The Giant Gila Monster (1959)

Okay I’m a sucker for cheesy 50s “B” movies and they don’t get any cheesier than The Giant Gila Monster.  Basically what we have here is a movie about a giant lizard that shows up once in a while to eat teenagers, wreck passing trains, and teach a whole town that it just isn’t cool to assume a teenager boy is a bad guy.  Heck he might be a greaser and drive a hot rod, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t saving to buy his kid sister those leg braces she needs.  Nor does it mean that he won’t use his hot rod to kill a giant gila monster that threatens to destroy the town.  Doesn’t it make you warm and fuzzy? 

There is no reason that I should like this movie as much as I do.  Not only is the story completely silly, but the movie moves along at a snail’s pace.  Really for long stretches all you get to see is the main character Chase either looking for his missing friends, hustling tires for his hot rod, or singing songs to his crippled kid sister.  No really this greaser with a heart of gold also gets a chance to record a few songs before saving the town from the giant lizard.  There is also a really pointless subplot about the first couple of teenagers that get gobbled up.  The boy’s father is a big shot in town and wants the sheriff fired and thinks that Chase should be in jail for LWT (Living while Teenage).  Luckily after seeing the lizard he sees the error of his ways and decides to help out Chase, who already has survived a suicide run in a hotrod full of Nitroglycerine and is a rock-n-roll star!

How can we talk 50s creature feature without special effects?  When the lizard finally shows up you never get to see it on screen with a cast member.  Nope you get to see the lizard stomp around on some miniature sets with reaction shots of the actors screaming and running away.  Of course unless you count Chase’s hotrod, which gets to run into the lizard or at least the model of it does in the thrilling finale.  Toss in our scaly star “stomping” all over the model train he has derailed with a soundtrack of people screaming for their lives and you kind of see what kind of movie that the Giant Gila Monster is.

So after reading the review you probably think I hate the movie.  Truth is I grew up watching this one and I kind of enjoy it.  I understand that at best it is mediocre.  But the passion that it grasps it mediocrity with is kind of charming to me.  And so when I see it playing on the late show I have to watch it.  Hell I even have the thing on a crappy public domain DVD and once in a while I can’t resist popping it in the player.  Plus I think the movie has one of the neatest posters of any low budget 50s creature features (check it out above).  But be warned the movie can’t really be called good. 

2 ½ out of 4

reviewed by John Shatzer

© Copyright 2009 John Shatzer