DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com Awards & Recommendations at Amazon.com.
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Ray Kellogg
Don Sullivan, Fred Graham, Lisa Simone
Writing Credits:
Jay Simms

A giant lizard terrorizes a rural Texas community and a heroic teenager attempts to destroy the creature.

Rated NR.


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
English Dolby Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 75 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 9/26/23

• Audio Commentary with Podcasters Larry Strothe, James Gonis, Shawn Sheridan and Matt Weinhold
Killer Shrews Feature Film
Killer Shrews Audio Commentary with Author Jason A. Ney
• Audio Interview with Actor Don Sullivan
• “An Unsung Master” Documentary
• Trailer & Radio Spots
• Booklet


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BDT220P Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The Giant Gila Monster [Blu-Ray] (1959)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 14, 2023)

Some movies come with vague titles that leave their content up for grabs. No such concerns stem from 1959’s The Giant Gila Monster, a film with a self-explanatory focus.

Set in rural Texas, teens Pat (Grady Vaughn) and Liz (Yolanda Salas) go missing. The locals assume they eloped, but the truth turns out to be more problematic.

Instead, a huge, monstrous lizard caused their demise, and it proceeds to bring additional havoc. Sheriff Jeff (Fred Graham) partners with mechanic Chase (Don Sullivan) to combat this threat.

Like many 1950s sci-fi/horror/action flicks, Giant comes with a silly but more than serviceable concept. If done well, a movie about a large creature that terrorizes humans could offer entertainment.

We’ve certainly found dozens of good flicks in that genre over the decades. Goofy as the theme could lean, nothing about the basic concept of Giant automatically implies “crapfest”.

However, such an accomplishment would require two factors we don’t find with Giant: a decent budget and talented participants. The lack of one becomes problematic, and the absence of both becomes a fatal flaw.

Not that one can’t derive campy pleasures from a cheap “B”-movie like Giant. However, the movie never quite becomes ridiculous enough to enter “so bad it’s good” territory.

Actually, although I won’t claim anyone involved here shows true talent, Giant seems more competent than anticipated. No, it doesn’t offer flair or anything particularly strong, but at least it avoids the kind of Ed Wood crapitude we might expect.

With a decent budget, Giant actually might have become… well, perhaps not good, as it lacks obvious potential based on the script. Nonetheless, it might’ve given us something more compelling with more dollars involved.

As it stands, the movie comes with two major money-related issues: terrible effects and a general absence of monster action. Or any action period, as this becomes one chatty thriller.

Created in an era where rock ‘n’ roll movies brought in the kids, Giant crams those notions into it, logic be damned. Not only does Chase act as an ace mechanic, but also he sings!

This means Giant sporadically grinds to a halt so Chase can croon one lamentable tune or another. It all feels just as calculated and cynical as it is.

Though director Ray Kellogg made his name as an effects man, the minimal budget and tight schedule of Giant means the title character comes to life in poor manner. We mostly see a real lizard that interacts with unconvincing miniatures.

This robs the movie of any scares or thrills – not that it develops these in a coherent manner anyway. Major portions of the story make little sense.

Giant comes with little monster action given its existence as a movie about a killer monster. Of course, the budget accounts for this, but it still turns into an issue.

All these complaints aside, I will defend Giant because it works better than anyone could expect given its budget and shooting schedule. It also avoids the laughable idiocy of its peers – well, most of the time.

None of these factors mean we get a good movie. But at least it’s not terrible!

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C/ Bonus A-

The Giant Gila Monster appears in an aspect ratio of both approximately 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though the film ran 1.85:1, many fans saw it on TV so the package’s producers included that option to allow them to relive those memories.

Either way, both came with similar quality, and sharpness seemed consistently positive. Only minor signs of softness ever cropped up in this largely tight and well-defined image.

I witnessed no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes failed to manifest. Grain seemed consistent and natural, and print flaws remained absent.

Blacks seemed deep and dense, while shadows usually worked fine. Some nighttime elements could feel slightly mushy – and a few “day for night” shots didn’t help – but those didn’t become a real issue. Honestly, I thought the image worked surprisingly well, especially for a 64-year-old no-budget B-movie.

