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Written by William Dever, Steve Mitchell, Jim Nielsen and Paul Sinor
Directed by Jim Wynorski
Brian Gross: Chase Winstead
Madeline Voges: Lisa
Jesse Janzen: Waco Bob
Christina DeRosa: Carla
Chase Adams: Pike
Callie-Nycole Burke: Elsa
And Don "I was the male lead in The Giant Gila Monster" Sullivan as Professor Dawes
You might not expect to hear this, but I was kind of a weird kid. Not just in the usual nerds-who-grew-up-in-the-Eighties ways (though I was just as admired at school as the next skinny, uncoordinated, glasses-wearing, socially inept, Dungeons & Dragons playing, unathletic science fiction fan, of course). I tended to fall into obsessions for a few months or years and then fall right back out of them. I don't recall exactly what set me off on the path of Gila monster adoration but it was my favorite animal back around second grade through maybe fifth or sixth. There was something about its unique status--the Gila monster is the only poisonous lizard species native to the United States, and the closely related Mexican beaded lizard is the other one. All other types of lizards don't have the Poison Attack special rule. Whatever it was about them--at least partially the fact that "monster" was in their official name, now that I think about it--I just liked reading about them, and would have loved to have one as a pet except 1) they're fucking poisonous and 2) they didn't keep well in captivity, at least back when I would have most wanted them. I'm sure advances in lizard ownership have occurred since 1983 and it might be possible to keep one now, but it's not any smarter than it was when I was eight.
As you might imagine, every time The Giant Gila Monster was on televsion around this time, I'd watch it. I remember getting bored with the clean-cut hot rodders and the teenage romance and the polio operation subplots every single time, but still watching the film just for those few moments where a genuine Gila monster was on screen. Oh, and during that scene where they jammed its head through the window of the model building for the "attack the barn dance" scene? I still hope a stagehand got bitten. About eight or ten years ago, I lucked into a double feature of The Giant Gila Monster and something else at an Ann Arbor theater--my former college roommate Andy cracked a joke about the giant lizard scaring a truck right off the road, because the filmmakers didn't have the time or budget to put the crashing truck and the Gila monster in the same shot. I made sure to sit by the guard rails in front of a lower tier of the auditorium so I could put my feet up on it every time the sheriff in the movie put his foot up on something to show dynamic personality and control of a situation. But that flick still has only about eight or nine minutes of monster action in it, with a few musical numbers (!) and melodramatic subplots padding the running time out. Since it's a movie about a rampaging gigantic poisonous lizard, I'd rather take a risk on a previously unseen film than watch one I'm already familiar with, weaknesses and all.
Of course, this one's a Jim Wynorski flick, so I might be running for my public-domain copy of the Fifties flick, "Laugh, Children, Laugh" song and all, before too terribly long. We'll find out together. The trailer actually gave me a sense of optimism; there's rockabilly music, drag racing and fistfights in the film so Wynorski knows what the audience wants, though the CGI for the Gila monster is expectedly dire. Also, just to grip about it now and get it out of the way, Gila monsters are black and pink. The one in this movie is black and orange (as are the giant Gila monsters in Les Simons' absurdly wonderful novel Gila!; perhaps the coloration in this movie is a reference to that book?). It's irritating to me to get a detail that easy that wrong. It's not like pink pixels cost any more than orange pixels. And if they wanted to use a different color, Mexican beaded lizards are black and yellow. Just have everyone call it a Gila monster and write in a herpetologist to show up, correct people about what the creature actually is, and then get eaten by it because nobody likes a know-it-all.
They also don't have triangular pointy teeth, like the movie's CGI beastie does.
But enough of that "what the actual lizard is like" crap, it's time to watch a B movie!
Despite my misgivings that it's a Jim Wynorski flick, he earns my good will by about the ninth frame of the film by giving the viewer two teenagers necking in a hot rod out in a sparse forest outside of whatever Anytown the movie takes place in. And he does the original Giant Gila Monster one better by having actual Fifties music in it rather than the semi-frenetic jazz instrumentals that stood in for actual rock and roll. I know it's hard to predict how things are going to go from the first thirty seconds of a movie, but Wynorski utterly, utterly has his heart in the right place here.
