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Episode Guide: 402- The Giant Gila Monster

Movie: (1959) A 30-foot killer lizard is loose in the woods near a small town and its gang of hot-roddin’ teens.

First shown: 6/13/92
Opening: Joel has made Crow and Tom the Thing with Two Heads
Invention exchange: J&tB show off their sitcom radio, the Mads demonstrate their renaissance festival punching bags
Host segment 1: Crow and Tom disrupt Joel’s soda shop sketch
Host segment 2: J&tB discuss the funny drunk
Host segment 3: “Servo on Cinema” looks at Ray Kellogg’s “Leg Up” directorial style, but Crow and Joel horn in
End: J&tB have formed the rock group Hee-La, Joel reads some letters (including one from TV’s Frank!)
Stinger: Old guy gags on sody pop
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (265 votes, average: 4.45 out of 5)


• It’s hard to go wrong with this episode. It’s got it all: weird movie, great riffing and some great host segments. I love it. It’s also pretty good as a starter episode.
• This episode replaced episode 212- GODZILLA VS. MEGALON when Rhino released “Volume 10.2.”
• This episode became infamous in the 1995-1996 period on Comedy Central, as a number of other episodes dropped out of the rotation due to movie rights issues. The movie in this episode is in public domain, which meant that CC could play it as often as it liked, and it played it a lot, so much so that some online MSTies began to grumble about (yes, topic number 386 of the things online MSTies grumbled about).
• You’ve got to assume there were multiple puppeteers in the trench for that bit with the decapitated bots. Must have gotten a little crowded.
• That’s Mike, of course, as the radio announcer
• We get more trashing of the Renaissance Fest, last bashed in episode 303- POD PEOPLE. “Bite me, Frodo.”
• You can see Dr. F’s mic cord during the invention exchange
• Servo does his great coughing car sound, sort of an impression of Mel Blanc as Jack Benny’s car.
• Mildly naughty riff: “Old rubber? No! No!”
• Tom and Joel spit in the sheriff’s hat! Ew!
• The sound in this movie is uniformly terrible. One of the problems with a PD movie is that nobody takes care of it.
• Part of the plot of this movie involves our hero eavesdropping on a party line, a long-dead technology almost everywhere, and I sometimes wonder if young people even understand what’s going on. Our hero also has one of those Hooterville/Mayberry put-the-thing-to-your-ear-and-talk-into-the-thing-on-the-wall phones. Did people really still have those in the 50s?
• Another “broken sketch” sketch this week: this time it’s the bots who sabotage Joel’s sketch.
• Gypsy must be in a goth period. She’s got black lipstick.
• This is the episode that would give us the “sing whenever I sing whenever I sing” bit they’d do in many future episodes whenever somebody was banging or pounding on something.
• For those who have no idea who Crazy Guggenheim was, check out this piece by comedian Larry Miller, who, by the way, is also mentioned by in this episode. He takes a bit to get to his point, but it’s worth it.
• The little bit Joel and the bots do in unison at the end is a popular reading from AA meetings. Surely this was a contribution from Frank.
• Tom notices the reel change. I do that all the time.
• Joel does a little impression of comedian Kevin Meaney.
• Joel asks: “Was the ‘Richard Speck’ a popular haircut back then?” Yes, Joel. Sadly, it was.
• Movie note: Not that I expect much from this movie, but I feel I must note that in the scene where the old drunkie guy is racing the train, there’s footage of at least three, maybe four different trains that are all supposed to be the same train.
• There’s a nice little TV in-joke during Tom’s “Servo on Cinema” sketch when Tom turns to face a non-existent second camera during his introduction and has to be corrected by Joel.
• Nice film editing by Cambot!
• Joel (sort of) sneaks in the name of beloved cult band “They Might Be Giants”
• Callbacks: J&tB sing the “Wild Rebels” theme song. Also: “Glenn is 50 feet tall.” (War of the Colossal Beast)
• For those who wondered why Pearl called Crow “Art” many seasons later, it’s because of the illustration that accompanied one of the letters Joel reads in this episode. Apparently the young letter writer had just seen episode 203- JUNGLE GODDESS, in which Joel imitates the way Jackie Gleason would introduce his cast and the end of the show. For those who remember it, he would always save longtime pal Art Carney for last, shouting “ART CARNEY!” over the already-applauding crowd. Joel, in a takeoff of that, shouted “ART CROW!” The little letter writer, not understanding the reference, just assumed Crow’s name was Art.
• Watch and listen to Crow during the closing segment. Note how he says not a word, and when spoken to only sort of hums, exactly the way somebody WOULD do if they had a giant rolled-up tongue in their mouth and was waiting for the cue to unfurl it. I love it.
• Cast and crew roundup: Executive producer Gordon McLendon, a Houston media and real estate tycoon, fancied himself a movie mogul, but he only mad this movie and the movie in episode 407-THE KILLER SHREWS, and he did so with most of the same crew, including producer Ken Curtis (yes, Festus of TV’s “Gunsmoke”), director Ray Kellogg (who also wrote the story), script writer Jay Simms, cinematographer Wilfred Cline, editor Aaron Stellm makeup artist Corrine Daniel, produiction manager Ben Chapman (who was also a stuntman on “The Mole People”), Art director Louis Caldwell, set designer Louise Caldwell (who also worked on “The Amazing Transparent Man”), sound man Earl Snyder (who also worked on “The Amazing Transparent Man” and “The Crawling Hand”) and sound effects guy Milton Citron. In front of the camera, Don Sullivan was also in “The Rebel Set.”
• CreditsWatch: Host segments directed by Jim Mallon. The name John Carney appears at the end of the list of writers; he would not appear again. Bridget Jones was added to the writers list for the rest of the season. Dr. F’s last name is still spelled Forrestor.
• Fave riff: “Not the coda! No!” Honorable mention: “Things make sense when yer all liquored up!”