Note that the 1.33:1 version offered an “open matte” presentation. This meant is offered information on the top/bottom masked on the 1.85:1 edition. That said, I felt the 1.85:1 framing came across as more natural and better composed.

While the movie looked great, the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural audio held up less well. In particular, elements could become awfully shrill at times.

This impacted both music and effects. Although some of those components showed reasonable accuracy, they also sounded ore than a little rough around the edges at times.

At least speech remained fairly natural and without edginess. Given the movie’s age and origins, I can’t claim the audio disappointed me, but the track nonetheless seemed pretty mediocre at best.

A mix of extras appear on this two-disc set, and we get an audio commentary from podcasters Larry Strothe, James Gonis, Shawn Sheridan and Matt Weinhold. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the film’s origins and development, cast and crew, genre domains, production elements, the simultaneously-shot Killer Shrews and the movie’s release/reception.

Normally a track like this would seem impromptu and act as a conversation among the four participants. While that becomes the case at times, usually the podcasters alternate as they read from a prepared text.

And that works just fine, as it means we get a concise, well-structured look at the movie. The guys still engage in unscripted ways, so this doesn’t turn into a stiff recitation, but I like the manner in which the track keeps focused and delivers a fine look at the movie.

An audio-only archival interview with actor Don Sullivan appears. Conducted by author Bryan Senn, it fills one hour, 32 minutes, 53 seconds.

Sullivan discusses various aspects of his life and career, with a reasonable chunk devoted to Giant. We get a nice conversation with a good mix of memories on display.

Also from 1959, we find another film directed by Ray Kellogg: The Killer Shrews. It lasts one hour, eight minutes, 43 seconds.

On a remote island, scientist Marlowe Craigis (Baruch Lumet) works to find a way to shrink humans to half their size. This backfires and creates a species of giant shrews that attempt to feast on everyone they can find.

Boy, that plot sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? No, Killer doesn’t duplicate Giant, but they offer kindred spirits, to say the least.

That said, they follow different paths entirely, as Killer brings a more claustrophobic tale, and one that seems more ambitious in concept. It also gives us a more focused story, one that lacks the useless detours of Giant.

Unfortunately, it also feels cheaper and more amateurish. We get weaker acting and general production values. It becomes laughably clear the “giant shrews” are just dogs with bad costumes most of the time.

Like Giant, Killer doesn’t deliver a terrible movie, and it comes with potential. Nonetheless, it offers the less engaging of the two and feels pretty flat.

Expect the picture and audio of Killer to seem pretty similar to those of Giant, although we get occasional print flaws here. Giant might look/sound a notch better, but Killer enjoys positive treatment as well.

Note that Killer also comes with both 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 options. As with Giant, the 1.33:1 version exposes more on top/bottom than the 1.85:1 edition.

Killer comes with its own audio commentary. Here author Jason A. Ney offers a running, screen-specific discussion of production areas, cast and crew, the movie’s release and genre domains.

Because Killer came from the same crew as Giant, Ney inevitably touches on some of the same topics found in the other film’s commentary – especially since the Giant track also briefly discusses Killer.

Nonetheless, Ney gets into more than enough new content to ensure that his discussion stands on its own. He goes MIA too often given the movie’s brevity, but his chat deserves a listen.

Entitled An Unsung Master, a featurette fills 16 minutes, 12 seconds. This mixes movie and other elements accompanied by narration from Larry Blamire.

“Master” examines the career of filmmaker Ray Kellogg. It becomes an efficient summary.

In addition to the trailer for Giant, we get radio spots. The disc includes eight for Giant and nine for Killer.

Finally, the package provides a booklet. It mixes art, ads and essays from Don Stradley and Ney. It completes the set on a positive note.

Given its roots as a cheap and rapidly made 1950s horror tale, I thought The Giant Gila Monster fared better than expected. However, that did not mean I felt it delivered an actual good movie, as it remained a prisoner of its origins. The Blu-ray delivers surprisingly strong picture along with mediocre audio and a set of supplements that boasts a bonus film and other components. We get a watchable but forgettable feature flick here.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main