"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Monday, October 10, 2011


When you say something like that, it'd better be in all caps. It'd also better be one of these:

That's right. I'm talking about all those B-movies that were made around a single idea: Let's take something small and make it BIG and terrorize all humanity with it. We'll blame it on atomic mutation. It'll be great - boffo at the box office!

I can just picture a bunch of closeted geeks jumping for joy because now they get to build teeny little sets and film ants and rodents and even women stomping on the cars and pulling out power lines.


I actually have a few favorites, not because they're scary, but because they're campy. Everyone seems to know about Them! but did you know they turned out a movie called Night of the Lepus about gigantic, and apparently carnivorous rabbits. Oh, yeah, Monty Python had it right, with their big nasty teeth. Those ranchers could have used the Holy Hand Grenade.

My absolute favorite is The Giant Gila Monster (1959). I like it for a number of reasons:

1. When I saw it as a kid (TV, the Saturday Matinee), it really did scare me to see a giant lizard walking down a teeny little paved highway. Scared me so much I had a nightmare about fighting a gila monster that was the size of a German Shepherd, and I woke up sitting on my knees in the middle of the bed, wrestling my sheets. I've never had a nightmare THAT vivid before or since.

2. Speaking of nightmares and monsters, the term "gila monster" was something my mother and I always argued about. She was rather proud of her two years of high school Spanish and insisted it was pronounced "Gee-la", with a hard G. I showed her every text that proved it was pronounced "Hee-la", but she wouldn't budge. Moms - just think of them as giant, festering splinters under your fingernails.

3. The "giant gila monster" was not a gila monster at all. This is a picture of a gila monster.

This is the trailer for the movie.

Notice any differences? Yes, the movie is using something called a Mexican beaded lizard. I can only assume, since gila monsters are indeed poisonous, they couldn't get the proper permits (or lizard trainers) for wrangling a real one. But truly, would it have broken the bank to paint some stripes on the thing? Even in black and white, I can tell, and I'm not a herpetologist.

Got any giant, atomically mutated movies you'd like to share?


Tameri Etherton said...

Gayle, you're a hoot!

I don't really watch those movies because, um, they scare me. Yeah, I know I'm a middle aged woman with kids, but they do. Almost as much as horror movies. I don't know why, but there it is.

My husband, on the other hand, watches ALL of them. He used to have this terrible, I mean, great collection of B movies on VHS. I think they're in the attic now. Where they belong!

Only you would notice the difference in the lizards. Too funny.

Gayle Carline said...

Oh, Tameri, I couldn't be the only one to notice. There's got to be some other geeks out there. There's just GOT to be.

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