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Giant Monster Movies
There are monster movies, then there are GIANT MONSTER MOVIES!  This genre of horror film took on a life all its own, especially in 1960s Japanese cinema, but definitely delved into by American and British studios as well.  Something about a giant animal that threatens mankind really strikes a chord with moviegoers.  If nothing else it makes for an interesting visual.  I guess we could say it all started with America's "King Kong" in 1933, but how many of these other giant movie monsters are you familiar with?

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Features:

"Gamera" Film Series
"Godzilla" Film Series

Quick Reviews:

"The Amazing Colossal Man" (1957)
"The Giant Gila Monster" (1959)
"Gorgo" (1960)
"It Came From Beneath the Sea" (1955)
"Yongary, Monster From The Deep" (1967)



The Amazing Colossal Man (1957):  This is a good movie.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  For 1957, the special effects are grand.  Just about as good as you could ever hope to get them today.  The giant monster of this movie?  A man!  Not an animal, but a man!  Which, surprisingly, was unusual for the time.  Another exception to the era is "The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman".

    The U.S. Army holds a top secret experiment in which they blast plutonium.  A strange plane accidentally flies into the restricted area and crash lands.  Colonel Glen Manning (Glen Langan) rushes out to save the pilot.  But before he can return to the safety of the trenches, the bomb explodes!  In an instant, Glen loses all his skin and his hair.

    An accident that should have left Manning dead in fact leaves him quite alive.  By the next day, all of his skin has regenerated.  But he is far from being a well man.  Colonel Manning is suddenly taken out of the hospital by the Army and all records of him staying at the hospital, as well as those of the doctors working on him, are erased!  His fiance Carol Forrest (Cathy Downs) tracks Glen down to a top-secret Army hospital in Nevada, believed to have been shut down since the Korean War.  But this place holds a dark secret that Carol soon discovers.

    Carol finds that Glen has grown to gigantic proportions, at a rate of about ten feet a day!  He is forced to wear nothing but an expandable sarong for his increasing size.  For some reason, he is still bald-headed.  That wasn't explained.  But as Glen's body increases in size every day, his heart does not grow as fast.  His body is unable to sustain his heart and he is dying.

    But the worst thing that happens to Glen is that he loses his mind (due to the chemical imbalance).  He gradually turns into a mindless, speechless thug that escapes the confines of the Army base and makes his way to Las Vegas.  Easily angered by the masses of civilians and Army officers alike, Glen starts tearing "Sin City" apart.

    The scientists do find an antidote, and they even construct a giant hypodermic needle.  They reach him in time to give him the antidote.  But the giant pulls the needle out, kills one of the scientists, and runs away with Carol in hand.

    Everyone talks Glen into putting Carol down, and he does.  But when the Army men hear that he's just killed one of the scientists, they fire upon him.  Glen stumbles and falls down to the bottom of Boulder Dam.  And that's how the movie ends.  Sadly, the antidote did not work quickly enough to save him.

This Movie's Good Points:

    It's a really intelligent and well-scripted science-fiction story.  They were trying to make this realistic.  Unlike Godzilla and so many other giant monsters, ammunition did, in fact, hurt Glen.  He could be stopped.

    The acting was great.  All the cast members were likable.

    The story moved quickly.  It wasn't dragged out.  There was enough drama to add an element of reality and empathy.  But this movie was made to entertain, and they treated it as such.

    I liked the special effects.  They hold up even 50 years after the fact.  Sure, if it was done today the effects would probably be done better, but they're still great enough here to make it all seem real.  The makers did not try to overstep their bounds.  They didn't try to create effects that they knew wouldn't look good.

Some Things I Didn't Like:

    I didn't like the fact that Eric was killed.  That was the absolute #1 thing that I didn't like.  He was a cool guy, a good guy.  Just as important to the show as Dr. Lindstrom.  It seemed pretty malicious and unnecessary to kill him.  On the plus side, it was cool that the giant could use the giant needle as a weapon.  Neat idea, wrong application.

    It was kind of sucky that Glen got killed at the end.  It's not the worst tragedy to happen in a film, because he did turn into an evil monster.  But since they gave him the antidote, it would've been nice to see him transform back into his normal human state.

    The movie ended so abruptly!  Glen fell off of Boulder Dam, and that was it!  They could have tagged something onto the end.  Carol's reaction to his demise.  Or something that would elude to the fact that maybe he survived the fall.  Anything that could have made us think that there would be a sequel.



The Giant Gila Monster (1959):  This is a good movie.  Even your kids can watch it, no matter what age.  But it's really made for everybody.  Probably one of the best of the "giant monster" type films.  It's very watchable, even by today's standards.  It's in black and white.  Would be better in color, since the film shows different hot rods and a colorful gila monster.  But if you can ignore that, I think you'll find that it's very enjoyable.

