Blu Release – 3/5
The Giant Gila Monster
Director – Ray Kellogg (The Killer Shrews, The Monroes)
Starring – Don Sullivan (Curse of the Undead, Teenage Zombies), Fred Graham (The Crimson Ghost, Thriller), and Lisa Simone (The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, Missile to the Moon)
Release Date – 1959
Rating – 3/5
Tagline – “Only Hell could breed such an enormous beast… only god could destroy it”
While I was born in the late 80s and survived the 90s, I lived in the household with an older dad that had an eye for classic cinema. He was constantly watching films from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Like many of us, he was trying to revisit his childhood and the fond memories he had watching these films with his friends and families. I was introduced to a lot of films from this time. Most were westerns but I was lucky enough to watch a few sci-fi and horror titles with him.
One weekend I remember watching the original Giant Gila Monster from 1959 along with a few horror and sci-fi films from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. I credit this with my love for drive-in era schlock. A few weeks back I received the blu release of The Giant Gila Monster for review and was extremely excited to revisit it. I want to thank Film Masters for sending this one over for review.
*Spoiler Alert** The film follows a mechanic who is working with the police collecting wrecks and abandoned cars. When some friends go missing he partners with the sheriff to find them. His search leads him to another wrecked car and signs of something big visiting the area. He soon realizes that a giant lizard is attacking cars and eating the people. No one believes him but once it starts making it’s way to town they realize he was right and they are all in danger. **Spoiler Alert**
I love cheesy and campy films so I often gravitate towards these low budget films of the drive-in era spanning from the 50s through the 70s. These movies are often mocked and riffed on by genre fans but I enjoy them. The cheesier the better in my opinion and these type of films are the cheesiest. The Giant Gila Monster is far from perfect but I absolutely love it.
The acting in this one is so campy. The cast is over dramatic and their timing is so wrong. They talk over each other, look at the camera, and offer up very little emotional range but I fucking love it. When you add that to the generic characters and stiff acting you get something that is unintentionally funny which adds another layer of fun to the film.
The story for this one is a bit repetitive and extremely goofy but fans of drive-in cinema know exactly what to expect. The film is extremely low budget and I would almost bet that the film was being written as they filmed. The characters have very little depth aside from the protagonist and the story is predictable. What makes it so enjoyable is the bearded dragon that is being passed as a gila monster and the miniature sets.
Finally, this is not a bloody film. We get lots of wrecked vehicles, footage of a bearded dragon crawling around, and questionable acting to hold our attention. Overall, The Giant Gila Monster is a campy film that is easy to mock but I find it rather enjoyable. Fans of campy cinema will want to check out this blu release from Film Masters. It looks beautiful which is something this underrated classic needed.
The Killer Shrews
Director – Ray Kellogg (The Giant Gila Monster, The Green Berets)
Starring – James Best (Return of the Killer Shrews, In the Heat of the Night), Ingrid Goude (Flight, Wild Heritage), and Ken Curtis (Airwolf, Perry Mason)
Release Date – 1959
Rating – 3.5/5
Tagline – “all that was left after…”
I love campy horror films. I love cheese on my food and my movies are no different. I was excited when Film Masters sent over the UHD release of The Giant Gila Monster. I couldn’t wait to revisit this one and reminisce about watching this old movies with my dad and grandmother. However, I was surprised to see a second film on the release that I had never seen before.
Included in the release was 1959’s The Killer Shrews. This is a movie I thought I had seen before and but couldn’t recall a damn thing about it. This only made me even more excited to see it but once I hit play I quickly realized this was a first time watch for me. I want to thank Film Masters for sending over this lovely release.
**Spoiler alert** The film follows a ship captain that stops on an isolated island to drop off supplies when news of a hurricane reaches him. He ventures onto the island to meet a team of scientists and other crew who are working on an experiment to reduce the size of humans to prevent the eradication of resources. They are conducting the experiments on shrews due to their quick rate of reproducing but they accidentally create a mutation that makes the shrews the size of dogs with a taste for human flesh. As the hurricane makes it way to them they must barricade themselves indoors and fight off the ongoing horde of killer shrews. **Spoiler alert**
I fucking loved The Killer Shrews way more than I should have. I know it’s another film that often gets mocked and riffed by shows like MST3000 but I enjoyed it a lot. In fact, I watched it twice in just as many days. It’s a lot of fucking fun even though it is extremely cheesy.
The acting in this one is not as bad as I was expecting. In fact, I actually liked the characters and how the cast depicted them. While several characters are painfully cliched and modeled after other films featuring science gone too far, I still found myself enjoying their performances. The outlandish characters and situations really does fit the campy nature of the film. The story for this one is so predictable but it’s not the destination that is so enjoyable here. Instead, it’s the journey and the situations these survivors find themselves in is so fucking funny and outlandish. Viewer’s can’t help but smile he entire time the film is on and at just roughly over an hour you will not be out that much of your time.
Finally, the film is not a bloody one. We get dogs in shrew costumes and gimmicky deaths but that is the extent of it. Viewers need to remember that this is a no budget horror film with more focus on the shrews than anything else. Overall, The Killer Shrews is a fantastic no budget treat from the golden age of drive-in cinema. It’s cheap but it works. I know genre fans will be quick to jump in the comments and bash the review but I fucking loved it. I highly recommend it.
The Giant Gila Monster
The Monster Party Podcast joins us for a rousing commentary of this wild tale!
Author Don Stradley provides the liner notes, “Pirate radio, presidential assassinations, and Gila monsters:
All in a Life’s Work for Gordon McLendon.”
The Killer Shrews
Professor Jason A. Ney provides an informative look in his commentary. He also presents his original essay, “The Unkillable Killer Shrews.”
Ballyhoo Motion Pictures presents an original production, an in-depth look at the director of these two features, Ray Kellogg, entitled, “Ray Kellogg – An Unsung Master”
Contributes include: Courtney Joyner & Tim Lucas
A newly restored 4k transfer of the original “The Giant Gila Monster” trailer.
Original radio spots for both films, courtsey of Gary L. Prange.
Archival Interview with Don Sullivan, provided by author and interviewer, Bryan Senn.