136 Replies to “Episode Guide: 402- The Giant Gila Monster”

  1. dad1153 says:

    Love this episode even though its not one I come back regularly to. The ‘leg up’ and ‘Joel speaks the Gila Monster’s thoughts’ running gags are priceless, the constant riffing about the movie’s peculiarities (like the sheriff that’s more wrong than right) almost always hits the mark and the cheesy/cheap B&W photography/effects were practically made for “MST3K” mocking. Host segments are neat; you can’t go wrong with mocking renaissance festival traditions, and Frank’s ‘community theater’ remark actually made me laugh out loud. The show’s in-joke about Crow being called ‘Art’ takes shape here, and it’s a beaut.

    FOUR STARS for “The Giant Gila Monster.” Favorite riff: ‘Hey, one at a time. We’ve only got one boom mike.’


  2. Green Switch says:

    As was said in #47 and #79, this is a great episode for beginners.

    Everything combines well – the movie’s cheap and laughable, but it still has watchability, the characters are amusing, and the jokes and host segments are lots of fun.

    I really liked all the Munsters riffs and jokes involving the old drunk guy. The Giant Gila Monster voiceovers were good for a laugh too.


  3. Yipe Stripes says:

    I got one leg slightly higher than the other right now.

    does that count?


  4. Sitting Duck says:

    The Giant Gila Monster passes the Bechdel Test. Lisa is asked by an unnamed girl why she was late and she replies.

    The episode immediately dates itself by referring to the L.A. Rams.

    I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a leather mug maker at any of the Renaissance Festivals I’ve attended. Is it a Midwest thing? Also, the highest I ever paid to get into one was eighteen bucks.

    Crow gets the two film titles jumbled. It Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies.

    I think the last comical drunk was Corky in Tales of the Gold Monkey. At least in an American production. Kogoro Mori/Richard Moore of Detective Conan/Case Closed may qualify as a comical drunk.

    Too bad they hadn’t featured the Last Clear Chance short before this episode. Then they could have done a, “Why don’t they look?” callback when the comical drunk raced to the rail crossing.

