Movie Review: The Giant Gila Monster (1959)

Synopsis: When a pair of teenagers go missing from a rural town, their friends agree to help the sheriff with the search. What they don't know is the area is about to be terrorized by a 70-foot poisonous lizard.

Who's in it? The movie stars Don Sullivan, Lisa Simone, Fred Graham, Shug Fisher and Bob Thompson.

Review: I came across this movie some time ago but, after being disappointed by similar films, was reluctant to watch it. I finally decided to give it a try this morning and, after seeing it, I am fairly convinced my reluctance was justified.

I think one of my biggest problems with this movie is it makes the same mistake many other films make; it spends a lot of time building up to the big climax and not enough time actually showing the deadly creature. OK, let me rephrase that. The movie does show the "monster" quite a few times. It just doesn't bother to show it in any sort of scale until toward the very end of the movie and any killing it does is done off screen until then.

To be fair, some movies can get away with that by having a strong cast of characters that make the filler entertaining. This was not one of those movies. In fact, I was a bit confused about whether or not the film was supposed to be taken seriously or was supposed to be a comedy. Some scenes, like when Chase (Sullivan) sees his sister (Janice Stone) walking for the first time, seemed like something out of a drama but, at the same time, there were an awful lot of other characters (usually drunk) that seemed like they belonged in a slapstick film.

The movie probably could have been redeemed, at least in part, with a strong rampage at the very end but even that didn't happen. Other than a trainwreck scene that looked fake even by 1950s standards, the majority of the Gila monster's destruction didn't happen until there wasn't enough time left in the movie for it to have much of an impact. In fact, with less than 15 minutes left, the characters were having a dance party, the sheriff (Graham) was still doubting the monster's existence and the only suspense was related to whether or not Chase should be arrested for stealing tires. 

With 10 minutes to go, the monster was still just walking around while Chase had time to perform a musical number. And, within a minute after the monster finally attacked, he already had an idea about how to stop it. It hardly seemed worth the wait.

Final Opinion: It wasn't as bad as Attack of the Giant Leeches but still left a lot to be desired. At minimum, it would have been nice to see the title character do something to make me believe people should have been terrified of it.

My Grade: D


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