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Sampo & Erhardt

Sci-Fi Archives

Visit our archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.

Goodbye Sci-Fi

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett reflect on MST3K's final broadcast.

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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 (263 votes, average: 4.44 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. Graboidz says:

    Just something goofy I picked up on IMBD, the star and hammering singer of “Giant Gila Monster” Don Sullivan became the head chemist of Vidal Sassoon’s R&D department.


  2. EpcotServo says:

    This is a very good episode, but the movie is always a real stinker to watch if you’ve seen it more than twice. It does feel like it goes by quick though. The “Leg Up” segment is the best, and it always makes me laugh. Also I’ve always liked Joel’s closet cafe bit.

    Here’s my little tidbit of info…

    The Giant Gila Monster poster is featured in the Sci-Fi Drive In Cafe at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World resort.

    The ACTUAL names of the songs, as stated by the poster as “Rock & Roll Hits!”

    “My baby, she rocks”
    “I ain’t made that way”
    “The Gila monster crawl”

    The guys note that Don Sullivan appears in #419-“The Rebel Set”

    Oh, I sing whenever I sing whenever I sing…


  3. Joey Stink Eye Smiles says:

    Let me have one of them there sodey pops.


  4. Slider says:

    Who put sodey pop in my sodey pop?


  5. magicvoice says:

    I always loved it whenever Pearl would call Crow Art in later years.
    I love a good self-reference reference. I always wondered if people who were new viewers during the Sci-Fi years were at home going “What the hell?
    Along the same lines, does anyone here know why sometimes Frank would call Forrester Steve?


  6. Unless I’m mistaken, this episode was the last MST3K episode to have the “Turn Down Your Lights” graphic at the beginning.


  7. Sampo says:

    magicvoice: That used to be in the FAQ years ago. It was a topic of much conjecture among fans until Frank personally said it was just a random non-sequitur. I took it out of the FAQ a long time ago, because people stopped asking. :-)


  8. GersonK says:

    – Frank mentions the Mole People. Is this the last we hear of them?
    – Joel’s liquor bottle in segment 2 is actually a bottle of A1. Ewww.
    – On the dated reference front, this is the second episode in a row with a reference to the then current version of Madonna. Last time it was comparing the astronaut’s still somewhat novel headset mics to Madonna’s. This time it’s Joel’s early riff “Oh, it’s a scene from Truth or Dare.”


  9. Mysteryman says:

    Wow, I remember that Zima commercial. It came out right after they got rid of the commericals with the weird “Zima guy.” I don’t remember if there were other commercials like it or if it was the only one. I also don’t know how it was supposed to convince me to drink Zima.


  10. fishbulb says:

    This is one of my favorite episodes.

    “Do I go backwards?”
    “Go ahead!”
    “But, should I go left?”

    “This is the Chapin brother they don’t talk about.”

    And of course, “Bad movie? You’re soaking in it!”, which was used in the promos for a long time.

    The “Art” letter confused me for a while, until I rewatched “Jungle Goddess” and had a flash of realization. I thought I was the first person to figure it out. I was so naive.


  11. Will Matlack says:

    I’ve always loved this episode. I think it was the pinnacle of host segments making fun of the actual movie we were watching. I really missed that during the Sci Fi period, although their skits were brilliant as well.


  12. Joey Stink Eye Smiles says:

    I think it’s about time for him to put his knee up. Yep, called it.


  13. Sampo says:

    Joey SES: That reminds me of a something I thought of when that riff went by–that riff depends on maintaining the illusion that they are seeing the movie for the first time as they are riffing it. It always seems a little weird when they do a riff like that now, since these days we are all steeped in the background info that they watched each movie many times and that each riff was scripted and carefully timed. Still, I laughed.


  14. fireballil says:

    Sometimes they didn’t do that, Sampo. Tom said that Mike watched The Beast of Yucca Flats as part of his training BEFORE it was an episode. Also, Mike mentioned Jet Jaguar during The Sinister Urge, and Crow asks, “How do you know?”


