director Ray Kellogg
In the 1950’s, following perhaps the success of Them! (1954), an explosion of giant animal monster movies hit the theaters. While Jack Arnold’s Tarantula (1955) turned out pretty good and The Black Scorpion (1957) has its merits, not every filmmaker had real effects talents at their fingertips, not that that would stop them.
Ray Kellogg made a couple of serious lulu’s in this genre, scraping the bottom of the animal barrel even before the barrel was even that heavily tapped. I kind of have a soft spot for his hilariously bad The Killer Shrews (also 1959), but The Giant Gila Monster is a zebra of a different stripe. In this case, the gila monster is played by a Mexican beaded lizard, but of course gila monster has “monster” baked in to its name already.
Don Sullivan plays Chase Winstead, our movie’s hero. A garage/tow-truck owner, beau of the local French beauty Lisa (Lisa Simone), hot rod mechanical magician, doting brother to his crippled sister (saving all his cash to buy her leg braces), would be crooner (playing a mini-banjo), and shoot, he’s even got a book on reptiles to reference!
The Mexican beaded lizard crawls around on its belly, occasionally shown wrecking miniature trains and cars and a barn, but it would take a better editor than they had on hand to make it look like anything but a lizard of its regular size pretending that it’s a giant.
The film has a wonderful lack of explanation for its size, something about the salts in the area that might have allowed it to have grown so. And the monster’s end is tipped early on. Like Chekov’s gun in an opening act, you know that when someone shows up with nitroglycerin in an early scene that we’ve been shown the means of the eventual monster’s demise.
It’s bad, and somewhat boring at times, and most importantly the monster is just a lizard (with an occasional shot of a claw coming at the camera). It’s pretty laughable, though, which could make for some fun. I don’t know…is this the worst “giant animal” monster movie out there?