Sunday, September 24, 2023

The Giant Gila Monster (and Killer Shrews) hits home video in a loaded Blu Ray DVD release 9/26

I don’t buy or get physical media much anymore. Don’t get me wrong I have thousands of titles in my collection but the fact that I am getting so much sent to me to review that I don’t go back and watch things until they’ve been on cable/streaming rotation for months or years.  That said I still pick up the odd special edition disc because I love the film and want a special edition.

When I was recently informed that -Film Master's was releasing a two disc special edition of THE GIANT GILA MONSTER that included a special edition of THE KILLER SHREWS I jumped at the chance to get my hands on the set and I wasn’t disappointed.

I have had the pairing of these two films in my head for decades. Ever since Sinister Cinema began turning out Drive in Double feature VHS tapes, the first of which was a pairing of the films. In the 40 or so years since they did that I invariably end up watching the two films together in one way or another, short of a single film airing on Svengoolie.  Such was the case  when I watched these two film I watched them together.

If you’ve never seen the films before  I should probably give you a quick over view of each.

THE GIANT GILA MONSTER is the story of a giant Gila monster that wanders across a small town causing all sorts of havoc. It all comes to head when some smart ass kids come up with a means of taking the beast out.  The monster is an actual lizard roaming around miniature sets. It’s not the best giant monster film ever made, there really isn’t any effort to integrate the beast with actual people so the effects sequences seem from a different movie. That said the film is still a lot of fun. If it wasn’t I wouldn’t have watched it the two or three hundred times I’ve seen it.

THE KILLER SHREWS is one of my favorite films of the drive-in era. It’s the story of a group of people where people go to a remote island where scientists have lost control of the giant shrews (collies in fright masks)  they have bred.  The shrews are destroying everything and killing anything alive with their poisonous bite.  Trapped in a compound the group has to figure out how to get to the boat and off the island before the shrews break in and eat them. It’s a blast and a half that is both funny for all the wrong reasons (the masks) and scary (the masks).

First thing I need  say is that Film Master‘s release presents both films in both 1:85 (theatrical) and 1:33(TV). Both films have been restored and  are look frighteningly good. Watching the film with my brother we both were shocked that these  two warhorse films were given more love than most recent films. They look great.

Having seen the films way too many times I skipped watching the films straight and instead simply focused on the extras, which meant that I watched the films with the commentary tracks. GILA has a track featuring by Larry Strothe, James Gonis, Shawn Sheridan and Matt Weinhold from The Monster Party podcast and SHREWS has Jason A. Ney​. I liked both of the commentary tracks. I’m a sucker for a good commentary track because I love to learn more about the films I love.  Having been reading on these films for years I didn’t think there were any tidbits left to learn, but the truth is there were a few mixed in with some of the stories about how the films came together and made it to the drive-in screens across America. More importantly the tracks here were just fun to listen to. I love to listen to people with a passion for film talks about smaller films and these two films have that. Listening to the commentary tracks here is like listening to a friend talk over lunch.

The other extras include a short doc called Ray Kellogg: An Unsung Master; an archival interview with star, Don Sullivan, conducted by author Bryan Senn in 2009, radio commercials and book with excellent essays on the films

This collection is an absolute delight and if you like old school drive in films this double disc set (in both Blu Ray and DVD ) is for you

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