    @ #96: IIRC the movie takes place in Texas.

    Favorite riffs

    It’s God-roasted for great taste.

    “You warn the gang I’ll be cruising that pass that night. No dragging.”
    And I just bought those red satin pumps.

    Hey, Mr. Douglas. I got those bodies buried just in time.

    Set me free, booze. I need you.

    And for killing that salesman, you win this Samsonite luggage!

    He called me son. No wonder Mom cries whenever I mention the sheriff.

    “You know how to speak English well enough to get a job anywhere.”
    Yeah, maybe at a 7-11.

    Oedipus, put me down. You’ll poke your eyes out.

    “Now you’re broke, aren’t you?”
    No, but my spirit is.

    Things make sense when you’re all liquored up.

    Stupid Man! More powerful than an Okie-motive!

    You’re under arrest for being bad comic relief.

    See if you can get your gun back from the bouncer.

    Tonight on Night Gallery, Lillian Hellman, Edward R. Murrow, and I will sneak a smoke behind the barn.

    It’s the other leading brand of nitro.

    I love the smell of lizard in the morning. Smells like chicken.


  5. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    The sheriff in this movie is only continuing the long tradition, dating back to pulp magazines and dime novels, of lawmen who stand around and let private citizens do their work for them. If made ten years later, this movie probably couldn’t have escaped having a comic relief dog because, really, what are Chase and his friends but “meddling kids”?


  6. Hotchka! says:

    What I like about the Tolkien reading loser line is that this was way before the Peter Jackson films made everyone a Tolkien fan and a riff like that was still slightly obscure.


  7. Bruce Boxliker says:

    (Puts leg up on nearest object)

    Good episode! I’m not as big a fan of it as it seems most everyone else is, but I still enjoy it. Plus, I like pretty much any giant monster movie.

    Was there something cut, or does the Sheriff really just jump to the illogical but accurate conclusion that a giant gila monster is their culprit? The only real hint about it was the town drunk! Then the angry oil-tycoon guy shows up & has come to the SAME conclusion! I understand why the sheriff didn’t just agree with him, but what’s up with this town where they make assumptions of giant animals being at fault, instead of freak weather, psychopaths with forklifts, or whatever? The power goes out – giant electric eels must be invading & draining all the power! It’s an overly windy day – giant pigeons are flying around!
    Oh, and hey – the sheriff DID do something, he called a Zoologist (most likely while he had his leg up on his desk)!

    They must have some pretty bad RenFests up north. I’ve only ever been to the Kansas City RenFest, which is great (or at least was last time I went, 13 years ago).


  8. Torgospizza-NJ says:

    @ Sitting Duck #105- My Favorite Riff: “Tough Room”


  9. swh1939 says:

    Still love this episode.

    Still hate that I can see what I said four years ago and *gulp* eight years ago, reminding me how much of an uninformed clod I was. I’d like to think I’m better now.


  10. Prime Minister Jm J. Bullock (pondoscp) says:

    The car coughing is a Jack Benny reference? I always thought it was Speed Buggy! Somebody back me up on this! ;)
    (and Mel Blanc was Speed Buggy, so there’s that connection)


  11. Lisa H. says:

    @105 Sitting Duck,

    I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a leather mug maker at any of the Renaissance Festivals I’ve attended. Is it a Midwest thing?

    Pretty sure I’ve seen them at the NorCal Ren Faire in the past. In any case a quick Google Images search will prove that they do exist.

    Also, the highest I ever paid to get into one was eighteen bucks.

    The going rate for the NorCal Renaissance Faire these days is $25 and for the SoCal Renaissance Pleasure Faire $28 (they used to be run by the same organization, but haven’t been for a long time). Of course, that’s 2015 dollars; $23 in the early 1990s sounds pretty steep. (I was actually still going to the NorCal Faire with my mother around that time, but I was a young teenager and I don’t remember what it cost.)


