Yes, Ray Kellogg’s The Giant Gila Monster (1959) is every bit as dumb as its title suggests. Add to that the fact it’s as threadbare a production as its year and kids-vs.-giant-monster poster would indicate, and you have the recipe for a truly silly picture. It’s drive-in fodder that quickly became Saturday-afternoon TV fodder. I can remember first seeing it as a young child sitting in the floor playing with my unintentionally surreal collection of toy soldiers, monsters, Vikings and dinosaurs, while my father lay on the couch, perfectly satisfied with its foolishness. (I come by my high tolerance for trashy cinema honestly.) The film is pure by-the-numbers stuff. Giant Gila Monster (its origins never explained) starts off by ingesting the necking couple and traveling salesman, but soon graduates to a taste for barbecued tanker driver, before getting really greedy and gnoshing on an entire derailed (he derailed it) train-load of folks. It is this last incident that gets the town-folk and the sheriff to start taking the big boy seriously. Meanwhile, overage teen mechanic and wanna-be rock star Chase Winstead (Don Sullivan) entertains the local teen set at some barn hop by singing what stands a good chance of being the worst song ever written, “The Lord Said, ‘Laugh, Children, Laugh.’” (This is not the first time we’ve heard this … tune.) The monster happens to be prowling around through the toy cars parked outside the barn during this, and — being a gila monster of some perspicacity — opts to crash the party in order to stop the ungodly caterwauling. So while the lizard is goaded into breaking through a balsa wood wall by unseen gila monster handlers, a bunch of extras get to look terrified. It’s that kind of movie, which is why it’s an essential bad movie.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen The Giant Gila Monster Thursday, July 18, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.