Don (the 27 year old teenaged guy) and his unnamed girlfriend break off necking long enough for a discussion about eloping, getting married, and building a square but contented life together (she's for it; Don has his doubts). They hear a monster's roar, the audience gets a look at the titular Gila!, and they go back to smooching, because of course they do. The Gila monster moves pretty unconvincingly, as CGI creations that don't actually weigh anything do, and it advances on the car until The Chick sees it. Don drives like a bat out of hell that isn't trying to damage his vintage car on gravel roads (I'm not enough of a gearhead to tell you the make or model, unfortunately) and it stalls out in time for Don and whatshername to get devoured by the monster as this film's Threat-Establishing Casualties. Don gets an on-camera death with a spray of blood; The Chick just screams as the movie jumps to the credits over "Little Bitty Pretty One". Nice.
Also, since the monster was designed by Charles "Killer Klowns From Outer Space" Chiodo, I've decided that I like it (coloring errors and all). There's really nothing wrong with the way it looks, just with the way dollar store CGI makes it move like it's a helium-filled canvas sack.
Man, there's some gorgeous cars on display in this film. A hot rod race between Chase, driving a black sled and Pike in a cream-colored ride wraps up with Chase the clear victor. I assume the car owners did their own acting in this scene, because "I guess it was just bad luck, man," is a line that I would have figured an actor could deliver believably. There's at least an attempt to have the background people dressed like they're in the Movie Fifties, but the obvious low budget means that the movie's wardrobe was telling everyone "remember, it's the Fifties so dress like it" before they showed up on set. Chase is a bit of a jerk in victory, but offers to take a look under the hood of Pike's car and see how he can rig it for a little more speed.
Then the mulleted bad boy shows up to challenge Chase. Waco Bob is the first person in the flick to have a black leather jacket, and to go with his girlfriend Carla, he's got a heavily customized, bright yellow '32 Deuce Coupe (a car so distinctive even I can tell what it is). He's also got a THX 1138 license plate, which means we're watching Jim Wynorski's American Graffiti (which was a perfectly fine movie, but could have used a gigantic lizard). Waco Bob--by the way, if you self-apply a nickname it isn't cool--wants to race Chase, at least partially because he wants to put the capper on their antagonistic relationship that goes back to grade school. Despite his period-inappropriate hair, Waco Bob makes a pretty good Fifties bad guy. Chase also utterly refuses to rise to any of the bait that Bob throws at him, even asking his girlfriend for permission to race when Bob implies that he's got to do that.
Race on! It's neck and neck at first (with the actors looking like they've matted in via green-screen for some of the insert shots; maybe the car club guys weren't thrilled with someone else drag-racing their rides for the movie). Then Chase easily outclasses his antagonistic rival, which I wasn't really expecting. Chase makes sure to call the loser of the race "Robert", which he hates, and the loser drives off in a huff with a pissed-off girlfriend while Chase and his best girl Lisa share a chaste kiss. I think Jim "The Devil Wears Nada" Wynorski is having a little harmless fun with his usual cinematic reputation.
Meanwhile, somewhere else, a military Jeep toting an obvious toxic waste barrel rolls up to a cave so the two middle-aged Odious Comic Relief guys can roll the barrel into the cave and stash it illegally. mere seconds after the one in the Army uniform says nobody's going to discover the illegal waste dump the Gila monster walks into the scene, swats their barrel with its tail (splashing them with the toxic waste), and walks off as the two men scream and melt to death. Which reminds us that yeah, there's a big lizard in the movie. I do like when there's a monster attack every so often in these kinds of movies and it's obvious that the audience is supposed to expect a comeuppance for the characters doing wrong and redemption for the ones that can be turned back to the path of righteousness.
Next thing we see is Waco Bob driving up to a burger stand and sexually harrassing Elsa the waitress and Danish exchange student, who mocks his probable dick size via subtitles. That's something that you couldn't have had in a Fifties flick, but it's nice to see the jerk male character get mocked. Chase shows up in order to demonstrate that Elsa and Pike like and respect him, and he's an absurdly clean-cut hot rodder just like the one from The Giant Gila Monster; his plans for later in the evening involve going to the town's Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Also, I guess it's December? There's no snow on the ground but the movie would have to take place in Arizona for the Gila monster to be a native species to the area.