  12. Bruce Boxliker says:

    Prime Minister Jm J. Bullock (pondoscp):

    The car coughing is a Jack Benny reference? I always thought it was Speed Buggy! Somebody back me up on this!
    (and Mel Blanc was Speed Buggy, so there’s that connection)

    Yeah, I always assumed it was Speed Buggy, myself.


  13. Lex says:

    “I am Harlequin.”

    “I am your worst nightmare!”

    Yes, I remembered this episode being played a lot, too. At least it was a good one.


  14. EricJ says:

    Prime Minister Jm J. Bullock (pondoscp):

    The car coughing is a Jack Benny reference? I always thought it was Speed Buggy! Somebody back me up on this!
    (and Mel Blanc was Speed Buggy, so there’s that connection)

    Mel Blanc was Jack Benny’s ancient Maxwell jalopy starting up on the radio show (with thirty seconds of wheezes, sputters and hiccups)
    from which the Speed Buggy shtick came thirty years later.


  15. Jeff says:

    I love, love, love the letter from TV’s Frank. The second time I watched the ep I had forgotten about it and was thrilled all over again. Frank’s reaction to his letter being read is perfect.


  16. littleaimishboy says:

    Top Ten episode.


  17. thequietman says:

    “One Adam twelve, One Adam twelve, what are you doing in Wisconsin?”

    This one is special to me because it’s the first I can really remember parts of from a time before I was a diehard fan of the show. My parents would watch MST3k themselves from time to time and I specifically remember the Encyclopedia Britannica riff, the ‘soda shop’ sketch and the ending when the kid blows up the gila monster with the nitro.

    So yes, this was my true introduction to the wonder that is Mystery Science Theater 3000.


  18. 402 – The Giant Gila Monster

    Memorable Riffs:
    Servo: “It’s young Jim Morrison as the Lizard King!”

    Drunk Guy: “How’d you get me into bed?”
    Servo: “It was the cologne.”

    Crow: “Oh, don’t say ‘bald spot’. I’m sensitive.”

    Crow: “I’m gonna go and listen to my cat scream.”

    Joel: “He’s phoning in his lines!”

    Servo: “Look out, everyone! There’s a forked tongue in the road!”

    Servo: “Woah! Watch the pizza!”

    Joel: “Sheriff, you’re breathing all funny!”

    Fav. Riff:
    Servo: “Well he about crawled out of my jurisdiction.”

    – With there being an “Odd Couple” reboot, the opening segment has sorta become relevant again.

    – This won’t be the first time we hear Servo compliment his own behind.

    – In Segment 1, Servo has something attached to his back. Anyone know what that it?

    – Gypsy has arms in Segment 2!

    – Before seeing this episode for the first time, I didn’t know what “blocking” was.

    – In the closing segment we see Servo without his top red cap! Also, Crow’s neck extends.

    – I still wonder what became of “Shannen”, the young girl that misidentified Crow as “Art”.

    Best Segment: Segment 3 gets a real leg up. Har-Har.
    Worst Segment: Segment 1 is yet another one of those sketches that doesn’t go anywhere.

    Overall: Not a favorite. I find the movie too boring, and the riffing isn’t really strong except when the gila monster is present, and the lizard is present much. ** stars.


  19. Cornjob says:

    I like Stimpy Fest better than Ren Fest.


  20. touches no one's life, then leaves says:


    Does anyone know what Chase actually IS singing instead of “I sing whenever I sing whenever I sing”? Thanks.


  21. Bruce Boxliker says:

    touches no one’s life, then leaves:

    Does anyone know what Chase actually IS singing instead of “I sing whenever I sing whenever I sing”? Thanks.

    Complete and utter nonsense. Most of it rhyming with ‘sing’.


  22. Terry the Sensitive Knight says:


    And yes, the Gila Monster was the only likable character. RIP


  23. Terry the Sensitive Knight says:

    I would also like to point out that the Barn Dance has the lamest, whitest DJ ever. Cripes.


