Director: Ray Kellogg
Writer: Jay Simms
Cast: Don Sullivan, Fred Graham, Lisa Simone, Shug Fisher, Bob Thompson, Janice Stone, Ken Knox, Gay McLendon, Don Flournoy, Cecil Hunt, Stormy Meadows, Howard Ware, Pat Reeves, Jan McLendon, Jerry Cortwright, Beverly Thurman, Clarke Browne, Grady Vaughn, Desmond Doogh, Ann Sonka, and Yolanda Salas
Composer: Jack Marshall
Release Date: 6/25/1959
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
When a giant lizard begins terrorizing a rural Texas community, Sheriff Jeff (Fred Graham) calls on Chase Winstead (Don Sullivan)—leader of a hot-rod gang—for help. Shortly thereafter, the giant Gila monster arrives at a local record hop—with a terrifying outcome.
Combining sci-fi/horror mayhem with an eerie music score, The Giant Gila Monster will appeal to fans of classic B movies. Critical viewers may, however, take issue with this film for its illogical narrative aspects—including a weak explanation for the existence of its title monster.
Surrounding a Mexican beaded lizard with miniature cars and bridges, this offering deserves praise for its semi-realistic special effects—much in contrast to The Killer Shrews, which, though filmed back-to-back with The Giant Gila Monster, is marred by silly creature designs and laughable hand puppets.
Also commendable is the character of Chase Winstead, who, in spite of his dangerous and illegal actions in the climactic scene, comes across as a simple country boy with a kind and generous heart. Early on, for instance, Chase reveals that his monetary struggles stem from his support of a disabled younger sister—a poignant subplot that adds an air of humanity to this film.
Despite reflecting the teen culture of the 1950s, the dance and music numbers in The Giant Gila Monster border on gratuitous.
Similarly problematic are the comic relief characters featured in this film (i.e., a stereotypical town drunk and an eccentric disc jockey), who contribute little to the main story.
Similar to almost every creature feature made in the 1950s, The Giant Gila Monster offers a science fiction twist on nature run amok. Genre enthusiasts may therefore enjoy this film, which benefits from small-town hijinks, likable characters, and rousing action sequences.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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