The Giant Gila Monster (1959)

Rating: **
Review Date: 3/8/14
Cast: Don Sullivan

Teenagers! Dancing! Pop music! Hot rods! Forbidden love! Giant man-eating reptiles! When a couple of teenage lovebirds go missing, nice guy Chase Winstead (Don Sullivan) helps the town sheriff look for them. Curiously, the sheriff is more concerned that they might have eloped, rather than be lying dead in a ravine somewhere. It turns out that a gila monster the size of a semi truck is wandering around, knocking cars off the road and feasting on people. Chase is an ambitious and resourceful young man who works as a mechanic and tow truck driver, while studying to become an engineer. He's also a member of a hot rod club, plays the guitar, and has dreams of becoming a pop star. On top of that, he's dating a French exchange student and saving all of his money to help his crippled sister walk. A perfect teenage heartthrob. Unfortunately, his sickeningly sweet nice guy act wears thin and becomes downright irritating at times, but I suppose that was typical of the time period. When the largely ineffective police force fails to take care of the giant reptile, Chase blows it up with some nitroglycerine that he just happens to have lying around in his garage.

It's not a terrible film, but the pacing is sluggish and the singing bits are painful to watch. The acting is decent, the production values are competent, and the music is appropriately suspenseful. The miniature sets are a bit hokey and the gila monster looks more clumsy than menacing, but it's still fun to watch it stumble around.