  24. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    No, I could make out “My baby she rocks and rolls whenever she walks and strolls” OSLT. Most of it was lost under the hammering, though.


  25. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    And, like an idiot, I’m only just now realizing that I can use that one line to search for the song in its entirety:


    Full lyrics to “My Baby, She Rocks”

    My baby she rocks and rolls

    and rocks whenever she walks

    my baby she rocks and rolls

    and rocks whenever she talks

    My baby’s a rock-n-rollin’ tippy-toein

    Never knowin’ always glowin’ baby

    My baby she swings, and sings

    And swings whenever I bring her things

    She swings, and sings

    And swings for little diamond rings

    Swing and ring and bells’ll ring

    And happy flingin’ pleasure bringin’ baby

    My baby she rocks, and rolls

    My baby she rocks whenever she walks

    My baby she swings and sings

    Swings whenever I bring her things

    And rock-n-rollin’ tippy toein’

    Never knowin’ always glowin’

    Swing and sing and bells’ll ring

    And happy flingin’ pleasure bringin’ baby.


    So I didn’t get that one line exactly right. Shrug.

    “My baby she swings…Swings whenever I bring her things”

    So French girls will “swing” if you buy them nice “things.” Hm.


  26. Bruce Boxliker says:

    Well, I got the utter nonsense part right, anyway.


  27. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    BTW that Larry Miller/Crazy Guggenheim piece notwithstanding, the unseen customer’s name was “Mr. Dennehy.” At least, there’s a cassette of songs from The Jackie Gleason Show and one of them is “Hiya, Mr. Dennehy,” clearly spelled on the list of songs. :-)

    Let’s see if I can remember the lyrics:

    Hiya, Mr. Dennehy, hiya, Mr. Dennehy,
    Pull up a chair and I’ll tell ya all the news.
    Moriarity the undertaker told me off today
    And said ‘twould be his pleasure when he carries me away!

    I heard from Crazy Guggenheim,
    And that lover Itzy Callahan,
    He’s crazy too but crazy like a fox!
    He bought new clothes
    And he proposed
    To Muriel Bushkirk,
    She owns her home,
    She lives alone,
    Besides, she goes to work!
    And Tinhorn Schwartz, Dud Duddleson, and Fatso Fogarty,
    They’ll be dancin’ at the weddin’, Mr. Dennehy!

    Officer Johnny Dolan is gonna direct the cars!
    Alderman Paddy Nodo is gonna pass out cigars!
    Jimmy Proce and Bookshelf Robinson, me and Teddy Gelanza
    Hired tails from Gaylord Farquahr for the extravaganza!

    Hiya, Mr. Dennehy, hiya, Mr. Dennehy.
    So how’s the wife and what’ll ya have, the same?
    Fatso Fogarty
    Y’know that he
    Became a pop, no doubt.
    And now I guess
    We’ll get no rest
    From THAT big blabbermouth!

    And good old Duddy Duddleson
    Fell off a horse while on the run
    And landed in the hospital again!
    He told the nurse
    The pain was worse,
    He wished that he was dead!
    ‘Twas just a game,
    The doctor came
    and said, “Get out of bed!
    You’re just a fake,
    It’s not a break,
    You landed on your HEAD!”
    Yes, begorra, he’s a terror, Mr. Dennehy!
    (Watch out for them swingin’ doors, Mr. Dennehy!)
    Yes, begorra, he’s a terror, Mr. Dennehy!


    I probably got a few words and names wrong but I think that’s BASICALLY it. :-)


  28. touches no one's life, then leaves says:


    >>>>>Mildly naughty riff: “Old rubber? No! No!”
    Speaking of which, how many people caught on about the sheriff’s concern that the teenage couple who disappeared early in the film might have been “in trouble”? “Y’know…*trouble*.” Which fits right into his remark to the boy’s father that if the two were out together all night, he should HOPE they ran off to get married. As 1950s veiled references to teenage sexuality go, that’s…*an* example. See, the sheriff was able to think a FEW things through…

    In Season Seven, Mike mentions Jerry while riffing “The Mole People.”

