Last updated: May 29. 2014 12:32PM - 389 Views
Tom Doty Times Columnist

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A giant poisonous reptile menaces Anytown USA, in this well-paced homage to a classic 1959 flick that played the drive-in circuit.

In 1959, Ray Kellogg made ‘The Giant Gila Monster.” He tried hard but the flick was a bit of a joke. It is best remembered for its hokey characters (a budding rock star and his precocious sister who serves as a Tiny Tim surrogate) and use of a real gila (which was filmed slithering against miniature cars and backdrops). It wound up on the bottom half of a double bill with “The Killer Shrews.” The story should have ended there, but then came Jim Wynorski.

I hate remakes of good movies. What’s the point if it was made well in the first place? The real reason to remake a flick is if you can do it better, and that is exactly why Wynorski tackled this story. He manages to update the special effects but keeps the 1950s setting, a stylish choice which sets this apart from SyFy Channel monster mashes, and delivers a better version of the story Kellogg tried to tell. Sure, it is still a goofy tale of a giant reptile gobbling motorists, but now it boasts neat FX and a spirited cast who have a great time with their characters.

Our story begins with a young couple necking on the outskirts of town. A bad idea. You never know who is prowling around Lover’s Lane, though to be fair, our smoochers didn’t reckon on a giant gila monster. Next we meet our hero, Chase, who is a hood with a heart of gold. He may enjoy a good drag race, but he also finds time to work at the garage, take his sweetheart out for a chocolate shake, and save his pennies to purchase a pair of leg braces for his polio-stricken sister. He is also the guy our sheriff turns to when an abandoned car is found outside of town.

Turns out this vehicle belonged to the couple from the opening. Chase stumbles upon the young lady who was out past bedtime and manages to get her medical attention. She has a wild story about a big monster, but so does a farmer who just survived the beast’s latest attack.

The sheriff teams up with Chase and they soon track the critter to a cave that is well stocked with leaky cans of toxic waste. Blasting the cave appears to seal off the problem, but we still have 30 minutes to go, so bank on this cold-blooded creature to make like Charles Bronson and dig himself a tunnel.

This is fun stuff that manages to take a creaky B-movie and pump some life into it. The gila looks pretty good and was designed by one of the Chiodo brothers (who made the classic “Killer Klowns From Outer Space”). The cast has a good time and contains some familiar faces like Terrance Knox (“Tour of Duty”), Kelly Maroney (“Chopping Mall”) and even Don Sullivan (who starred in the original). The disc rocks plenty of extras, too, with an homage to the original movie. Fun stuff!

2014, unrated.

Best Lines

“Don’t make any sudden moves son, I can shoot that straight again.”

“Sheriff, I know a pink elephant from a lizard.”

“I am not interested in her keister or any other part of her under carriage.”

“He said his aunt is a moose exterminator.”

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