The Giant Gila Monster

JANUARY 11, 2008


Huh. It’s not often you get to see a giant monster movie that features maybe 4 total minutes of “giant” monster action and about 60 about car repair. But hey, that’s what The Giant Gila Monster offers us, and more! And by more I mean less.

A big part of the problem with this movie is how lazy they were in demonstrating the monster’s size. On maybe three occasions they use models and a regular lizard to make him look big, but for the most part, they just have closeup shots of an obviously regular sized lizard crawling (if that) near obviously regular sized things like twigs and leaves. No rear projection or forced perspective that I can recall. This renders several early scenes utterly baffling, because I thought the monster had yet to become giant, assuming some nuclear explosion at the end of the first act would result in him becoming a monster. For example, there’s a scene where a guy is driving along in a truck, then the lizard (which is somewhere else entirely) sticks his tongue out, and suddenly the truck flips over and explodes. Huh? OH, he’s giant. Right.

The first 60 seconds are comprised of five shots, the first of which makes up about 50 of those seconds. We see an empty forest/swamp thing as a guy narrates, then suddenly, Michael Bay apparently takes over. BAM! A car. BAM! Two kids in the car getting startled. BAM! The car falls down a cliff. BAM! A monster makes what appears to be the “No cameras!” hand motion. “What the hell just happened?” you may ask, and you’d be absolutely right.

Wait, what?

Anyway, like I said before, the movie is mainly about car repair. We see our hero banging away on a driver’s side door, discussing how he towed a car, explaining why his tires are on a different car... Even when they know perfectly well that there are more pressing matters, some guy begins threatening to have him jailed for using a victim’s car for spare parts. There are occasional folk songs to break up all of the car repair scenes, but not nearly enough (at one point I sort of gave up hoping for any monster action, only something besides auto repair “intrigue”).

OK, there’s the broken cigarette, but where is the penny?

Speaking of the music, once again we have inappropriately implemented library music in a horror film. The scene I described with the kids we don’t know suddenly falling down a cliff, possibly the result of a paparazzi hating creature, has some sort of Benny Hill type thing under it. Then later, one of the interminable car repair scenes (“I thought I told you to fix that headlight.” “I thought it was a suggestion.” “How much does it cost to fix one of those?”... and so on), they play what sounds like “our hero is about to tell his tragic backstory” music. My choice would be, of course, to cut away from two boring people talking about the cost of headlight repair and maybe show a GIANT GILA MONSTER doing something.

The movie also stops cold in order to show a little girl with leg braces try to walk. After she fails, twice, the movie begins again, in that the hero begins singing a folk song. I asked my mechanic about the scene, and he said he didn’t understand how it fit into the rest of the film, which he otherwise loved.

What say you?


  1. Ah, fond memories of watching the MST3K version of this. They made a great deal about the characters constantly putting their legs up on everything. The HO scale sets are also amusing, and I love how the Gila Monster never gets in a shot with the actors.

  2. yes, the film seems to be obsessed with automobile repair. and scenes centering around cars far outnumber those centered around the "monster." but that's one of the elements that gives the film its charm. "gila monster" is supposed to be a monster film. but it's also a tough, gritty, dirt-under-the-fingernails evocation of smalltown life in the fifties. and smalltown life in the fifties apparently revolved, to a great extent, around the automobile. getting from here to there in cars. working on cars. and when not doing either of these two, then TALKING about cars. so the automobile obsessed ethos is really just part of a realistic portrayal of a bygone place and time.


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