Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Giant Gila Monster (1959)

It's weird to re-visit a genre movie I watched when I was younger. Especially if it's something I loved when I was a kid. That's right, I loved "The Giant Gila Monster" once upon a time, though I was like six or seven at the time. Revisiting it years later, it sure as hell doesn't hold up. Maybe I should watch the MST3K version again instead.

Anyway, the movie is about-well, it's about a Giant Gila Monster that's killing people in a rural Texas area. Oh, and there's a guy called Chase Winstead (Don Sullivan), who apart from having the most "It's the 50's" name imaginable, ends up having to help Sheriff Jeff (Fred Graham) solve the case of who or what is causing the disappearances. You'd think that a giant Gila Monster wouldn't be hard to spot, but hey.

"The Giant Gila Monster" is certainly not in the top of the 50's B-Movie ladder. The acting is bad (the exception is Graham, who does a decent job), and while the cheap effects* and souped up cars might be fun at first, after a while you cease to care. To be fair, the movie isn't badly made per say-it's just that there isn't much here to make it worth viewing. It especially telling that, whenever the Gila Monster (Seriously, a Gila Monster? I know those thing are poisonous, but they aren't exactly scary beings) isn't around, the movie is fucking boring. Also, why is the thing's existence never explained? Why is it that the people responsible for this seem to have no idea how nitroglycerin works outside of causing explosions?

The worst thing about this movie though, is the character of Chase. He's a "regular guy", you see-an auto-repair man who has to take care of his mom and sister, who walks with leg braces. Also, he tends to break out in song-and when he does, oh God. In short, he's a poor man's Elvis Presley. It's clear that producer Ken Curtis** had big hopes that this movie would make Sullivan (a veteran of 50's B-Movies like "Teenage Zombies", "The Rebel Set", "Curse of the Undead" and "The Monster of Piedras Blancas") a teen idol, and considering that he only got three roles after this, I think it's safe to say that never happened.

I know it sounds like I hate this movie, but in all honesty, I don't. The direction is decent, the score by Jack Marshall is good (I especially like the Theremin heavy theme) and at 74 minutes, it's not a total waste of time. It's just nothing that's memorable, and isn't worth rushing to your computer to see.

Rating: 4/10

*Director Ray Kellogg was a visual effects veteran whose credits in that field include "The Day the Earth Stood Still", "The Girl Can't Help It!" and a lot of movies you've never heard of. He also directed "The Killer Shrews", which played on a double bill with "Gila Monster", and the little seen and known "My Dog, Buddy." His most well known movie is "The Green Berets", which is awful largely for being a Republican's wet dream, and for other reasons.

**As an actor, Ken Curtis' include, "The Searchers", the Disney animated film "Robin Hood", "Gunsmoke" and "Ripcord." His other productions in film include the aforementioned "Shrews" and "Buddy."

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