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Giant Gila Monster, The

Entry updated 4 April 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1959). Hollywood Pictures Corporation/McLendon-Radio Pictures Distributing Company. Produced by Ken Curtis. Directed by Ray Kellogg. Written by Jay Simms from an original story by Kellogg. Cast includes George "Shug" Fisher, Fred Graham, Cecil Hunt, Lisa Simone, Janice Stone, Don Sullivan and Bob Thompson. Gay McLendon. 74 minutes. Black and white.

As the film begins, two teenage lovers are attacked and killed by the titular Monster in their hot-rod automobile, which is knocked into a deep gorge (the cast does not learn this for some time). Chase Winstead (Sullivan), leader of the local hot-rod "gang" of teenagers in a small, unnamed Texas county, is an outstanding young man, who does his best to keep more irresponsible members of the group in check. He also works hard for the garage-centred business of Mr Compton (Hunt), to support his widowed mother (McLendon) and crippled sister Missy (Stone). He also aids the badly understaffed Sheriff (Graham) when called upon. The Sheriff asks Chase for help in locating the two missing teenagers, including the son of influential local oil magnate Mr Wheeler (Thompson). Once elopement is ruled out, other possibilities are considered. Chase locates the wrecked car in the ravine. Old Harris (Fisher) reports seeing the 70-foot gila monster when it wrecks a train and devours many passengers. Earlier, without any witnesses, it has killed a hitchhiker, an auto thief and Compton – crashing the latter's gasoline tanker-truck. Finally the Sheriff and Wheeler realize an unusual creature is at large; efforts are made to call off a "sock-hop" music party planned by the teens. Chase is a singer at this event; immediately after his song debut the creature attacks the party, although everyone escapes. The huge lizard (see Great and Small) cannot be seriously harmed by normal firearms; Chase and his French immigrant girlfriend Lisa (Simone) hurry to Compton's storage shed for nitroglycerin explosives used to put out oil-well fires. Loading these into his own prized hot-rod, Chase and Lisa search out the beast, which is attacking a home where Missy is visiting for the evening. First having Lisa jump out to help Missy, Chase drives the hot-rod full speed into the lizard, leaping clear before impact. The resulting explosion destroys the animal.

Though decidedly minor and poor as Horror in SF – no real explanation for the lizard's giantism is offered – the low-budget The Giant Gila Monster gained a small following in more recent years, since it succeeds more than many similar films in portraying characters the audience can care about. Don Sullivan had a very minor film career in the late 1950s, the best probably being this and The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959). Lisa Simone appeared as a "moon girl" in Missile to the Moon (1958). [GSt]

see also: The Killer Shrews.


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