"It could be made into a monster if we all pulled together as a team."

Well, the holidays are over. Whew! You guys know I try to keep the reviews commin’ at ya, but the holiday season just eats up all my time. I sure hope you and yourin enjoyed some wonderful holiday festivities. I had a blast with my family, as usual. I saw Ida Sue on Christmas Eve. She was sweet, but she would not let me see her feet. Ah, well. Ya know the holidays are times for making memories, and while I was reveling I remembered that there were a couple of flicks I promised you I’d review someday. No time like the present, so the first Duh Spot review of 2007 is…
The Giant Gila Monster
Hollywood Pictures Corp., 1959, 74 minutes
actors: Don Sullivan, Fred Graham, Shug Fisher, Bob Thompson, Ken Knox, Gay McLendon,
Jan McLendon
director: Ray Kellog
writers: Jay Simms, Ray Kellog
producers: Ken Curtis, B. R. McLendon
executive producer: Gordon McLendon
Taxonomy: Giant mutated critter flick – with twentysomething teens.

Plot: A jumbo sized gila monster feels left out of small town life and takes it out on them crazy teens.

Bluntly: Giant lizard, hot-rods, explosions, crappy music – what else could you want?

Overview:

Okay, this is the second flick produced by Hollywood Pictures Corp. The first was The Killer Shrews which I reviewed nearly a year ago. Unlike that flick, The Giant Gila Monster features a cast of complete unknowns (a couple of the folks in The Killer Shrews were only semi-unknowns at the time it was made) and a none too cohesive storyline.

The flick begins just outside a small town in Texas. A young couple are speeding down the road at night when suddenly the car hits…something. As the couple struggle to get out of the wrecked car they are attacked by…something. Something big.

Soon we meet Chase Winstead (Don Sullivan), a young auto mechanic and hot-rodder. Chase is very popular with the local teen members of the hot-rod club. Chase is not much older then the kids, but he has his own place over the garage where he works and is the best mechanic around. We also soon learn that Chase is a singer and cares for his mother and crippled little sister. Yep, Chase is just a lovable all American grease monkey with a heart of gold. He also has a cute French exchange student girlfriend, the studboy! What a guy!

It seems that the son of a Mr. Wheeler (Bob Thompson) has disappeared. Mr. Wheeler is a bitter old man who does not like Chase. Nor did he like his son’s girlfriend, who came from a poor family. He knows his son was a friend of Chase Winstead and wants the Sheriff to ask him if he had any ideas where his son may be. Chase tells Sheriff Jeff (Fred Graham) that he did not know of Wheeler’s son having any plans to run off with his girlfriend. Here we learn that Sheriff Jeff likes Chase too and often asks his help when dealing with teens.

Night scene, tanker truck full of nitroglycerin (!), big monster eyes peeking out from brush on side of road – this don’t look good! BOOM!

Now a bit of 50s techno nostalgia, Chase learns of several car crashes by listening in on the town party telephone line! He then is able to be the first on the scene to get the salvage! That boy’s got quite a head on his shoulders, yes sirree! Sheriff Jeff, being the nice easy going guy we all know gets to be Sheriff in small Texas towns, lets Chase nick parts from the wrecks before the insurance guys show up! Chase then uses these parts for his hot rods. Mr. Wheeler learns of this and is now out for the Sheriff’s job and Chase’s head!

There are a couple more scenes of the giant gila monster squishing cars and eating stranded motorists. These are quite campy and fun due to the fact that the “giant” gila monster is a real gila monster filmed in close-up and then back projected against the actors to seem huge. Kellog also employs the already old technique of the monster point-of-view camera as we see victims look up into the camera and scream! Cheap ass special effects! God help me, I do love them so!

Now we see some big cool dude in a western suit driving a big Caddy along a country road at night, he’s drunk, is there something in the brush? Oh yeah! Drive In movie goodness as the giant gila monster slithers rather lethargically across a cardboard “road” only to be nearly
hit by a tiny model car! Quick cut to the interior of Big Daddy’s car and we see the giant gila monster out the windshield. Mr. Sharp Dressed Man swerves and wrecks his car in the ditch on the side of the road. Guess who shows up to tow him back to town? Yep! Good old Chase.

Chase lets the guy sleep it off at his place and the next morning learns that the guy is none other than Texas radio legend Horatio “Steamroller” Smith! Smith feels indebted to Chase and tells him if he will pay him back for his kindness.

Now comes the most terrifying scene in the flick! A really cool scene of the giant gila monster wreaking destruction? Nope! Chase sings! Sweet cracker sandwich does he ever suck! Chase sings some dumb gospel song about a sad little mushroom (!) to cheer up his crippled little sister. I wanted to stuff beer bottles in my ears! This may be the worst song I have ever heard in a movie. Oh yeah, he also plays a ukulele. This scene is simply wrong.

Well, Chase and his hot-rod friends help Sheriff Jeff search the old river bed area for the missing Wheeler boy and his girlfriend. They spend a lot of time looking at broken tree limbs and pondering what seem to be strange tracks, and all the while the giant gila monster is spying on them from nearby brush. He must be a ninja giant gila monster because the local flora does not look like it could hide such a big critter. The kids eventually find the Wheeler boy’s car and go tell the sheriff.

Okay, now we finally get some good giant gila monster action! The big critter is creeping along the old river bed near a train trestle. We see a passenger train chugging down the tracks, then the giant gila monster takes out the trestle and the train plunges into the river bed. Lot’s of screaming as the giant gila monster makes dinner out of the passengers. There are two great laughs here; first the train engine changes from one shot to the next and then the painfully obvious fact that the crashing train is really an HO scale electric train! We are also treated to a scene where the giant gila monster makes a car explode with it’s
tongue!

