Heloderma Suspectum

Two teenagers go missing and Sheriff Jeff (Fred Graham) solicits help from Chase Winstead (Don Sullivan) a mechanic at the local garage and friend of the missing kids. Chase and the members of his hot rod gang scour the area looking for their friends but to no avail.

Little do they know, a giant lizard is running amok killing unsuspecting motorists. When the monster attacks a train people start believing that there is indeed a giant Gila Monster on the loose. Everyone panics when the monster breaks into the local teen center and interrupts the teenagers’ sock hop. Everybody goes scrambling and Chase is the only one who can come up with an idea on how to stop it.

I have to love a monster movie that can make a section of the United States feel like the dark side of the moon. Complete with spooky music. Half monster movie, half teenage hot rod movie “The Giant Gila Monster” is one of my favorites. A snapshot of 1950’s life in rural Texas including slang, bobby socks and big monster.

I’ve heard complaints that the monster in “The Giant Gila Monster” is just a lizard. Well, Yea. A Gila Monster is a species of venomous lizard that is native to the Southwestern United States. Its scientific name is Heloderma Suspectum. The bite is painful but not deadly. Not unless you are a bird or a smaller lizard. Of course in the movie the lizard is 70 feet long so even if it is just a lizard it is an impressive one.

This is a low budget “B” movie of the first order. With a budget of $138,000 you can’t expect more. People seem to either love it or just think its cheezy. Well yes it is cheezy. Granted it is not block buster material but it is one of my guilty pleasures. Needless to say I love this movie. As a kid it was one of the few monster movies that ran on TV so it was a big part of my bases for determining what a monster movie should be. And I’m OK with that.

Don Sullivan wrote the songs he sings in the movie. And of course I had a crush on Don Sullivan when I was a kid too.