Waco Bob wants to challenge Chase to another drag race, on a stretch of highway an hour away. Chase is too safety-conscious to race at night, and Robert peels out after slapping his lunch order off of Elsa's tray. He's a jerk more than an actual menace, but that doesn't make him less of a jerk. Pike runs over to help Elsa clean up, because he is nice (and doesn't mind possibly scoring points with the attractive foreign exchange student). I'm also pleasantly surprised to see Chase consistently being level-headed and polite--usually movies don't give you a hero who is a well-liked square.
Waco Bob, though he's a prick to everyone and a self-deluded jerk who refuses to admit that he got out-raced by Chase, mentions that everyone in town hated his dad and hated him for being part of the same family; he got sent to juvenile jail for three years after stealing a gallon of milk for his kid sister. That's excessive but also convincing, and I can sure believe that he'd have a chip on his shoulder after going through that experience.
He's still a danger to himself and others, though; Bob tries to crowd two alcoholic old geezers in a pickup truck off the road through some dangerous driving (I guess--it's pretty obvious from the staging of this sequence that nobody was allowed to risk the actual cars during the filming). Carla's not thrilled with her guy's risky behavior here, which means the film's kindly disposed even towards its bad girl. The two drunks wind up becoming lizard bait seconds after encountering Bob and Carla; how the hell does the monster show up out of nowhere and not get noticed by anyone else? It doesn't eat the two drunks; rather, it just runs its body over the truck, crushing the cab and causing the vehicle to explode (...huh?).
Meanwhile, downtown for the tree-lighting, Chase and Lisa go to see a movie called "Ho Ho Horror" at the local theater. I'll just say the period detail's slipping a little there, but the inclusion of the "Let's All Go to the Lobby" short earns a lot of good will from me. In keeping with The Giant Gila Monster as a font of inspiration for this film, the local sheriff is a good friend of Chase's--as you remember from the earlier film, the hero kicked people out of his hot rod club for speeding and ran a wrecker truck to help the sheriff deal with car crashes. The sheriff calls back to the station to check in and we get to see his deputy / dispatch officer Wilma taking an agonizingly long time to type something up (showing off the vintage typewriter that got used as a prop, and also providing a chuckle unrelated to everything else in the film so far). The lizard slinks back to that cave in a shot lit so badly that I couldn't honestly tell what was supposed to be happening.
Back at the station, Wilma's reading a detective magazine and answering phones when the sheriff drops by to check in on things; the mayor calls and asks for the sheriff to go check something out. Oh, in this sequence, the low budget gets shown off inadvertently. There's a vintage typewriter and old rotary-dial phone on the desk for Wilma to interact with, but both her uniform and the sheriff's are plain khaki shirts. They're wearing badges but no other insignia or patches to show that they're the sheriff and deputy of any particular place. The single patrol car says "Johnson County Sheriff" in the side, but the uniforms were probably going back to the store after the shoot and couldn't be modified.
Chase and Lisa are outside with Chase's younger sister Missy's polio braces in the trunk of his car (another Fifties period detail, and one that younger viewers probably won't even begin to understand, since it's been two generations since the entire country got vaccinated to the point where nobody gets the disease any more). The sheriff tells Chase not to go drag racing out by a farm where the engine noises have been irritating the livestock--and I'm not sure if this is a friendly warning with plausible deniability on both sides, or if it's meant to be a clue that the Gila monster is out and about in that area. Either way, the main thing I took away from this scene is that the pickup truck that got destroyed a few minutes ago is in the background, and I like seeing that sort of continuity flub in my monster movies. If it's there on purpose, Wynorski's providing exactly what he needs to. If it isn't, it's just the low budget, limited number of vintage vehicles available for the production and hurried shooting schedule on display. Chase and Lisa go off to the Winstead residence to drop off the braces for Missy; the scene ends before she puts them on and tries to walk, but it's further evidence that Chase is a good guy.
Over at the mayor's residence, Sheriff No Name Given Yet swings by to talk to the mayor to turn down an offer of a high-octane Bloody Mary from the mayor's booze-fueled wife Vera and gets notified that Mayor Also No Name Given Yet's daughter didn't come home the night before. Therefore it is now a law-enforcement priority to find her and bring her home. (Oh, and the mayor says "Parker" in this scene while talking to the sheriff, so I'm going to guess that it's his last name.) There's some low-intensity marital strife on display here and the mayor also gets to complain about those kids hot rodding and listening to rock music rather than getting nice haircuts and joining the Junior Chamber of Commerce, as is required for all adult authority figures in movies like this.
