The Giant Gila Monster

Movie Information

In Brief: Look, it's a 1959 movie called The Giant Gila Monster. That means the notoriously sluggish lizard sort of ambles around dicey miniature sets while largely unheard of actors react in horror to something that really isn't there. It's absolutely indefensible, low-rent nonsense, but that's what gives the movie its wayward appeal.
Genre: Horror
Director: Ray Kellogg (The Killer Shrews)
Starring: Don Sullivan, Fred Graham, Lisa Simone, Shug Fisher, Bob Thompson, Janice Stone
Rated: NR

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.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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11 thoughts on “The Giant Gila Monster

  1. Ken Hanke

    No. This was actually done by people trying to make a good picture — however misguided they were in their attempts. A thing like Sharknado is beneath contempt.

  2. DrSerizawa

    GGM is a masterpiece compared to a few other 50s sci-fis. I’d say that THE CREEPING UNKNOWN was far more SHARKNDOesgue.

    At least the GGM doesn’t crawl around on a photograph of Chicago.

  3. Ken Hanke

    I’m pretty sure you don’t mean The Creeping Unknown, which is the US title of the British Quatermass Experiment. Now, The Beginning of the End has “giant” grasshoppers crawlng on photos of Chicago skyscrapers. I would argue that even it is not on a par with Sharknado, since it was also an honest effort to make a movie. Sharknado is one of those cynical things that is intentionally bad.

  4. DrSerizawa

    Oops. I meant The Creeping Terror. The one with the giant carpet monster that’s all narrated.

    My bad.

  5. Chip Kaufmann

    If this draws well can THE KILLER SHREWS be far behind? And then there’s Ray Kellogg’s ultimate horror, 1968’s THE GREEN BERETS.

  6. Ken Hanke

    I think Mr. Kellogg is adequately covered by this and next week’s Call Me Madame, for which he’s credited with special effects, though apart from a few glass shots, I have no clue what those special effects might be.

  7. Chip Kaufmann

    Are you telling me that dogs covered in cut rate shag carpet with giant rubber teeth aren’t believable?

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