I recall observing The Giant (Human-Hongry) Gila Monster terrorize Texas and thinking aloud, "Man, this movie is really crummy."
Flash-forward 50-odd years. (I'm an eclectic kind of mix-and-matcher on my years.) The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta revived the dubious rodent's dubious achievement. Curses, you Plaza!
With grave reluctance, I decided to revisit the film to ascertain if The Giant Gila Monster had aged gracefully.
It had not.
That wizened lizard needs to be put in a beady Hoodie-Footie™ and a Lazy Lizzy™ recliner and go gum some orthopedic mammals.
A treasury of "The Giant Gila Monster" revelations became newly apparent, when sifted through my half century of amassed, value-added cinematic wisdom.
- The star power: Shug Fisher (Old Man Harris), Fred Graham (Sheriff Jeff), Gay McLendon (Mom Winstead), Ken Knox (Horatio Alger "Steamroller" Smith), and Angus G. Wynne III (Dumb Teen, uncredited) to name a too many.
- Don Sullivan (Chase Winstead: Spunky Hunky) is the hero of the piece, wrecker service mechanic by day, giant reptile avenger by night, and teen singing sensation by He Never Close.
Chase is always open to a wannabe Ricky Nelson-lite tune and screw-the-mayhem musical interlude. Even The Giant Gila Monster gets his four claw-feets a-tapping and people-munching a-bopping when our boy pulls out his miniature toy banjo to strum and rock out on "The Mushroom Song (Laugh, Children, Laugh)." The kids love it each time he croons the feel-good hit of the giant sluggish venomous lizard gnaw-fest. Yes, EACH time. Heck, even I got hot.
- "The Giant Gila Monster" was produced by Ken Curtis, best known in the role of Festus on TV's "Gunsmoke," following his award-winning-yeah-sure epic, "The Killer Shrews."
Curtis, as you may be aware, sang with the Sons of the Pioneers and popularized "Tumbling Tumbleweeds." The Giant Gila Monster ate sons of the pioneers and liked rumbling, tumbleweedy.
- Donna and I gots to gets us a roadster!
- Why isn't the lead actor of this flick given billing? I find the outrageous oversight to be disgraceful. Why isn't proper credit acknowledged? Unless the name is Benji or Ern or something silly, the titles should read:
THE GIANT GILA MONSTER
"THE GIANT GILA MONSTER"
What is Hollywood's phone number?...
- The running time of "The Giant Gila Monster" is 74 minutes. Seventy-three of those are padding. Four days and 12 seconds are audience perception.
- I paid 25 cents to see this film in 1959, and 28 times that amount in 2011. Plus, another seven bucks for my wife's ticket. At $14.25, grand total investment, I have exceeded the picture's budget and I have no giant carnivorous beast to show for it. What has happened to our country?
- The Giant Gila Monster is big, yes, but he's -- I assume it's a he. I was wearing blinders. He is actually larger than giant. That would be my assessment. A fair assessment, considering I arrived at the crime scene without a tape measure. Slide rules are useless in these situations and, besides, mine was in the car. I did have a protractor, but the pencil point was broken. I've got no gila monster in this fight. I'd say The Giant Gila Monster is more The Gargantuan Gila Monster or The Behemoth Gila Monster or The Jumbo, Enormous, Super-Colossal, Excessive, Chubby Chub Chub Gila Monster. Shoot, people, he's, at least, an MMDCCLXXX-L.
There is one positive point I can make about "The Giant Gila Monster." The coming attractions trailer has provided me with an apt personal slogan and epitaph: "DEVOURING PEOPLE AS IF THEY WERE FLIES!"
That's me. I carry a bib.