This is a straight lift from 1959’s Giant Gila Monster, but even though it’s billed as a remake, there are enough differences that I don’t buy it.
And I’ll be honest, I am a fan of the original low-budget movie. It is one of my favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes and I own the non-MSTied version. Giant Gila Monster is a classic in bad 50s sci-fi with a ton of heart and enough going on to make it enjoyable while you’re laughing at how bad it is.
So while I may be the only one who really enjoyed this, let’s take a look at Gila!
When a giant monster, borne of nuclear sludge, begins to terrorize a small community,tow-truck driver Chase Winstead comes to the rescue with a small band of hotrod-racing friends to save the day.
The effects are bad, but although the budget is clearly low, they spent enough time and money getting some of the period cars, clothes and settings right, such that when the really bad CGI monster shows up, they can’t say it’s the best they can afford. It’s done on purpose and I don’t think a lot of people really recognize that. That’s why I don’t view this as a remake, but clearly a homage to the original.
As I said, there are enough changes to the original story to make this a separate thing. The addition of Waco Bob as the hotrod racing arch-nemesis changes the overall storyline, which in the original centered around Chase’s burgeoning singing career. One thing I found very interesting, if maybe a little nitpicky, is that they gave Bob the rat rod that was driven by Chase in the original. I don’t know if that was intentional or not, but in the end when Chase sacrifices his car to kill the monster, it’s the “wrong” car. They also edited out a lot of scenes from the original and reduced the significance of the other. In the original, the dance was a huge deal, but here they mentioned it a few times in passing but otherwise focused on Chase’s rather unconvincing rivalry with Waco.
The one thing we thought was missing the whole way through was Chase’s “The Mushroom Song”, but they got it in the closing credits, although he used a guitar not a ukulele as he should have. The other thing that I really wish he had thrown in was a reference to the “leg up position” from the original. Here’s the MST3K guys to explain what that was:
No, this isn’t high art, but it is an homage to something else that isn’t high art either but certainly is enjoyable. It isn’t the horrible movie that a lot of people claim because I don’t know that they really understand what the movie was trying to do. And hey, I might not get it either, I might be totally wrong, but given the movie, I think my interpretation is reasonable. It’s a fun movie with bad effects, on purpose, for those who love 50s sci-fi schlock. And I’m one of them.