The gila monster is the only venomous lizard native to the US. He’s a slow-moving guy, and though I’m sure his bite is unpleasant, according to Wikipedia, no human has died of a gila monster bite since 1939. So, he’s not exactly the most lethal critter out there…but everything’s more menacing when it’s huge! In 1959, the owner of a Dallas drive-in theater decided to start producing his own movies and we were given this… “The Giant Gila Monster.”
As the film opens, a young couple, Pat (Grady Vaughn) and Liz (Yolanda Salas) are smoochin’ in their hot rod when it is overturned by a, you guessed it, giant gila monster. Later that night, Chace Winstead (Don Sullivan) and the other kids at the local soda shoppe start to wonder why Pat and Liz haven’t shown up. When Pat’s father (Bob Thompson), a wealthy oil man, learns of his son’s disappearance, he blames Chace for his bad influence. But the Sheriff (Fred Graham) believes Chace to be a good kid who’s been bettering himself by working as mechanic at a local garage to support his family…including a crippled sister.
The sheriff continues to investigate the missing teens, even though he thinks they eloped. Chace, meanwhile, spends his time looking for opportunities to earn extra money by towing cars. One night he encounters a wrecked car with blood inside, but no driver to be found. Later, the gila monster attacks a hitchhiker, leaving his briefcase to be discovered by Chace. Chace’s adventures continue when his foreign exchange student girlfriend, Lisa (Lisa Simone) informs him that her sponsor, Mr. Wheeler, has ordered to end her relationship with Chace. Then, he happens upon a drunk driver on the road. After towing his car back to the shop and letting the guy sleep it off, he learns that the drunk is really radio DJ Steamroller Smith (Ken Knox). When Steamroller hears Chace singing at the garage, he’s sure he can turn the young mechanic into a star.
As time passes, Chace and the gang assist the sheriff in locating Pat’s car. Meanwhile, the gila monster continues to wreak havoc. It even causes a huge train crash, but this is the first moment where anyone realizes we’re dealing with a giant lizard. This all comes down to a final showdown where the creature breaks up a dance Steamroller Smith is DJ’ing for the gang to show his appreciation to Chace.
“The Giant Gila Monster” has just about everything you could want in a bad movie. There’s bad acting, bad script, bad effects, even bad musical numbers! But it all comes together to make a very funny movie. The gila monster lumbers around in a set that gives us nothing that shows the creature is huge. The only reason we know it’s giant is because it’s in the title!
The worst thing, though, is that the characters are completely oblivious of what they’re up against. Nobody knows that the cause of all these car wrecks is a big lizard. People wander around in close proximity to the creature, yet somehow they never notice it’s there. The thing just crawls around out in the middle of nowhere. Take a lesson from your cousin Godzilla, pal…smash a city or somethin’!
I suppose most folks know what they’re in for with a film called “The Giant Gila Monster.” As sci-fi, it’s terrible! As horror, it’s terrible! But what we do have is comedy gold!