Oh, thank goodness, the Gila monster showed up again (just long enough to knock the Jeep over from earlier because it offended the lizard's sense of inherent dignity). Then we check in on Chase at a garage, working on Pike's car and listening to Bill Haley and His Comets doing "Rock a Beatin' Boogie". That's two authentic Fifties songs on the soundtrack, which must have cost more than the CGI for the Gila monster. Lisa sneaks in to say hi to her guy, and Carla appears out of nowhere (with Waco Bob's car parked ominously in the background) to mack on Chase as well. Robert joins the group also as well to display negativity and provoke a fistfight with Chase. Neither man has heard of the concept of "blocking" or "dodging" so they mostly alternate punching each other in the face. When Robert grabs a bottle the sheriff also appears out of nowhere and shoots it before the post-juvenile delinquent can break it himself. Sheriff Parker asks if Chase wants to press assault charges but our hero says he's only willing to declare Waco Bob a litterer for dropping the bottle when he was told to--and that's just a misdemeanor so Bob gets off with a verbal warning (and having been shot at without warning). Carla and Bob leave in ill humor and Waco Bob says everyone who wronged him will pay, which gives the sheriff a chance to talk to Chase and Lisa about the mayor's daughter's disappearance. Sadly, the sheriff doesn't put his foot up on something to show he's in charge of the situation.
Elsewhere, those farmers who complained about their livestock getting riled up hear angry mooing. The farmer goes out with his shotgun to see if it's coyotes coming around to cull the weaker or slow cattle from his herd and checks the attic of his barn--I guess to see if the coyotes climbed up there to sleep. The monster bashes its way into the barn in a reference to a scene from the original film and we don't see what happens to the farmer after he falls out of the window in surprise, but his wife (or possibly live-in maid, because she calls him "Mr. Swinson" when she's looking for him) gets herself good and eaten, with the Gila monster spitting out the pitchfork she'd grabbed as a coyote deterrent before seeing that the problem was much bigger than a couple scavengers.
While that's going on, Sheriff Parker, Chase and Lisa drive off to Don and his girlfriend's private parking spot in the woods; the car's bright yellow and unsmashed so it just looks like Don and Betty--she gets a name here, but not earlier--bugged out somewhere (also, where's the smashed blue pickup truck? Did the Gila monster eat it or drag it away?). The trio looks around to see if Don and Betty are anywhere around the car and Chase protests that he hasn't seen Don in fifteen years, and didn't particularly hate him back then (but never got along with him either). And Carla trying to seduce him was something he wasn't interested in at all. He's an obvious good guy, though, and Lisa believes him instantly. The conversation didn't last long enough to get interrupted by the sheriff finding Betty's pocketbook, covered in bloodstains. Deputy Wilma drives up to deliver a list of things going on that were too expensive to show, wrapping up the litany of property damage and missing livestock reports with "shots fired at the Swinson farm".
Wilma gets ordered to take pictures of the crime scene, Chase is told to haul Don's car to an impound lot, and the sheriff has to tell the mayor that it looks like his daughter has been murdered (or at least attacked). But before he can go back to town to carry out that duty he stops by the Swinson farm to see what's what. He finds a big glob of mint jelly on the ground and takes a sample via the hugely unscientific and unsanitary method of poking a pen into it and wiping the pen on his pocket hankie. He finds the horribly injured Carl Swinson (who didn't get eaten by the monster as it turns out), who isn't coherent enough to explain what happened to him. Meanwhile Chase drops Lisa off at her parents' place before towing Don's car from the attack site (and the Everly Brothers are on the soundtrack followed up by Dion and the Belmonts and Gene Vincent for some more period details).
While Chase drives out to the crime scene he sees something weird in his rear-view mirror. It is, of course, the back legs and tail of the Gila monster as it crosses the road behind him. But the drive is on a flat plain; how the hell did Chase miss seeing it when it's flat land to the horizon in three directions (the monster sneaks into the woods to disappear but walked across two miles of flat ground to get there)? Back at the scene, Deputy Wilma startles Chase when he gets to the scene (there are a lot of people who appear out of nowhere in this movie) and throws herself it him (there are a lot of people doing that to Chase in this movie). While he gets Don's car ready to tow, the deputy leaves to provide backup at the Swinson farm and to get a saxophone heavy instrumental I don't recognize on the soundtrack. She jams on the brakes to avoid hitting a car that zips through the intersection ahead of her and "crashes into" a telephone pole by the side of the road. Say what you will about the film's dedication to not damaging its cars, we're still getting sequences of stuff happening with them. I'd rather have a poorly staged car crash than no car crash at all.
