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Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Giant Gila Monster (1959)

This week, my "What Movie Wednesday" feature wound up having TWO winners.  A couple of last minute votes pushed "The Giant Gila Monster" (1959), and "Zombie Dearest" (2009) to a tie.  Since I had already delayed things due to technical difficulties... and because I pre-empted it last week, I decided that rather than try for a tie breaking vote, I would make it a "What Movie Wednesday Double Feature" week!

First up for review is, "The Giant Gila Monster"...

When people start dying in unexplainable car wrecks, Sheriff Jeff and Chase Winstead being to investigate.  As the deaths pile up, the clues point to something HUGE is responsible... something that has a taste for human flesh.  Soon the Sheriff and Chase are in a fight to save the town from colossal carnivore of death...

"The Giant Gila Monster" was filmed by Ray Kellogg back to back with "The Killer Shrews" for Gordon McLendon- who owned a chain of drive ins.  These two films gained some fame as being the first movies to premier as a double feature.

Well, that, and it's low budget cheesiness...

I would be lying if I said this movie didn't have some "charm" to it.  Watching it, I can see how it could easily become a cult classic.  Part of the fun of it IS how low budget and cheesy it is.  This is a movie that you get friends together, drink some beer, have some pizza, watch old B-movies, and laugh and joke around.

Everything about this movie makes it perfect for such a contextual viewing.  The story is a little flawed (though the premise of a large mutant animal has been done quite well in other movies), the acting is laughable at times, the special effects are chuckle inducing, and the scares are not so scary.  While this sort of thing wouldn't be as satisfying on the big screen today, or even watching it alone... it could be quite enjoyable with a group.

As I said, the story is flawed- but mostly because the threads of the sub-plots lack focus and a real sense of purpose.  Characters are introduced pretty much just to set up a kill in pretty much the next scene.  The characters of Sheriff Jeff and Chase Winstead aren't bad, but seemed like typical 1950's teen movie characters- as was the town drunk, Old Man Harris.  They try to bring some depth to Chase's character, but even that seemed a little "typical".

The acting was pretty "cookie cutter" too, though I did enjoy Shug Fisher as Old Man Harris- his scenes certainly made me chuckle.

Even though the special effects where cheesy, I enjoyed them for that reason.  It was amusing to watch the giant Gila Monster (played by a Mexican Beaded Lizard) slowly tromping across the miniature cars at the barn dance.  I actually asked myself how long it took them to set up the train set so they could crash it.

I have to admit though, that there are some decent close up sequences of the giant Gila Monster that I really liked.

The real appeal of this film though, is the fact that you can watch it, and poke fun at it in a non-mean way.  You can crack jokes about the cliches, the main character's hair being perfect, the way the Sheriff's face reminds me of Walter Mathau, or how a Rock & Roll barn dance suddenly stops for a spiritual song sung by the hero.  You can do that and have fun with this movie.  I really liked that about it.

"The Giant Gila Monster" is one of those films that I would recommend watching at least once as part of a B-grade Monster Movie Night with friends, beer, laughter, and wise cracks.  For that reason, this movie is sitting in "The Bad".

Special Shoutout:

I want to thank everyone that participated in my "What Movie Wednesday" feature.  I'll be doing it again April 4th.

Big thank you to the following people who voted for "The Giant Gila Monster":

  • Matthew Little;
  • Tanya Muncy;
  • Bobbie-jo Kampff; and
  • Laura Stewart
Honourable Shoutout to Jenny Deol for casting a vote just after the polls closed.


  1. Beer, laughter, wise cracks and dope. I think I'd need dope to handle the visual effects :)