Seems the town drunk saw the whole thing and tells Sheriff Jeff. Instead of laughing in his face and locking him up in the drunk tank, Sheriff Jeff believes the guy and then calls Chase to ask for a book on reptiles! The investigation turns up other witnesses and giant gila footprints and the hunt is on! But not before the all important “Platter Party.” Yep there is a big dance at a barn on the edge of town and Chase gets Horatio “Steamroller” Smith to DJ! Smith plays a demo he had Chase make – he’s going to turn Chase into a star! The kids cheer and ask Chase to sing for them. Oh my dear god! He sings the sad little mushroom song again! No! Nooooo! Make it stop! Please make it stop!

Just as I was going to shove forks in my ears to deafen myself and in so doing save my soul, the giant gila monster attacks the platter party! Yea! Chase stopped singing and put down the infernal ukulele of misery! In the middle of all the screaming and panic, Chase bravely runs away! He goes to the garage and gets four cans of nitroglycerin. Was there really this much nitro in Texas in the 50s? The nitro containers look like four small coffee cans labeled “XXX!” Chase zooms back to the barn (he has the fastest hot-rod ya know), aims the car at the giant gila monster, jumps out and BOOM! Giant gila monster barbecue Texas style!

Everybody is okay, but Chase is a bit sad about his car. Sheriff Jeff tells him that the railroad will buy him a new car. Huh!? Why would the railroad…? Oh, screw it. The end.

Goodies:

Babeage: None. Chase’s girlfriend Lisa is cute, but nothing special.

Sleazeploitation: Nope. 50s.

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: The giant gila monster, natch. Chase’s sister (joke!).

Violence: None aside from the silly gila attacks.

Gore & F/X: “Giant” gila monster (kind of cute really), neato model trains, BOOM!

Great Lines:

The completely unnecessary introductory narration, “Gila monsters live in deep forests and impenetrable shadows.” Gila monsters live in the desert!

Sheriff Jeff asks Chase about the Wheeler boy and his girlfriend, “Were they in any kind of…trouble?” Chase, “Like what?” Sheriff Jeff, “You know.” Come on Chase! Does he have to spell it out for you? Did he knock her up?

Sheriff Jeff, “Have you heard the reports of a giant lizard?” Mr. Wheeler, “Yes, but it is just not possible.” Sheriff Jeff, “Well why not? There have been giants before.” The shrews! Don’t you remember the shrews, man!

Lyrics of the sad little mushroom gospel song:

“There was a mushroom,
a sad little mushroom,
there was a meadow ready to cry,
there was a sparrow,
a gray little sparrow,
there was an eagle silent and high,
And the Lord said, ‘Laugh children, laugh!'”

Moral: If you are not a hot young scantily clad Hawaiian babe – put the ukulele down!

Conclusion:

The Giant Gila Monster played as the second feature on a double bill with The Killer Shrews. Overall, it is not as successful as The Killer Shrews both as a monster movie and a so bad it’s good cheap flick. The pacing is uneven and the giant gila monster really does not do that much. Look at the credits again. Old Gordon had the whole family involved in this one! Also Ken Knox who played DJ Horatio “Steamroller” Smith was an actual DJ from a radio station that Gordon McLendon managed in Texas. The Giant Gila Monster is a fairly fun little flick that will make you laugh. But it may also make you fear ukuleles for the rest of your life!

Yet another blast from the past…

Nosferatu

Great Lakes Brewing Company
2516 Market Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44113

You may remember during the 2005 Halloween reviews I reviewed the silent film Nosferatu and stated that I could not find a sample of the beer of the same name to review. Well, since then I have had the opportunity to enjoy The Great Lakes Brewing Company’s wonderful Nosferatu red stock ale both on tap and from the bottle. Okay, so what is a stock ale? A stock ale is an ale brewed to be high in alcohol content and usually also very flavorful and meant to be stored for a long time. This type of ale originated in America where it would be produced
in order to last throughout the harsh New England winters.

ABV: 8.00% IBU: 75

Color: A rich tawny red. One might call it sanguine.

Aroma: Sweet roasted malts contrasted with a nice hop tang.

Head: Small bubbled, dense, persistent, cream colored rocky head that produces Belgian Lace as you drink.

Taste: Nosferatu starts off rich and hoppy, a bit sweet with full roast malt flavor. The middle
begins to develop the hop bitterness that one would assume from a beer with such a high IBU value. This bitterness intensifies especially along the sides of the mouth though the finish. There
is a lasting bitter hoppy aftertaste with just a tiny hint of the initial malty sweetness.

Recommendation:

Nosferatu is a very smooth flavorful beer. You might think that with an IBU rating this high this would be a pucker inducing brew you only challange your hardcore hophead friends to try. However, the brewmasters at Great Lakes Brewing Company have crafted a beer that flows from gentle malt sweetness to zippy hop bite without a single harsh element. Highly recommended for red ale lovers (you will never touch Killian’s again!). Hopheads will like it, but may think it is too mild. Recommended for those in search of a good red ale.

As for me, let me just mention that Nosferatu is the only red ale I have tried that I actually enjoy.

Okay, the first post of 2007 is in the bag. Hope the new year has been kind to all of you. So, I guess I’ll plant you now, and dig you later!

-BigRuta

Remember: comments, questions, suggestions and requests always welcome!

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