Chase hears something at the two site and grabs a tire iron, which better be +4 versus giant lizards at the least or he's going to get himself devoured. He finds Betty on the ground, spattered with blood and still alive. So he's got a detour at a doctor's office before he turns Don's car in to the impound lot at the cop shop, and his previously unseen boss at the auto shop takes pulls from a flask while getting updates on the plot over the phone. Meanwhile, Deputy Wilma can't get through to the sheriff and there's a really cool shot of the Gila monster sneaking up on her reflected in a hubcap. The six-shooter that Johnson County issued her doesn't do anything but irritate the monster briefly, and though Gila monsters do have forked tongues they can't snag prey with them in real life like the one does here. And things are getting more serious now, because the deputy was a character that wasn't introduced just for the scene where she gets eaten.
The world's heaviest paramedic stops by to tell Sheriff Parker that Farmer Swinson is stable and going to the hospital; the sheriff, having put two (loss of radio contact with his deputy) and two (the road where all the bad stuff has been happening) together to get four (stay away from that road), tells the ambulance driver to take a longer route to get to the hospital. Which means there's two characters that are likely to stay in the film a bit longer, unless the Gila monster read ahead in the script and knows where to find them. Back at the mayor's office Pike zips up in a borrowed hot rod to tell the mayor his daughter's alive but at a doctor's office, and the authority figure--for once--doesn't mind the presence of a car-happy teenager in his town. Time to lay down some rubber and get hizzonner where he's going. The crash at the telephone pole and this new car means that Wynorski either convinced a couple more people to loan him a car or he carefully husbanded the resources available to him so that we didn't just see the same four vehicles over and over through the entire film.
The sheriff shows up at the car crash just after Chase determines that the guy who ran into the telephone pole is dead; Deputy Wilma's service revolver is in the road with six empty casings in the cylinder but she's nowhere to be found. Chase reports the weird giant lizard thing he thought he saw in the road earlier and doesn't manage to talk the sheriff or himself into thinking it's a real thing that happened. Discretion being the better part of not getting killed by a huge mutant lizard monster, the sheriff and Chase leave. Chase goes home where Missy demonstrates that she can walk with the new braces, but needs a bit more practice till she's going to stay completely upright. The kitchen in the Winstead residence is way more modern than any of the cars on display, but we're not here to look at kitchens, are we?
Chase brings the deputy's patrol car back to the auto shop while the sheriff tells them not to goof with it because it's a potential crime scene. Chase mentions the possibility of giant lizards roaming about and his boss, Sherwood, opens a closet door at the garage to show off a massive doomsday-prepper cache of submachine guns and pistols (which I don't know enough about to say if they're period-appropriate, but I didn't spot any Uzis or M-16s in the collection). Sherwood says he's ready for either a Communist invasion or Martians attacking. Meanwhile, back at the sheriff's department, the mayor learns that there's at least three people missing and presumed dead from the mysterious happenings over on that stretch of highway (Don, the deputy and Farmer Stinson's wife, for those of us keeping score at home).
Elsewhere, a couple guys running a steam locomotive gripe about high-pressure aluminum siding salesmen and eat up a little of the movie's running time (as well as giving Wynorski a reason to show the train traveling along for a while--nothing wrong with showing off your production values while you have them). The two actors look way too contemporary to be railroad workers sixty years ago--the only people in this movie that should have goatees are beatniks trying to dig that crazy gigantic lizard, man. The Gila monster blocks the track and causes one of those instant movie explosions when the train rams into it (perhaps it has the ability to make vehicles blow up on contact with it, just like it did with the pickup truck earlier).
