‘Only Hell could breed such an enormous beast… only God could destroy it!’
The Giant Gila Monster is a 1959 American science fiction horror film about a giant lizard that terrorises a rural Texas community; a heroic teenager attempts to destroy the creature.
Directed by Ray Kellogg (The Killer Shrews) from a screenplay written by Jay Simms, based on Kellogg’s story.
The film’s budget was $138,000 and it was produced by Dallas drive-in chain owner Gordon McLendon who wanted co-features for his main attractions.
The effects included a live Mexican beaded lizard (not an actual Gila monster!) filmed on a scaled-down model landscape.
A young couple, Pat Wheeler (Grady Vaughn) and Liz Humphries (Yolanda Salas) are making out. A giant Gila monster attacks the car, sending it into the ravine and killing the couple.
Later, some friends of the couple decide to assist the local sheriff (Fred Graham) in his search for the missing teens. Chase Winstead (Don Sullivan), a young mechanic and hot rod racer locates the crashed car in the ravine and finds evidence of the giant lizard.
However, it is only when the hungry reptile attacks a train that the authorities realise they are dealing with a seventy-foot poisonous lizard…
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“It features the typical low budget special effects, barren sets, and corny dialog that you would expect from a movie of this type. However, it does stand out from its peers in several ways. Of course, the teen hero was nothing new, but the way the Sheriff is portrayed is quite atypical for the genre.” Bad Movie Realm
“Whatever flaws there are with the story, I find myself drawn to the regional feel of the movie, and especially to the likable characters that inhabit this environment… It’s rare for a movie to have this many likable characters, and I think the reason I watch the movie, again and again, is because I just like to spend time with them.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings
“The creature isn’t frightening, doesn’t deliver tension, and makes the screaming 50s styled actors look like crazy people. What’s worse than the cheesy lizard is the future musical talent of Chase. The boy wants to become a radio sensation with his…ukulele. Oh joy […] The feature is a bit slow and not very interesting.” Oh, the Horror!
” …a rear-projected monster just doesn’t put audiences in a deep state of fear, especially when it’s a lizard. It does, however, induce occasional uncontrolled laughter.” TV Guide
“The Giant Gila Monster is actually a regular-sized Gila Monster that is filmed walking over model buildings, toy trains and Matchbox cars. It’s not convincing in the least, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a helluva lot of fun. Some of the dialogue is incredibly wooden and tedious (whole conversations are devoted to skid marks), but that shouldn’t diminish your enjoyment too much. ” The Video Vacuum
Cast and characters:
Don Sullivan … Chase Winstead – The Monster of Piedras Blancas; Teenage Zombies
Fred Graham … Sheriff Jeff
Lisa Simone … Lisa
Shug Fisher … Old Man Harris
Bob Thompson … Mr Wheeler
Janice Stone … Missy Winstead
Ken Knox … Horatio Alger “Steamroller” Smith
Gay McLendon … Mom Winstead
Don Flournoy … Gordy
Cecil Hunt … Mr Compton
Stormy Meadows … Agatha Humphries
Howard Ware … Ed Humphries
Pat Reeves … Rick
Jan McLendon … Jennie
Jerry Cortwright … Bob
Beverly Thurman … Gay
Clarke Browne … Chuck
Grady Vaughn … Pat Wheeler
Desmond Doogh … Hitchhiker
Ann Sonka … Whila
Yolanda Salas … Liz Humphries
Patricia Simmons … Sherry [uncredited]
Angus G. Wynne III … Dumb Teen [uncredited]
Lake Dallas, Texas
Black and white [a digital colour version was created in 2007]
Aspect ratio: 1.37: 1
Ken Knox, who played Horatio Alger “Steamroller” Smith, was a real-life disc jockey working at radio stations in Texas owned by Gordon McLendon, the film’s backer.
Ray Kellogg went on to co-direct with John Wayne’s war fantasy The Green Berets (1968).
Full film free to watch online [1080p HD]:
Bonus double-bill feature: