12/15/06

402 The Giant Gila Monster

(1959, Horror-Giant Critter/Musical, b&w)

I sing whenever I sing whenever I sing…

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

A singing teen mechanic saves the town from a giant lizard.

Summary:

The Giant Gila Monster appears be surrounded by Giant Foliage.While their friends dance in a pocket-sized malt shop, a young couple parks in a secluded ravine for smooching and related activities. A giant Gila Monster kills them. The dancing friends harass a funny drunk guy while they wait, but the now-dead couple fails to arrive. They head off to the drive-in theater without them.

The next day, the richest (and therefore nastiest) man in town threatens the sheriff that he had better find his missing son (the smoocher from the first scene) or he’ll have him fired. The understaffed and somewhat incompetent sheriff enlists the saintly Chase, a local teenage tow truck driver/mechanic/heartthrob. They hypothesize that the young couple ran off to elope.

They head out to investigate an unrelated crash and make a big deal about skid marks and right angles. The sheriff benevolently lets Chase steal a headlight from the crash. On the way home, the Gila monster eats a random guy and leaves behind a suitcase. Chase and the sheriff agree that it looks rather suspicious.

The giant Gila Monster runs another drunk guy off the road, but Chase picks him up and tows him away before the lizard can catch up and eat him. He sobers the guy up and fixes his car while singing a strange, repetitive song about how he sings whenever he sings whenever he sings… The guy gives him his card and a bunch of money and leaves.

Chase and his teen buddies organize a search for the missing couple, eventually finding the wreck of their car in the aforementioned secluded ravine. They tow it away, oblivious to their narrow escape from the giant Gila Monster on their way out. Later, Chase sings a song about children laughing to his crippled little sister while the Gila Monster kills his mechanic boss is by knocking over the gas truck he was driving.

It turns out that the driving drunk guy was a famous D.J., so Chase records a few songs for him and then brings him down to a barn dance to host a party for all the teens in town. Meanwhile, the Gila Monster wrecks a train and eats its occupants in view of the funny drunk guy. This upsets the nasty father, who insists that the sheriff arrest Chase for taking tires off of an abandoned car.

They show up to the dance where Chase is serenading the crowd with the “children laughing” song while playing a miniature banjo. Before he can be arrested, the giant lizard breaks through the wall. The sheriff chases it off with a shotgun while Chase and his French girlfriend pick up some nitroglycerine from the repair shop. They find the Gila Monster just as it’s about to eat his crippled sister. The French girlfriend protects her while Chase drives his nitroglycerine-laden hot rod into the giant lizard. The nasty dad drops the tire-stealing charges and gives Chase a high-paying job. It is generally assumed that the railroad company will buy him a new hot rod.

Introduction:

Nice tongue, Crow.Joel has lopped off Crow’s head and strapped it to Servo to make them The Thing With Two Heads! Tom-head and Crow-head exchange insults, eventually devolving into a parody of Oscar and Felix from the Odd Couple. Joel unplugs them.

Host Segment One:

The ‘Bots’ disembodied heads lay on the counter, urging Joel on while he chases their bodies. Tom admires his own butt. Down in Deep 13, Frank announces that Dr. Forrester has died. Dr. Forrester overhears the eulogy and hurts Frank. Joel has invented the sitcom radio, which plays only plot points and incidental music. Dr. Forrester has invented the Renfest punching bag, which portrays Renaissance Festival characters so irritating that they inspire abuse. Quoth Frank, “Bite me, Frodo!”

Host Segment Two:

Inspired by the tiny malt shop in the movie, Joel explains how you can make any closet into a malt shop by removing the more dangerous cleaning agents. Tom and Crow dance very close together. They get in an argument with Joel, who calls Gypsy in for support. The whole malt shop falls apart when she comes in.

Host Segment Three:

Inspired by the funny drunks of the movie, Joel and the ‘Bots do impressions of their favorite funny drunks. Joel does a gravelly-voiced vaudeville drunk. Crow does the drunk who calls at 3:00 a.m. to say how much he loves you. Tom does the drunk at the party who falls down and has an alcohol-induced seizure. Gypsy plays an overfriendly drunken aunt, smearing a giant lip mark across Joel’s face.

Host Segment Four:

Tom Servo does a segment titled Servo On Cinema about the “leg up” blocking style of the film. He shows a montage from the film, demonstrating how the actors put one leg up on every set piece they encounter. Joel and Crow take over the sketch, causing Tom to break down in tears.

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots are a Gila Monster-themed glam-rock band that plays various reptile-related songs (e.g. Karma Chameleon and Cold Blooded). Crow displays his lengthy Gene Simmons tongue and then complains that this is just like the Spy-Dorr sketch they did back in Earth vs. The Spider. Joel reads a number of letters, including a glowing fan letter from TV’s Frank. Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester pushes the button by smashing Frank’s head into the control panel with a Morningstar.

Stinger:

A funny drunk swigs sody-pop.

Thoughts:

See him glow with holiness.Chase Winstead (the twenty or thirtysomething teenaged hero of this episode’s film) is noble to the point of holiness. He keeps all the local teens in line. He does discounted mechanic work for friends and pro bono law enforcement for the sheriff. He supports his widowed mother and pays medical expenses for his crippled sister, while crooning his heart out for a local D.J.—all this while building a hot rod and courting the local French girl. Of course he nobly sacrifices his hot rod to save the town. I bet only his unfortunate penchant for stealing abandoned auto parts keeps him from walking on water.

Other problems include the intermittently bad sound (most of the first third of the film is unintelligible), and the ridiculous lizard effect. The reptile never gets framed in the same shot with its victims. They just film the lizard from below, and then the terrified victim from above, followed by some sinister music to imply that the victim was eaten. The other “special” effects include a model train and an exploding matchbox car or two.

Aside from the above issues, it’s a cut above most of the “giant critter” films I’ve seen. It’s a whole lot better than The Black Scorpion, Earth vs. the Spider, or War of the Colossal Beast. There’s not a whole lot of film padding, and the story is mostly intelligible.

The host segments work fairly well. My favorite was the out-of-control Servo On Cinema sketch with the “leg up” montage, though Frank’s over-aggressive behavior towards the Renfest punching bags was funny as well. The glam-rock band sketch was admittedly derivative of a sketch they’ve previously done, and the funny drunk sketch made me really glad that no one in my family drinks. Tom’s open admiration of his own derriere was creepily amusing.

The film segments are quite funny. We start off with the Gila monster showing us it’s claw and Crow saying, “Bad movie? You’re soaking in it!” After the ridiculous and repetitive “I sing whenever I sing” song, Joel and the ‘Bots start singing it whenever a new character appears on screen. When Chase blows up the Gila Monster, Crow complains, “They killed off the only likable character.” It’s a good, solid episode.