  15. Kenneth Morgan says:

    Three points:

    -I think Frank may have been the one in recovery. If I recall correctly, he makes a quick mention of alcaholic blackouts in his early life in one of his entries in the ACEG.

    -One riff that younger viewers might not get: Crow imitating Alan Funt from “Candid Camera” (“We thought it would be funny to see a hopeless drunk try to drive a car. Let’s watch…”).

    -One callback to an erlier episode: Joel & the ‘bots admit that Hee-La is pretty much just Spy-Dor (from “Earth vs. the Spider”) with slightly different costumes. They even re-use a joke from that sketch (Joel’s “We’ll start with the songs we know, then do the songs we don’t know.”).

    Unless I;m mistaken on these…


  16. Kenneth Morgan says:

    Sorry about the spelling errors in my previous post; I really should learn how to proof-read.


  17. Meranalf says:

    This was the first MST3K episode I ever saw, and I watched it at my birthday party. I consider being introduced to Mystery Science Theater 3000 to be one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever gotten. Generally I think this one is a good one to start on. All the host segments have something to do with the movie, the film is dumb but watchable, and there are a lot of good comments from J&TB.

    Other possible points of interest:
    Even without a head, Tom Servo manages to make his trademark dash back into frame on Movie Sign.

    By my count, someone puts his knee up nine times in the film, plus three more times where a scene starts with a character with his knee already up.

    The song J&TB sing during the train crash is “The Happy Day Express,” an old Vacation Bible School song.


  18. Sean74 says:

    This was one of the first episodes of MST that I watched, and to me it was among the funniest of Season 4 (which is saying something, since this is regarded as the show’s best season ever). What cracked me up the most was that it featured a sheriff that was useless as a 3-dollar bill. He was always either asking Chase’s help on investigations, or calling “head-quarters” for assistance. Servo blurting out “Do we maybe have a SHERIFF in the vincity?!” always makes me fall over from laughter. Do you think that producer Ken Curtis (TV’s “Gunsmoke”) and that elderly drunk with the jalopy were drinking buddies in real life?


  19. J.K. Robertson says:

    I don’t have this episode handy right now, what was Joel’s reference to They Might Be Giants? TMBG is one of my favorite bands!


  20. John H. says:

    Ah, I always missed the Turn Down Your Lights joke when they stopped doing it, replacing it with the episode production card. These days the joke’s almost forgotten, how it was a parody of the “Presented in Stereo (where available)” graphics some TV shows at the time would flash at the bottom of the screen when they started.


  21. Seth Anders says:

    In addition to the Maxwell Car sound effect that is mentioned above, there are no less than three other references to Jack Benny in this episode. Can you find them all?


  22. bdtrppr6 says:


    this is my favorite episode, mainly cuz Joel sez
    “BLALALALALALALALALALALALA!” everytime the monster appears, tongue waving. hilarious!


  23. fishbulb says:

    3 Jack Benny riffs besides the Maxwell, huh? I’m on it, but it means I’ll have to watch the movie again. No sacrifice too large…


  24. fishbulb says:

    (back from watching the movie again)

    When Don Sullivan’s name comes up in the credits, Crow says “Oh, Don!”. This is how Benny often summoned Don Wilson.

    When Wheeler enters the room the sheriff’s in, Servo announces, “The Jack Benny Program!”, which was said at the top of the show by Don Wilson. Wheeler looks a little like Benny with his glasses on.

    When the sheriff says he’s going to dust for fingerprints, Crow says as Jack Benny, “Oh, Rochester, will you dust the truck?” This is the kind of request Benny would often make to Rochester.


  25. Joel Kazoo says:

    “I like sodey-pop!” :grin: This is fun to say whenever you’re in a conversation and people start to take themselves too seriously. Having a sodey-pop is not required, but does tend to make it funnier.


  26. lpydmblb says:

    This was one of my favorite performances from Joel, especially the ongoing riff on the gila monster referenced above.

    Its always fun to watch the sheriff in this, since he is obviously a professional actor lost in a sea of “community theater rejects.” And BTW, as a latecomer to the show (no CC where I lived until late ’94), seeing Renaissance festival punching bags closed the deal for me.