    This is an American-made film.  In this movie, we actually care about the human characters.  The giant gila monster is incidental.  He's not given any name, nor is it important that he's explained.  He's just a giant gila monster that has appeared in a desert community and is raising havoc.  And he's killable.  I get tired of the giant monsters that don't freakin' die even by the most elaborate schemes.  In this show, once the hero comes up with a good plan it works.  Funny piece of trivia: the gila monster in this film is not a gila monster; it is a Mexican beaded lizard.  Why did they do this?  I suppose it was because it looks so odd that it made a neat effect.  In real life, a giant gila monster might look a bit different than ordinary gila monsters.  That is most likely what they were going for.  Or it could've been a big ol' goof!  Who knows.  It isn't intrinsic to the story.

    The hero of this picture is Chase Winstead.  This is an interesting character to say the least.  He's the lead member of a click of hot-rodding teenagers.  Everybody likes him because he keeps the kids in line.  He's a pillar to the community and the relationship between him and the sheriff is like father and son.  Chase is a mechanic at a garage and towing service.  Since his Dad died, he's been supporting his mother and little sister.  He raised funds to buy his sister leg braces so she can walk again.  Chase also has some singing and music talent.  All this, and a hot French girlfriend (foreign exchange student).

    Something has been attacking cars and other vehicles around the town.  People have gone missing.  It's soon discovered that the cause of all this trouble is a giant gila monster, about 200 feet long.  One of the monsters biggest acts is that of causing a train wreck by tearing down the tressle.  Chase finally figures out a way of killing the beast and is successful.  Earlier in the movie, he comes into possession of four quarts of nitroglycerin.  He puts it in the hot rod he so painstakingly built and sends it careening into the giant lizard only seconds after jumping out.  KABOOM!

    The sheriff assures Chase the railroad will buy him a new car, but you'll find yourself asking questions about the characters' futures.  Will Chase make it as a rock and roll star?  Will his sister fully walk again?  Will Lisa, the French girlfriend, have to go back to France?  I would like to see this story continued.  They could have made another "Giant Gila Monster" movie that would explain more about the monster and answer some of these questions that this movie leaves unanswered.

    There's a lot of good 1950s music here.  The cars are awesome.  The major human characters are all very likable and interesting.  Don Sullivan as Chase Winstead.  This guy is cool.  How come we don't hear more about him after 1962?  What became of this guy?  He was a likable good guy, cool looking, and even a good singer.  Fred Graham as Sheriff Jeff is another good one.  He actually had more experience as a movie stuntman, and he was considered to be one of the best on-screen brawlers.  Of all things, Fred started out as a baseball player, and got into acting in 1928.  He probably has more credits to his name than anyone else in the cast.  It's hard to play completely likable small-town sheriffs, but his character goes way past the cardboard caricature of the mean hick cop.  There's nothing mean or hick about him.  And he works good with the Chase Winstead character.  Lisa Simone as Lisa, Chase's girlfriend, is cute.  She wasn't in many shows and this was her last one.  Why?  I'd like to know.  She's pretty enough, she acts nice enough.  Lisa had a pretty thick French accent.  Sometimes it's hard to understand her in this movie.  Maybe that's what held her back.  I don't know.  Shug Fisher is another highlight in the movie.  He plays the hot-rodding old man and town drunk.  But he's a good guy and cooperative enough with the sheriff.  A harmless, but funny character.  I am interested in hearing from anyone who knows anyone involved with the making of this movie.  Please CONTACT ME.


Gorgo (1960):  This is a great movie.  It's a British version of Godzilla, and done very well.  It's different enough from Godzilla so that it isn't a ripoff.  It also led to a really interesting comic book series by Charlton Comics.

    It turned out there was a big mother Gorgo and smaller (yet still giant) baby Gorgo.  This same formula was, in fact, copied in the Godzilla movies when Godzilla's son Minya was introduced.  It's a classic example of monster movies borrowing from each other.

    You've got to see this movie.  It's in color, and the acting is great.  They don't try to do special effects that they can't handle.  Everything here looks fairly realistic...as much as it can be.  And it's believable.  Watch Gorgo!  You may also want to read the comics, which pick up where this movie leaves off.

Gorgo Gorgo

Gorgo



It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955):  BORING!  This movie had everything going for it, but a fast, interesting pace.  The title itself is cool.  That's what sold me on it to watch it in the first place.  The actors were great and gave wonderful performances.  The story was even good.  And the monster wasn't too bad:  a six-armed giant octopus.  What went wrong?  We didn't see ENOUGH of the octopus, plus the movie dragged;  especially in the parts when they wanted to build a romance between the male and female leads.  I think it sucks when some filmmakers try to make a romance movie out of everything.  They do this even today, but as far as I'm concerned this element should NEVER be brought into things like action movies, horror movies, sci-fi movies.  Anything where you've got weird, creepy creatures and violence, "lovey dovey" doesn't fly.  And, like I always say, color would've helped make this movie a little better, too.


Yongary, Monster From The Deep (1967):  A Korean version of Godzilla.  That's pretty much it.  This isn't a bad movie.  At least it's in color.  I think the human actors are quite humorous.  It's worth watching.