque an when they can't find the body Jeff starts wonderin' if maybe there isn't some connection between this an all the cattle mutilations goin' on. Then Harris heads for home an starts singin' so bad that everybody starts missin' Chase's singin' while Tila tries squeezin' underneath this railroad trestle, completely underestimatin' how thick 'er thighs've gotten from eatin' so many greasers an eventually ends up tearin' out the support beams just as Harris comes around the corner an watches the choo-choo derail quicker'n Caitlin Upton's train of thought when she tries anything more involved than orderin' a Big Mac. So while Tila chows down on the dinin' car, Harris whips his Bel Air back an forth til he gets turned around an heads back to town to tell Jeff about what happened an ends up gettin' locked up for perturbin' the police. Then Jeff calls Chase again an asks 'im to bring 'im his book on reptiles an the one about trouser snakes that he keeps under his mattress an once he gets down to the station Jeff tells 'im he's been talkin' to a zoologist that thinks somebody shut off the regulator valve on some Gila Monster's growth hormone injectors an, consequently, there's a real P.O.'d Quadzilla out there with about 50lbs of desert sand built up in its mega-vag. Oh, but don't let that spoil the big party you've got planned for tonight, Chase, you go on ahead an don't mention this to anybody. Really, it's nothin' to worry about, National Geographic said they'd send Marlin Perkins out to corral it, so everything'll be cool. So Chase drives over to this old barn where they have to party in secret so John Lithgow won't get 'em shut down or show up an condemn everybody to Hell or nothin' an by the time he gets there everybody's already doin' the Twist or the Mashed Potato or... I dunno, looks like the Tourettic Ground Sloth to me, who knows. But while everyone's partyin' like it's 1899, Wheeler shows up at the sheriff's office an starts brow beatin' Jeff about the tires on Chase's car an tells 'im that if he doesn't bust Chase like a honeydew melon he's gonna have Jeff's badge an get 'im brought up on feckless endangerment charges. Unfortunately, by the time Jeff an Wheeler get over to Chateau Corn Row, Tila's already shown up all drunk an disorderly like, bellowin' about how everybody only pretends to like 'er an ends up puttin' 'er head through the barn wall like she's havin' sex with Gregg Casarona til the place is emptier'n the ammunition aisle at Wal-Mart after a Democrat's elected president. Will cut here, cause I just don't think I could live with myself if I spoiled how Chase an company squirm outta this one. It's in the public domain though, so here's a link if you wanna check it out:
Alright, well, as you might've guessed, this one's a turkey. In fact, it's a false advertisin' turkey, cause as I mentioned earlier, the lizard ain't even a Gila Monster, it's a Mexican Beaded Lizard. This's almost as bad as when they forgot to put some Trolls in Troll 2, only that movie has the benefit of bein' a thoroughly enjoyable disaster, where this one's really only a disaster in the special effects and acting departments. I don't question the premise of course, not after there had been so many decent flicks during that time that featured giant monsters; particularly, giant monsters that were essentially just larger versions of regular creatures. Additionally, it's also refreshing to get a giant monster without needin' radiation as a prerequisite plot device. Which may seem like it doesn't make as much sense, but that's only because on some subconscious level we equate giant monsters and radiation, as though *that* is actually plausible. When really it's just a case of swallowing the movie science easier because we've seen it so many times. But unfortunately, when compared to Tarantula, Them!, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, or even The Deadly Mantis, this one just falls short. It's also generally safe to assume that, in a horror movie, when there're entire scenes dedicated to someone singing that aren't plot relevant, you're in big trouble, cause that almost certainly means there's a hidden agenda. Or at the very least, the movie's just a vehicle for somebody who should never be given a driver's license under any circumstances. If you've ever seen Zaat or Track of the Moon Beast, you know what I'm talkin' about, and guess what those two movies and this one have in common? Yup, the kiss of death, Mystery Science Theater 3000. After all, they wouldn't take just any bad movie. I suppose that for its time, it was probably received a whole lot better than it would be now, and one other thing you'd have to give it; because it actually got national distribution at the time of its release, it almost certainly will have made its budget back and probably turned a profit. So if nothing else, it's already way ahead of Theodore Rex, which has the distinction of being the most expensive direct to video movie ever made. $33 million for that sucker, which, at its current rate of return from airin' at 2am on TBS, should be paid off in approximately 800 years. Now see, it's movies like *that* that aughta make more people stop and think before they slap a 1/10 on somethin' like the Giant Gila Monster, cause whatever's wrong with Ray Kellogg's movies, they at least don't make you wanna weep like your little sister just died in a car wreck out of unmitigated pity. But, for once, I think I'm on board with the IMDB rating for this one. 3.2 is probably about right.