    Re the first time seeing the move illusion: Sampo certainly would know more about this, but I always assumed that the writers made the joke on the first run through and kept it to make the final product look spontaneous. That was my read of my favorite instance of this, when the security guards shot Dr. Ted Nelson for, apparently, shouting out “I’m Dr. Ted Nelson!”


  27. Sean74 says:

    Hey, no one has mentioned this yet: do you think the supposedly French actress playing Don Sullivan’s girlfriend was really French, or was she just really bad at announciating? I thought the movie should have included subtitles every time she talked! And what about Chase’s little sister…in one scene she can barely walk, and the next she’s “hauling furniture”, as Crow pointed out.

    One more thing: sheriff, will you please forget the skidmarks!!


  28. Seth Anders says:

    Spot on, fishbulb. You win a gold robot made mostly of high density kevlar! :wink:


  29. Cubby says:


    She was really French. Seeing this movie on Svengoolie years ago, Sven pointed out that she was a former Miss France in the Miss Universe contest or somesuch.

    I think my favorite riff is “You should have washed it in cold water!” though there are many killer riffs in this.


  30. Sean74 says:


    I guess director Ray Kellogg had a thing for beauty contestants: I believe Ingrid Goude of “The Killer Shrews” fame was a finalist in a Miss Universe pageant in the late ’50’s (from Sweden). More about her when that episode comes up. Now on to “City Limits”….


  31. skenderberg says:

    Possibly the best Giant Critter film to appear on MST3K, not counting some of the very funny Japanese Rubber monster films. The main character in this one is so noble, he might actually have been able to walk on water.

    Favorite riff: (re: the Gila Monster’s death) “They killed off the only likeable character!”

    Favorite host segment: The “Leg Up” Servo on Cinema sketch.

    My full review of this episode is here.


  32. GizmonicTemp says:

    This episode had 636 riffs over 1:13:18 for an average of 8.677 RPMs. That’s a ranking of #120 all-time.


  33. R.A. Roth says:

    Believe it or not, I had never seen this episode until my GGM solo disc showed up yesterday, so I skipped reading this EG, and having read it, I was instantly annoyed to discover that Rhino could have included GGM in the original Collection 10 with no copyright problems because GGM is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN. ARRRGGG! Add to that, that I don’t even LIKE the Godzilla vs. Megalon episode but paid a premium (about double) to obtain a copy because Giant Spider Invasion was part of that discontinued collection. The SMALL saving grace is seeing Trace, Joel, and Frank reprise their rolls in the GGM Upgrade skit. But Frank as Tom Servo? That was just weird, almost dirty.



  34. swh1939 says:

    That wasn’t Frank as Servo, it was Josh — the original voice of Tom Servo.


  35. Larry Hastings says:

    Actually, that was Frank as Servo. Dunno why; maybe it’s because he was handy, as he appeared in the live-action segments.


  36. Lee B. says:

    Re the antique telephones:

    I don’t know about here in the US, but according to my mother, rural Manitoba still used those in the 1960s!


  37. crowschmo says:



  38. Spector says:

    One of the all-time greats! Really funny stuff here from Joel and the Bots and this episode to me was the harbinger of the great stuff to come in this season, which I consider one of the very best seasons in MST3K history. Really enjoyed Servo’s “leg-up” segment. Also got a giggle every time Joel and the ‘Bots start singing “The Munsters” theme song every time one of those jalopies appeared. And what the hell was with the French (I’m assuming that’s what she was) girlfriend of the lead? Damn she was weird to listen to.

    “Hava na Gila, Hava na Gila”.

    “Hey, who put Sodey-Pop in my Sodey-Pop!”

    “Sing whenever I sing whenever I sing” “Shut up! Shut up!! SHUT UP!!!”


  39. Rick&Julie says:

    Being long time fans of Dark Shadows, just an observation. At the beginning of the movie Joel makes a Dark Shadows/Barnabas Collins reference. Near the end of the movie, they reference Conrad Bain, (dad on Different Strokes), who had a recuring role in Dark Shadows. Normally I’d say “coincidence”, but with these guys, who knows. Aloha, R & J


  40. Robyn #2 says:

    Took me forever to remember it, but the line “Do you like to make money? Sure, we all do!” is from those old 1980s commercials for ICS starring Sally Struthers.