    Well, it’s more like it was supposed to make you REMEMBER Zima…and it obviously worked like a charm. ;-)

    On one of the Cinematic Titanic DVDs, and it would be nice if I remembered which one, Frank mentions that he hasn’t taken a drink in, uh, many years. When Frank seems to be on the verge of taking a drink (Josh had broken out a wine bottle during the pause/break), his sponsor calls him on his cellphone despite there being no real way that said sponsor could know that Frank was about to take a drink. So there’s that, anyway.

    >>>>>And what about Chase’s little sister…in one scene she can barely walk, and the next she’s “hauling furniture”
    Obviously, her condition improved in the course of the movie. We should be pleased for her.

    >>>>>And what the hell was with the French (I’m assuming that’s what she was) girlfriend of the lead?
    Not everything has to be a plot point. The lives of many real people are full of random oddities, why should fictional people be any different?

    “And what about Scarecrow’s brain?!”

    He also had a major supporting role on “Maude.” That doesn’t prove anything, either. ;-)

    Not many people know that there are lyrics to the Munsters theme. If anyone’s interested, they shouldn’t be that hard to find.

    If the riff “Oh, is that you, Myrt?” ever crops up when a film character uses a telephone, that too is a reference to a party line, from some early 20th century radio program or another; it was used in some 1940s Warner Brothers cartoons.

    I think you’d find that to be one of the less disturbing practices of 1950s small town southern sheriffs…

    I’m not sure that’s what the rule of three means.

    The area would probably be more recognizable if it wasn’t in black & white. ;-)

    Well, if it’s set in Texas, of course they just take giant animals right in stride. Everything is bigger in Texas. Besides, for all we know, that same town was featured in any number of other drab giant monster films. Some people can get used to anything. (“Yeah. I once ate a woodchuck!”)

    >>>>>“I am Harlequin.” / “I am your worst nightmare!”
    That itself seems vaguely Freddy Krueger-esque to me. I can see a harlequin being someone’s worst nightmare…

    I doubt you’d find many non-white DJs in a small southern town in 1959. Seriously, people, fifty-six years ago, things were *different* than now.


  29. Juice says:

    In the scene where you see the reflection of a hand on the drunk guy’s windshield “hey look, a hand!” – I figured it was probably the director, or AD or someone pointing in the direction the actor was supposed to look, since you then see the actor turn his head in that direction. Or not.

    I have my leg up as we speak.


  30. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Re the teen blandness, B- / Z-movies frequently used to do their best to depict teenagers as non-threatening instead of hooligans and delinquents with their hula hoops and their dungarees…

    #64: And is it just me or does the mug maker punching bag look an awful lot like Torgo?

    No hat, though. Can’t be Torgo without a hat. No hat, no Torgo, not allowed.

    Which reminds me, “The Crawling Hand”‘s protagonist also had an inexplicably “foreign” girlfriend and that had no bearing on the plot either. So it’s not like it’s unprecedented.


  31. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Re my own #127:

    A trivia note on the IMDB clarifies that it’s not “Jimmy Proce,” it’s “Jimmy Probst,” but how the heck was I supposed to know that just from listening? Whoever heard of a silent B? Don’t answer that.


  32. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    BTW, seriously, did anyone else catch the significance of the young couple possibly being “in trouble”? I didn’t get it myself until I saw it mentioned in a review of the film.

    And I’m making too many posts in a row as I often do. Sorry about that, chief.


  33. goalieboy82 says:

    i think every little town back then had a town drunk. where my mom grew up (a little town) there was a town drunk.


  34. carjackfairy says:

    “The episode immediately dates itself by referring to the L.A. Rams”

    It’s not a dated riff, the team was named the LARams when he played for them. They were still the LA Rams when the episode was made but that doesnt mean the reference was dated. You wouldnt say “Jackie Robinson of the LA Dodgers”. Just sayin’


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