Okay then, lets join Tila in the dinin' cart an consult the whine list for recommendations. The plot, is older and more worn out than than the "board of education" my babysitter used to have sittin' out on the patio underneath the bug zapper. This kinda thing's been done more times than Jerry Sandusky's butthole in the prison shower, and much like the latter, nobody's the least bit bothered by it. Whatever it takes to get us a big, P.O.'d monster runnin' around doin' the Tokyo Stomp is fine with me, just don't expect anything new, is all. The acting is pretty bad, for the most part. I'd just about bet money that Lisa Simone got her role because they wanted somebody foreign for the part and she was the only person that auditioned who fit the bill, and the fact that her character was given her real name, is also pretty telling. It's possible that she was one of the financier's relatives, as there're a few that got parts specifically for that reason. In all fairness, Don Sullivan and Fred Graham are alright, and wisely, were given the two most important parts, but the supporting cast is supportin' about as well as a 36DD Victoria's Secret under-wire that's spent the last eight years bein' frantically stuffed into various truck drivers' glove boxes before their wives catch sight of it. Here's who matters and why: Don Sullivan (Gila!, Teenage Zombies, Curse of the Undead, The Monster of Piedras Blancas), Fred Graham (Panther Girl of the Kongo; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea 1954; The War of the Worlds 1953; Canadian Mounties vs. Atomic Invaders; The Purple Monster Strikes), Lisa Simone (Missile to the Moon). Impressive, no?
The special effects lick Floridian swamp crotch. The majority of the shots with the lizard aren't the least bit convincing, and most of them don't really even make an effort to try to be such. Often, there isn't anything in the shots with the lizard to try to give it the appearance of a grand scale, and when there is, it isn't effective. So, you've probably deduced that the movie also has its share of miniatures, including a gas truck, railroad bridge, and the train that derails after the support beams are knocked out, but none of them look like anything but toys, even for a moment. I did notice one scene that had the lizard next to a miniature tree that came across pretty well, but it was the only one that did. Suffice it to say, the special effects alone are enough to sink it. The shooting locations are pretty fair, having been primarily filmed on a ranch between Dallas and Denton, Texas, with all of the indoor shots being completed in Dallas. If nothing else, the movie has an authentic, rural atmosphere about it that seems to ring true. So even though scrub desert is somewhat boring to look at for 75 minutes, that's the environment where the titular creature is found, and it works. Though my favorite location is probably the little 50s diner at the beginning of the movie. The soundtrack is hit and miss. Okay, it's probably all miss, because even the tracks I like, such as the opening theme, sound kinda outer-spacey and out of place for a monster movie. Kinda reminded me of The Screaming Skull in outer space, that first track. Many of the other tracks are hilariously dated, and often out of place. Such as the dance tracks that occur during the hot rod sequences that make it seem as though the driver is being pursued by Elliot Ness after sneakin' out the back door of a Speakeasy. And of course, I've already mentioned Don Sullivan's ukelele jam sessions, which are nothing short of cringe-inducing. Overall, The Giant Gila Monster is a terribly executed time capsule of the 1950s, and that's the best advice I can give with regard to anyone hoping to enjoy it. Unless you're interested in the 50s, nostalgic for your youth (not that there're too many people out there that would be, and who could also survive my morally reprehensible humor), or looking for something bad to watch with friends, skip it. And if it's that third thing, watch it with the Mystery Science Theater commentary.