Erstwhile, at the sheriff's station, a scientist played by the lead of the 1959 Giant Gila Monster tells the sheriff that the green schmutz that he sampled at the Stinson farm was Gila monster venom, and gives the lawman some tips on Gila monster behavior. Turns out that they hibernate over the winter (according to the film), and that there's likely to be a nest in a cave somewhere that the lizard will use as a base of operations. If the eighteen inch model of Gila monster's behavior works the same when it's scaled up to the size of an eighteen-wheeler, it'll eat a lot in preparation to mellowing out for a few months. The sheriff and Chase realize that they're looking at a sanity hearing if they ask the state governor for military assistance with their gigantic venomous lizard problem, so they decide to take care of things themselves. Sheriff Parker's sharp enough to plot the various attack sites on a map and look in the middle of that circle, and he also uses the brief overview of Gila monster behavior from that scientist to sketch out what they're looking for. Ominously enough, he also mentions that the reason Gila monsters lay low at this point in the season is to lay eggs (though unless it's reproducing asexually or there turned out to be a mated pair of giant mutant lizards, that's probably not as much of a problem as the immediate threat). Though when Chase asks the sheriff if he has a plan to kill the monster, he gets a one-word answer in reply.
So Sherwood's arsenal (and a few jars of nitroglycerine, which means the monster's almost certainly going to check out the same way in this movie as it did in 1959). Chase and the sheriff take a pair of Thompson submachine guns from the auto shop arsenal and go searching for the Gila monster, though officially they're just trying to find whatever it is that's been killing livestock recently (and the rummy who owns the garage solemnly tells Lisa it's Martians after swearing her to secrecy). Over at the quarry, Chase and the sheriff practice their synchronized car door opening and try to think of a reason not to go into the cave. But duty calls, and there's nobody else to deal with the problem. Their plan is to seal the lizard inside the cave by blowing up the entrance with a couple Thermos-sized canisters of nitrogylcerine, but unless they confirm the monster is in the cave at the time, they can't proceed with their plan. They find the waste barrels (covered with crickets the size of Thanksgiving turkeys) and see the giant Gila monster sleeping on the cavern floor. It wakes up when it smells the intruders (I think) and the sheriff blows the nitro canisters, which detonate just as planned and the cave entrance is sealed off handily.
The two men get back to the auto shop and return the guns to Sherwood; the sheriff tells Chase to consider getting himself deputized (the pay is better and he won't have to deal with Sherwood any more). But back at the cave, the Gila monster busts out in a spray of rock and dust, and it's incredibly pissed off. Which is cool, because there's still 25 minutes of movie left.
Meanwhile, there's the inevitable dance for the film's "teenagers" going on. Again, the haircuts and facial hair for the background actors is way, way off for the late Fifties, but what the heck. The band's called M.G. and the Gas City Three, and they're playing a guitar-centric cover of "Red River Rock", and that's good enough for me. And if we're going to pad out the running time a bit more, I'd rather listen to some rockabilly and watch some dancing Plus Elsa and Pike are in this scene, with Pike dressing up as a Viking to impress his new girlfrield and speaking what he probably assumes is fluent Danish ("What did he just say?" "His aunt is a moose exterminator."). Chase has upgraded his jean jacket to black leather for the dance, and gets there just in time for Carla to sing "Fever" with the band, macking on Chase again (to his mild enjoyment and Lisa's total disapproval). Speaking of total disapproval, Waco Bob's nuclear ripshit pissed-off that everyone at the dance is watching his girl sing to someone else. But he's already lost a race and a fistfight so far, so I don't know what he's going to do next.
Before Robert can do anything to address the rapidly deteriorating situation, Lisa slaps Carla and then it's girl brawl time (so this is a Jim Wynorski movie!); the band plays something a song called "Catfight" in a moment that actually made me laugh. Robert puts his girlfriend in a headlock to break up the fight and Chase says he wasn't the one who finked out Robert back when he got sent to juvie hall (and given that he's been a paragon of morality so far, he's probably even telling the truth). At a sleazy hotel--another location shoot where the exterior looks really appropriate but the inside furniture isn't too Fifties looking--Robert broods for a while and then pulls a pistol out of a wardrobe, planning to go back and get his vengeance on Chase and the whole damn town that he views as the instigator of all the trouble in his entire life. Carla doesn't like that idea, and tries to tell Waco Bob that the problems he's had with Chase should be over after the fiasco at the dance. Bob doesn't quite get to the point where he hits Carla, but she can see it coming and walks out on him (good for her!).
Bob sits alone in the hotel room and looks at the gun in his hand, contemplating.
