Film Review: The Giant Gila Monster (1959)

Release Date: June 25th, 1959
Directed by: Ray Kellogg
Written by: Ray Kellogg, Jay Simms
Music by: Jack Marshall
Cast: Don Sullivan, Fred Graham, Lisa Simone, Shug Fisher, Bob Thompson

McLendon-Radio Pictures Distributing Company, 74 Minutes

Review:

The 1950s were littered with sci-fi films that featured giant versions of normal animals. The Giant Gila Monster is one of the worst examples of this subgenre of American proto kaiju films.

The effects and the action are so poorly handled in this film that suspension of disbelief is impossible and a lot of the sequences are just baffling when they unfold. Mark that up to bad editing, bad sets design or just a complete lack of filmmaking talent in those who made the picture.

The movie is directed by Ray Kellogg, who also did the abominable The Killer Shrews. This makes Shrews look damn near Oscar caliber, however.

The monster is just a normal sized gila monster that walks around Matchbox cars and small twigs. The problem, is that the miniature work is embarrassingly bad. Had the special effects guys on this not learned anything from the special effects work of Eiji Tsuburaya on Gojira or his other Toho kaiju and war films?

Usually a creature attack involves the gila monster in a tight closeup lunging at or off camera. Then it cuts to a car turning over with no sight of the actual monster in the shot. It is a clunky looking chop job that could’ve been handled better by a two year-old with Saf-T-Cut scissors and shoddy tape from Dollar Tree.

The Giant Gila Monster makes Roger Corman films look like George Lucas films. It is one of the cheapest looking sci-fi pictures I have ever seen and at last estimate, I have seen somewhere around 37,000. I made that number up but I’ve seen a shit ton.

Luckily, if you do decide to slog through this tar pit of cinematic shit, you can watch it get riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was one of the most popular episodes of that show, so watch that version and enjoy it as much as you can.

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