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Film / The Giant Gila Monster

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The Giant Gila Monster is 1959 giant monster movie directed by Ray Kellogg (as part of a double-feature with The Killer Shrews).

In the backwoods of northern Texas, in a car overlooking a ravine, a young local couple may be scheming to elope and marry when a claw pushes their car over the edge to their deaths. Back in town, at the teen hangout, the couple's friends wonder where they are, and hot rod enthusiast Chase Winstead (Don Sullivan) teams up with the sheriff to go and find them. Sure enough, it transpires that the eponymous beastie is lurking about, and is gradually making its way towards the town.

This movie had the potential to be a campy narm-fest, alas; too little is seen of the big lizard wreaking destruction. It's seen on-screen for only about eight minutes of the film's 74 minute running time. All the rest is seemingly taken up with characters talking about where the couple might have disappeared, hot rods, and Chase playing/teens dancing to cheesy guitar music. The scenes of the lizard playing with toy cars on a miniature set are pretty good though.

Remade in 2012 as Gila! by Jim Wynorski.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode see here.

This film provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Chase's budding music career via Steamroller Smith. He gets offered employment by a more repentant Mr. Wheeler instead.
  • The Alcoholic: Old Man Harris. Presumably not Steamroller Smith though; although he is drunk when first we meet him, he's apparently just returning from an all-night party (as evidenced by his tux).
  • Antagonist Title
  • Artistic License – Chemistry: Nitroglycerin would explode very quickly if jerked around in a car like that.
  • Attack Of The 50-Foot Killer Whatever
  • B-Movie
  • Captain Morgan Pose: And lots of it; though mostly done by Chase, other actors can be seen making the pose too, suggesting a greater issue with blocking rather than just one actor's predilection for putting his feet on stuff (or it was contagious).
  • Chekhov's Gun: Earlier on in the film, Chase stores some vials of nitroglycerin. Guess what is eventually used to defeat the monster?
  • Cool Old Guy: The sheriff tends to be a bit gruff, but is on generally good terms with the kids, especially Chase. Old Man Harris might count as well.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: It takes about fifty minutes before the lizard finally smashes a train, and sixty before it crashes a teen party.
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: We are never given any explanation for the monster's origin. Chase and the Sheriff posit that giant animals might be created by a particular saline solution affecting the pituitary gland and causing uncontrollable growth, but the movie never confirms this is what happened.
  • Disappeared Dad: Chase's father apparently died while working for Mr. Wheeler.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Mr. Wheeler (possibly). Chase's heroism and the Sheriff's Let's See YOU Do Better! does knock him down a peg and he even offers Chase a job.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: The lizard isn't particularly scary to begin with, but it gets a lot less so when it completely fails to catch and eat a crippled nine-year-old.
  • Kaiju: The Giant Gila Monster.
  • Karma Houdini: Chase has been in the habit of stealing parts from wrecked cars to upgrade his own. In the final act, Mr. Wheeler gets proof and decides to force the Sheriff (who was fully aware of this and at one point gave Chase explicit permission to repair a broken headlight on his car with one from a wreck) to arrest him for it. Then Chase's car is destroyed killing the lizard, taking all the evidence with it and ruining the case. On top of that, the Sheriff mentions that the railroad is likely to reward Chase for stopping the lizard with enough to get a new hot rod, so he won't need to commit petty crime to soup up his wheels anymore.
    • Somewhat an inversion since Chase is still a kind, upright Incorruptible Pure Pureness who saves the town and helps his polio-stricken sister.
    • Additionally, Chase (successfully) argues with the Sheriff that the wrecks he salvages parts from are all write-offs or go unclaimed, anyway.
  • Let's See YOU Do Better!: After putting up with Mr. Wheeler trying to push him around the entire movie, the Sheriff pulls this on him, announcing that Wheeler has just been deputized and put in charge of the safety of the kids whose party the lizard just crashed. After utterly failing to corral three dozen teenagers, Wheeler gives the badge back to the Sheriff.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Missy, Chase's crippled baby sister.
  • Nitro Express: How Chase destroys the Gila monster after bullets fail.
  • Noisy Nature: Whenever it appears, the monster constantly makes hissing noises and high-pitched, screeching roars.
  • No More for Me: Some guy drinking while driving after he sees the lizard cross the road.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Mr. Wheeler seems to have it in for very nearly everyone in the county.
  • Out with a Bang: Well, they don't make it to the sex stage, but it is heavily implied that the young couple in the film's Cold Open were planning to elope before the lizard ate them.
  • Police Are Useless: The Sheriff doesn't contribute much to finding and defeating the Gila monster - most of the work gets done by Chase and his friends. Justified by the fact that the Sheriff is literally the only cop in town, and one man cannot effectively search ten thousand square miles of wilderness for a car with two missing kids in it and the giant lizard who ate them.
  • Sesquipedalian Smith: Horatio Alger "Steamroller" Smith, the DJ.
  • Track Trouble: The monster's most devastating attack is a result of this. It knocks out a railroad bridge's main support, weakening the bridge enough that it breaks, sending the train crashing into the dry riverbed where it lives.