The Giant Gila Monster


1h 14m 1959

Brief Synopsis

A small town in Texas finds itself under attack from a hungry, fifty-foot-long gila monster. No longer content to forage in the desert, the giant lizard begins chopming on motorists and train passengers before descending upon the town itself. Only Chase Winstead, a quick-thinking mechanic, can save the town from being wiped out.

Film Details

Release Date
Nov 1959
Premiere Information
World premiere in Dallas, TX: 25 Jun 1959
Production Company
Hollywood Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
McLendon Radio Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Cielo, Texas, United States; Dallas, Texas, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 14m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

Late one night in a desolate region just outside town, Pat Wheeler and his girl friend, Liz Humphries, are kissing in his hot rod car, when a giant gila monster overturns the car and kills them. Meanwhile at the town soda shop, the rest of the hot rod gang, including leader Chace Winstead, notice Pat and Liz's absence, but it is not until the next morning that Pat's father, wealthy oil business owner Mr. Wheeler, reports his son missing. When the sheriff asks him if the couple might have eloped, Wheeler launches into a tirade against Chace, blaming him for leading his boy into trouble. The sheriff defends Chace, explaining that the young man has been working as a mechanic to support his sister and mother since his father died while working for Wheeler. The unsympathetic Wheeler threatens to have the sheriff fired if he does not come up with some answers soon. Later, when the sheriff asks Chace about Pat and Liz, Chace reports that the couple had been dating a year, but doubts that they eloped. That afternoon, when Chace's boss, Compton, returns to the garage with four quarts of nitroglycerine he transported for Wheeler, Chace, aware of the substance's volatile state, safely stows the chemical in the garage shack. Soon after, Chace overhears someone reporting a car wreck on the telephone party line and rushes to the scene in hopes of earning extra money by towing the vehicle. At the site of the accident, the sheriff and Chace note that, although there is blood in the car, there is no sign of the driver. When the kindhearted sheriff hears that Chace has been saving all his money to buy braces for his handicapped sister, he allows Chace to take the light from the wrecked car to replace the broken light on Chace's hot rod. Meanwhile, just down the road, the gila monster attacks a hitchhiker and drags his body into the woods, leaving behind the man's briefcase. When the sheriff and Chace spot the briefcase while driving home, they stop to investigate and find no clues, but Chace hears the low growling of the monster in the distance. That night, Wheeler orders Chace's girl friend Lisa, a French student whom the wealthy businessman is sponsoring, to end her relationship with Chace or lose his support, but Chace reassures Lisa that things will work out. The next day, Chace happens upon radio station deejay Steamroller Smith, who has run his car into a ditch while driving drunk. Chace convinces Smith to accompany him back to the garage where he can sleep off his drunken stupor. Later, when Smith awakens and hears Chace singing a ballad he wrote as he was working in the garage, the deejay invites Chace to visit him at his station in the city. When the sheriff enlists Chace and his hot rod friends to comb the woods for clues to Pat and Liz's disappearance, Chace finds long marks as if something had been dragged across the dirt and, after tasting the creek water, notes that it is tainted with high amounts of minerals and salts. After gang members Gordie and his girl friend discover Liz and Pat's wrecked car, Chace tows the vehicle to the garage, where the sheriff inspects it and lightly reprimands Chace for disturbing the evidence. Days later, the gila monster overturns an oil rig driven by Compton, who is burned alive when the truck explodes. Meanwhile, Chace returns home to find that Lisa has purchased braces for his sister, who has practiced taking steps to impress her older brother. Trying to encourage her, Chace sings his sister a children's ballad. After the sheriff calls to tell Chace about the oil rig, he and Chace meet at the site of the accident. The sheriff tells Chace that he is further puzzled by the disappearance of a number of livestock in the area and notes that none of the wrecked vehicles were chipped, which, he concludes, means that another car has not caused the accidents. One evening, as local drunk Harris speeds along the train tracks trying to beat a train across the railroad crossing, he witnesses the gila monster destroy the railroad bridge, causing the train to plummet off the tracks. When Harris reports the incident, the sheriff locks him up for the night certain that the monster was a figment of his drunken imagination, but assures Harris that the troopers have been called in to help the passengers. Meanwhile, as Chace prepares for the town dance that he has arranged for Smith to deejay, his sister leaves to stay overnight with family friends the Blackwells and the sheriff asks to speak him. The sheriff, noting that Harris and the train passengers both described a giant lizard as the cause of the wreck, confides that he has talked a zoologist, who believes that gila monsters can grow to enormous size if given the right conditions, including water high in minerals and salts. After the sheriff then advises Chace not to alarm anyone yet, Chace goes to the dance. Meanwhile, Wheeler complains to the sheriff about the removal of his son's car from the wreck site, adding that because Chace took the wheels off the wrecked car for his own hot rod, he should be arrested. Back at the dance, as the deejay plays a new single, Lisa recognizes Chace's voice. Prompted by an excited crowd, Chace plays another tune accompanying himself on ukulele while the sheriff and Wheeler arrive to arrest him. Suddenly, the gila monster bursts through the side of the building, terrorizing everyone, but when the sheriff shoots at it, the monster scurries away. After deputizing Wheeler, the sheriff orders him to keep the huge crowd under control. The situation forces Wheeler to understand the burden of being a sheriff and consequently he relinquishes his badge and his interest in arresting Chace. Meanwhile, Chace, realizing the whole town is in danger until the monster is destroyed, drives with Lisa to pick up the nitroglycerine and then follows the monster's path into a field near the Blackwell home. Seeing the Blackwell family fleeing, Chace finds his sister lying beside her braces. As Lisa helps the young girl, Chace steers his cherished hot rod toward the monster and then jumps from the vehicle just before it hits the beast and explodes, killing the gila monster.

Film Details

Release Date
Nov 1959
Premiere Information
World premiere in Dallas, TX: 25 Jun 1959
Production Company
Hollywood Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
McLendon Radio Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Cielo, Texas, United States; Dallas, Texas, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 14m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

This was one of two features produced by an independent company in Texas and meant for release as a double feature. The other feature was Killer Shrews, The (1959). Unlike other such features produced in the south, these films received national distribution.

Notes

The Giant Gila Monster opens with voice-over narration describing a desolate, uninhabited region where the gila monster lives and grows. As noted onscreen, the film's outdoor scenes were shot in Cielo, TX. The Giant Gila Monster, The Killer Shrews and My Dog Buddy (see below) were the only three productions from the Dallas-based Hollywood Pictures Corporation and financial backer and executive producer Gordon McLendon. The Variety review of the film notes that KILT, the radio station for which "Steamroller Smith" works, was actually a Houston station owned by McLendon.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1959

Released in United States March 1975

Director Kellog went on to co-direct "The Green Berets" with John Wayne.

Released in United States 1959

Released in United States March 1975 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Science Fiction Movie Marathon - Selection of Trailers) March 13-26, 1975.)