The Giant Gila Monster appears in an aspect ratio of both approximately 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though the film ran 1.85:1, many fans saw it on TV so the package’s producers included that option to allow them to relive those memories.
Either way, both came with similar quality, and sharpness seemed consistently positive. Only minor signs of softness ever cropped up in this largely tight and well-defined image.
I witnessed no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes failed to manifest. Grain seemed consistent and natural, and print flaws remained absent.
Blacks seemed deep and dense, while shadows usually worked fine. Some nighttime elements could feel slightly mushy – and a few “day for night” shots didn’t help – but those didn’t become a real issue. Honestly, I thought the image worked surprisingly well, especially for a 64-year-old no-budget B-movie.
Note that the 1.33:1 version offered an “open matte” presentation. This meant is offered information on the top/bottom masked on the 1.85:1 edition. That said, I felt the 1.85:1 framing came across as more natural and better composed.
While the movie looked great, the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural audio held up less well. In particular, elements could become awfully shrill at times.
This impacted both music and effects. Although some of those components showed reasonable accuracy, they also sounded ore than a little rough around the edges at times.
At least speech remained fairly natural and without edginess. Given the movie’s age and origins, I can’t claim the audio disappointed me, but the track nonetheless seemed pretty mediocre at best.
A mix of extras appear on this two-disc set, and we get an audio commentary from podcasters Larry Strothe, James Gonis, Shawn Sheridan and Matt Weinhold. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the film’s origins and development, cast and crew, genre domains, production elements, the simultaneously-shot Killer Shrews and the movie’s release/reception.
Normally a track like this would seem impromptu and act as a conversation among the four participants. While that becomes the case at times, usually the podcasters alternate as they read from a prepared text.
And that works just fine, as it means we get a concise, well-structured look at the movie. The guys still engage in unscripted ways, so this doesn’t turn into a stiff recitation, but I like the manner in which the track keeps focused and delivers a fine look at the movie.
An audio-only archival interview with actor Don Sullivan appears. Conducted by author Bryan Senn, it fills one hour, 32 minutes, 53 seconds.
Sullivan discusses various aspects of his life and career, with a reasonable chunk devoted to Giant. We get a nice conversation with a good mix of memories on display.
Also from 1959, we find another film directed by Ray Kellogg: The Killer Shrews. It lasts one hour, eight minutes, 43 seconds.
On a remote island, scientist Marlowe Craigis (Baruch Lumet) works to find a way to shrink humans to half their size. This backfires and creates a species of giant shrews that attempt to feast on everyone they can find.
Boy, that plot sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? No, Killer doesn’t duplicate Giant, but they offer kindred spirits, to say the least.
That said, they follow different paths entirely, as Killer brings a more claustrophobic tale, and one that seems more ambitious in concept. It also gives us a more focused story, one that lacks the useless detours of Giant.
Unfortunately, it also feels cheaper and more amateurish. We get weaker acting and general production values. It becomes laughably clear the “giant shrews” are just dogs with bad costumes most of the time.
Like Giant, Killer doesn’t deliver a terrible movie, and it comes with potential. Nonetheless, it offers the less engaging of the two and feels pretty flat.
Expect the picture and audio of Killer to seem pretty similar to those of Giant, although we get occasional print flaws here. Giant might look/sound a notch better, but Killer enjoys positive treatment as well.
Note that Killer also comes with both 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 options. As with Giant, the 1.33:1 version exposes more on top/bottom than the 1.85:1 edition.
Killer comes with its own audio commentary. Here author Jason A. Ney offers a running, screen-specific discussion of production areas, cast and crew, the movie’s release and genre domains.
Because Killer came from the same crew as Giant, Ney inevitably touches on some of the same topics found in the other film’s commentary – especially since the Giant track also briefly discusses Killer.
Nonetheless, Ney gets into more than enough new content to ensure that his discussion stands on its own. He goes MIA too often given the movie’s brevity, but his chat deserves a listen.
Entitled An Unsung Master, a featurette fills 16 minutes, 12 seconds. This mixes movie and other elements accompanied by narration from Larry Blamire.
“Master” examines the career of filmmaker Ray Kellogg. It becomes an efficient summary.
In addition to the trailer for Giant, we get radio spots. The disc includes eight for Giant and nine for Killer.
Finally, the package provides a booklet. It mixes art, ads and essays from Don Stradley and Ney. It completes the set on a positive note.
Given its roots as a cheap and rapidly made 1950s horror tale, I thought The Giant Gila Monster fared better than expected. However, that did not mean I felt it delivered an actual good movie, as it remained a prisoner of its origins. The Blu-ray delivers surprisingly strong picture along with mediocre audio and a set of supplements that boasts a bonus film and other components. We get a watchable but forgettable feature flick here.