Then it's time for another monster sighting; an old lady going out to walk her dog spots the Gila monster and calls in to report it. The sheriff really ought to know better because he's seen it, but asks if the woman's been day drinking. Another neat line gets dropped here: "I know the difference between a pink elephant and a giant lizard". The sheriff says he'll check on it, which I guess he ought to. Meanwhile, Missy's out riding on horseback thanks to the leg braces over at the Winstead place and the mayor's pressing Sheriff Parker for answers about what the heck has been going on. The sheriff, tired of dealing with the mayor's personality, drives him out to look at the Gila monster walking through a farmer's field. The dialogue refers to a dry wash that the monster's been using to get around unseen, but the effects shots are of a field. 'S what happens when you shoot the effects footage after the rest of the production wraps. Anyway, the mayor says they need to kill the Gila monster and the sheriff says there isn't enough time to convince the National Guard or the actual military to come help. So it's back to the garage to deputize a bunch of people and requisition Sherwood's full arsenal. As the Gila monster lopes towards town, a caravan of heavily armed hot rodders in their sweet rides (including that blue pickup truck that got squashed earlier) drives out to the
dry wash field to hopefully stop the lizard. There's also a moment where the mayor and the alcoholic who owns an auto repair shop learn they were in the same division in the second World War, which is a nice way to place the time that the movie occurs (the older characters would have likely seen combat in WWII or Korea, as Sherwood claimed earlier).
The lizard approaches and conventional weapons, though used extensively by a dozen or so people, prove futile. The noise drives it away for the time being, though, so there's that. Unfortunately the Gila monster's headed directly for the Winstead farm; Chase drives off to get more canisters of nitroglycerine while other people go to the nearest house so they can call Chase's mom and warn her about the monster on the prowl (which is a plot point that makes perfect sense for the late Fifties; smart phones at the time were the size of 18-wheelers, had rotary dials, and were only "portable" in the loosest sense of the word). Unfortunately Chase's mom and sister are out enjoying a stroll and don't hear the phone ring. The monster approaches. Chase gets the remaining two Thermoses full of bomb juice from the garage and tears ass towards the family farm just as Missy and her mother see the lizard approaching from across the field.
Chase arrives just in time to take charge of the situation before the monster get there: Instead of hiding in the house (which the lizard can destroy by virtue of being really big), Lisa, Missy and Mrs. Winstead will take the family Oldsmobuick and flee the Gila monster while Chase figures out a nitrogylcerine delivery system in the next ninety seconds or so. Unfortunately, the family car won't start. Things look pretty doomed when Waco Bob shows up and instead of pursuing his vengeance he gives the three women a ride in his stuffed-full hot rod. They get to safety and Chase affixes the nitroglycerine cylinders to the front of his car, charging towards the monster and diving out of his auto at the last second (and there's chunks of flaming Gila monster meat that land on the ground near him, which is a nice touch). The danger having been vanquished, it's time for everyone to gather around for Christmas cookies and show they've resolved their differences. It's actually pretty heartwarming to hear the mayor tell Chase to bill him for the parts and labor for the younger man's next hot rod, since he destroyed his own sweet ride killing the monster. The Christmas spirit touches everyone in the film, including Carla (who goes outside to see Bob in his hot rod, but doesn't join him for a life of danger).
And then (oh, shit) Chase hauls out a guitar, an instrument he showed no inclination for earlier in the film, and performs the "Laugh, children, laugh" awful folk song that drags the narrative to a screeching halt during The Giant Gila Monster. Damn it, movie, I was really enjoying you up to this point. But hey, there's another somewhat smaller giant Gila monster on the lawn in the best tradition of Fifties "it's not really over" endings, so there's that. Maybe it'll just eat Chase's guitar and go away.
In all seriousness, this is just about the best thing I've seen with Jim Wynorski's name on it. The budget was obviously tiny but he wrung every last drop of production values he could from it, and filled the movie with lots of nods towards the creature features of years gone by and putting authentic Fifties music in it (including "Rockin' Robin" over the end credits), which papers over the anachronisms very capably. The acting ranges from not that bad to serviceable to rather good, and there weren't any gaping holes in the script that I could spot. It's a real shame that it's not available on DVD (I had to watch my copy via Amazon's streaming service and as far as I can tell there was never any home-format release of the movie). I was sorta-kinda dreading this one, but it starts with a G, it's got my former favorite animal of all time as the monster, and I was going to watch it sooner or later. What a nice surprise for my fourth HubrisWeen. Play us out, Joe.
"In honor of the movie being set in the Fifties, I'm changing the lyrics for my big number. It's now going to be called "Gina is a Sock Hopper"."
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