  41. Loran Alan Davis says:

    In the film, the bots frequently sing the “Munsters” theme. Ironically, the composer for “The Giant Gila Monster”, Jack Marshall, also composed the “Munsters” theme!


  42. Miles says:

    Favorite riff (I couldn’t stop laughing):

    Sheriff (at road-side suitcase):

    “A smart feller could put his knee up on such a thing”

    The knee riffing was simply superb, I may have seen this ep a couple years ago, and I am less than halfway through it this time, so I bet the knee skit will have me in stitches.

    It may be just me, but there were many people in this film much harder to understand than the beautiful french girl. I thought her accent was great, I wish she would talk to me with that accent.

    (Everybody should lay off of the “funny accent” talk, for crying out loud just about the whole country is European by ancestry, you only poke fun at yourselves.)


  43. RockyJones says:

    Love this one…it’s an all-time fave, although I long ago renamed it “Speculation Showdown”. It seems like three quarters of the movie is spent watching Chase and the Sheriff standing around with one foot propped up on one thing or another, just wildly speculating about random stuff.

    And of course, most importantly, let’s not forget that “those tire marks go at a direct right angle to the direction of travel!”


  44. Watch-out-for-Snakes says:

    I can’t believe there’s not been more mention of this, but this episode has the best invention exchange EVER! HANDS DOWN!

    The renaissance fair punching bags almost make me pee my pants, it’s so funny. Dr. F’s TV show host, monotone delivery is pitch perfect and Frank’s rage/jubilation at wrecking havoc on said punching bags is a joy, an absolute joy, to watch.

    there’s the Ratcatcher:
    “Excuse me sir, is that your head or did your neck throw up?”
    “Oh, bite me, Frodo!”

    The ever popular, leather mug maker:
    “Please sir, sample my wares.”
    “Sample my fist, you community theater reject!”

    Lovable Harlequin:
    “I am Harlequin.”
    “I am your worst nightmare! 23 dollars to get in! Huzzah my butt, you satin suited Sultan reading loser”

    I also love the way Frank wrings his hands together, prepping up for a big swing.

    The Mads do some great, great invention exchanges, “hard pills to swallow” and “evil baseball promotions” instantly come to mind, but this one is the supreme, mamma-jamma. FUNNIEST INVENTION EXCHANGE EVER!

    God, I love this show.


  45. Chick B says:

    Golf shoes for everybody!


  46. erasmus hall says:

    Happy Thanksgiving! miss the turkey day marathons-
    Love French girls who summer in Southern swamp lands of USA-


  47. Creepygirl says:

    A fun crazy episode with great host segments. In my opinion a big step up from 401 – Space Travelers. I never thought that this would make a good newbie intro episode before. Now that I’ve seen it again and think about it, I agree it would make my top ten intro episodes for newbies.

    I’m giving 402 – The Giant Gila Monster 4.5 out of 5.


  48. I have Volume 10.2, but I’ve only ever watched it once. It didn’t really stand out when I first watched it, but it couldn’t hurt to give it another viewing.


  49. Spector says:

    Now, this is more like it! After a slow opening episode for Season Four, the Brains quickly rebound with a real cheesy flick, which of course they mine for comedic gold! A strong episode from start to finish, terrific host segments (love the “Leg Up” bit), and consistently funny riffing throughout. “Who put sodie pop in my sodie pop?” Five out of five stars, one of the best episodes in the show’s history, and thankfully, a forerunner of more to come in Season Four.


  50. dsman71 says:

    I LOVE this episode..they all had that energy in their riffs unlike Space Travelers…
    Joels Hair was receding noticeably in this episode – unlike the previous episode..its almost like several months went by between 401 and 402.
    Anyway , Legend Films took care of their print, remastered it, and even colorized it, so if you like this movie or the Killer Shrews – get that DVD..
    I love all the skid mnark references :)
    Joels Hair
    Joels Knees
    Happy Thanksgiving
    No therapy today !


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