Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Giant Gila Monster (1959)

Note:  This was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Warning:  I’m not only going to give away details about the movie; I’m going to give away and pick apart the ending.  If you don’t want to know that much about the movie before reading it, now would be a good time to stop reading.

There are some movies that are so incredibly bad that I’m surprised people didn’t torch theaters in response to seeing them.  The Giant Gila Monster is one such movie.  As you might expect, The Giant Gila Monster is about a Giant Gila Monster (played brilliantly here by a Mexican bearded lizard) that has surprisingly gone unnoticed until two local teenagers go missing.

Naturally, since they were a couple and no one has yet seen the Gila Monster, it’s assumed that they ran of somewhere to get married or something.   Rather than assume what people are saying, Sheriff Jeff gets some of their friends to help look for them.  The group is led by Chase Winstead, who’s basically a good kid.  He works hard to help take care of his mother and sister.  What money they don’t need he puts into his hot rod.  Most of the other kids like and respect him.  When the father of the missing boy tries to impeach his character, the sheriff sticks up for him.

Since Chase tows cars for money, he comes across several things that would suggest something odd is going on.  In one case, a car skidded off the road at a right angle to the direction of traffic.  There’s no evidence of anything that would have caused a car to do this.  Next is a DJ traveling through town.  He describes a big black-and-pink-striped reptile that cut him off.  Since he was apparently drinking, the story is easily dismissed.

After some research and some theorizing, the sheriff soon comes to believe that there is, in fact, a large reptile on the loose.  It’s big enough that it can destroy a bridge by walking underneath it.  Eventually, the Giant Gila Monster shows up at a party that Chase is throwing.  The sheriff fires a few shots with no effect.  Chase gets the crazy idea to get some Nitroglycerine (that he just happens to have) and blow up the giant lizard.  The day is saved and Chase is a hero.

There are so many things that I could easily tear apart.  The most obvious choice for me is the title character.  The Giant Gila Monster is rarely shown and when he is, it’s fairly evident that forced perspective is being used.  This is because the Gila Monster is walking on sand.  If the Gila Monster is as big as it’s supposed to be, you shouldn’t be able to make out individual grains of sand.

This leads to pretty much no actual attack scenes.  The closest we get is seeing the Gila Monster’s giant foot coming towards the camera.  The scenes with the Gila Monster next to a car or building looked fake enough.  I think that any scene with the Gila Monster and a person would have been below even the standards of the crew of this movie.

Another thing I found odd, and this may be a generational thing, is that Chase liked to sing a lot.  He sang a rather odd song while working on a fender.  I can’t fault him there, considering that pretty much anything would sound better than a banging hammer.

He also sang a ridiculous song about the Lord wanting children to be happy.  The first time he did this, I didn’t mind so much because he was doing it to cheer up his little sister.  The second time was in front of his friends at the party.  I think if I sang that kind of song in front of most of the people I know, they either would have walked out on me or had me committed.  Quite frankly, I wouldn’t have blamed them.  I mean, honestly.  Is this the kind of crap people sang in 1959?  Hadn’t anyone invented decent music yet?  I think that this was the impetus that caused Rock & Roll to come into existence.  Someone had to come up with something that rocked.

Speaking of Chase, the lizard busts through a barn wall during the second rendition of the Happy Children song.  Shortly thereafter, the Gila Monster destroys the front of the house that the sister is staying in.  When you consider that the Gila Monster also presumably ate two of his friends, it looks like this Gila Monster has it in for Chase.

The big question, which is barely addressed in the movie, was “Where the heck was this thing all this time?”  The theory is that the Gila Monster ate some special plants (or ate animals that ate special plants) that allowed for super growth.  Wouldn’t it stand to reason that other Gila Monsters had eaten the same stuff?  Why is this the first that we’ve seen of a gigantic lizard?  At the very least, there should have been a point where the sheriff said, “Gee… that explains all those missing people!”  Part of it may be that the lizard doesn’t look all that menacing.  I guess if anyone did see it, they probably didn’t think much of it.  (While thinking about this, I also asked myself something completely different:  Why have we never seen an abnormally large giraffe?  Now, that would be scary.)

The movie runs for 74 minutes and it’s almost all goofiness.  Aside from what I’ve mentioned above, we have a scene where the sheriff checks Harris’s sobriety by smelling his breath.  In another, Harris wants what he calls a soberty test.  He also compares buying a new car to getting married or going to New York.  It’s something you should do once, but never twice.

At the end of the movie, Chase kills the title reptile by loading his car with four canisters of nitroglycerine and aiming his car into the lizard before jumping out.  I always find it hard to believe that the car would stay on track and hit the lizard dead on.  It was also very convenient that Chase happened to come across a large quantity of nitroglycerine in the first place.  He had so much that I’m surprised that he didn’t load up enough of the stuff that it wouldn’t have mattered where he hit.  You’d think he’d want to be sure to be rid of the darned thing.

It’s one of those movies that it was worth the price of the DVD set just to be able to laugh at it.  I would actually check your listings or free on-demand section to see if this movie is available.  I’d hesitate to spend money on it unless you’re getting it with something else or you’re getting it from NetFlix.  This gives low-budget movies a bad name. 

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