The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Giant Gila Monster (dir by Ray Kellogg)

The 1959 film, The Giant Gila Monster, takes place in a small Texas town, where everyone’s either a drunk, a law enforcement officer, or a teenager who wants to go the sock hop. In fact, the teens are so enthused about the sock hop that it takes them a while to notice that two of their friends are missing! What happened to Pat and Liz!?

Well, as we already know what happened because we saw it at the start of the film! Pat and Liz were parked at the ravine, making out in Pat’s car, when they fell victim to a giant Gila monster! Though, if we’re going to be honest …. the monster actually isn’t really a Gila monster. It’s just a really big lizard that was filmed wandering over around a miniature set. It moves very slowly and it sticks out its tongue at the camera. It’s a nice looking lizard but it’s no Gila monster. No matter, though! What’s important is that it’s big, it’s dangerous, and it’s making its way towards the town!

Anyway, the teens eventually figure out that their friends have disappeared and they try to appeal to the town’s useless sheriff to help them find them. The sheriff doesn’t really seem to care though. He’s got an entire town of drunks to deal with. So, it looks like the teens are going to have to save the town themselves!

The Giant Gila Monster is a pretty silly film. It’s a little over 70 minutes long and it’s obvious that the majority of the budget was spent on the cars that the various teenagers drive. It was an independent production, made to be sold to drive-ins around the South. Teenagers in 1959 probably watched the film and honked their car horns whenever the monster showed up. The script is bad, the actors are bad, the direction is bad, but you know what isn’t bad? The fake Gila Monster is actually kind of cute. I mean, we’re told that we shouldn’t like it and that it’s responsible for killing a lot of people but who cares? Whenever it shows up, slowly lumbering its way across the countryside, it’s hard not to admire the determination of the Gila Monster. Though the actors often seem to be confused by their dialogue, the lizard is obviously having the time of its life. Go, Lizard, go!

The Giant Gila Monster is one of those independent 50s monster movies that are pretty much impossible to resist. To its credit, the film does have a sense of humor about itself. It is meant to be a comedy, though most of the laughs are unintentional. And, as I said before, vintage car lovers will enjoy seeing some of the roadsters that pop up in this film. Even with all the classic cars, though, the big lizard in the main attraction. It walks around the miniature desert set as if it owns the place. The star is the monster and that’s really the way things should be.

Finally, The Giant Gila Monster was filmed outside of Dallas.  Apparently, the film was funded by none other than Gordon McLendon, who is best-known for founding Dallas’s first talk radio station, KLIF.

Horror On The Lens: Mark of the Witch (dir by Tom Moore)

Today’s horror on the lens is Mark of the Witch, a little oddity that was filmed in 1969 and released in 1970.  It’s a film about what happens when the spirit of an executed witch possesses a college student.

This is an admittedly low-budget and, some would say, amateurish production but certain scenes have a nice dream-like feel and, in the role of the witch, Marie Santell doesn’t leave a bit of scenery unchewed.  I especially enjoy her speech at the start of the film.

Plus, Mark of the Witch was filmed in my hometown of Dallas, Texas!


The Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Honor Nomadland

The Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics announced their picks for best of 2020 yesterday.  I’m sad to say that they picked the exact same winners that all the other critics groups are picking.  I mean, seriously, DFW — we’re supposed to be the individualists and the contrarians!  We’re supposed to be the ones who say, “We’re going to honor whoever we want and if you folks up north don’t like it, tough!”  Where’s that independent spirit?

In other words — where’s the love for Money Plane!?  I keep waiting for one of these critics groups to have the courage to honor one of the best films of the year.  They don’t even have to name it best picture.  How about Kelsey Grammer for best supporting actor.  “I am the Rumble!”  Who else could have delivered that line as skillfully?  But, so far, none of the regional groups have had the guts.  As a result, both the Golden Globes and SAG ignored Money Plane.  I’m starting think that the Oscars might do the same thing.  Sometimes, the best films go unhonered and that could happen here.  “We’re going to rob the money plane!”  That’s a line that will never be forgotten.

Oh well.  I am happy that Carey Mulligan won best actress.  I haven’t watched Judas and the Black Messiah yet but Daniel Kaluuya is really coming on strong here in the home stretch so I’m going to guess that he’ll soon be picking up his second Oscar nomination.  Even if Money Plane is being snubbed, it’s still interesting to watch momentum for a performance build in real time.

Here are the winners from my hometown:

Best Picture

Best Actor
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Actress
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman

Best Supporting Actor
Daniel Kaluuya – Judas And The Black Messiah

Best Supporting Actress
Amanda Seyfried – Mank

Best Director
Chloe Zhao – Nomadland

Best Foreign Language Film

Best Documentary

Best Animated Film

Best Screenplay
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman

Best Cinematography
Joshua James Richards – Nomadland

Best Musical Score
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – Mank

The Russell Smith Award (Independent Film)

Music Video of the Day: No Sleep by Jessie Frye (2020, dir by Jessie Frye)

Jessie Frye is a singer from my hometown and personally, I think she definitely deserves to be better known.  So, as a part of my humble attempt to spread the word, here is her just released video for No Sleep.  This video has a new retro feel (it’s deliberately filmed to make it look like something you might stumble across on an old VHS tape) and it has a lot of nice shots of the Dallas skyline, which is something that I really appreciated.  You can always tell that a video’s been shot in Dallas when the Bank of America Plaza appears in all of its neon green glory.

Getting no sleep in Dallas?  That’s something to which I can relate.


Horror On The Lens: The Giant Gila Monster (dir by Ray Kellogg)

For today’s horror on the lens, we present to you the 1959 film, The Giant Gila Monster!

As you can tell from the title, this is another one of those big lizard films, which were so popular back in the 50s and early 60s.  For reasons that aren’t quite clear, a lizard grows to giant size and it’s up to a bunch teenagers, law enforcement officers, and small town citizens to put nature back in its place!

The Giant Gila Monster was filmed outside of Dallas and it was produced by Gordon McLendon.  Now, admittedly, you might not recognize the name but he was one of the most important figures in the history of DFW.  McLendon founded KLIF, which is DFW’s top talk radio station.  He also once ran for the Senate, as a conservative Democrat.  By most accounts that I’ve read, he was a true Texas character so I guess it makes sense that, along with all of his other accomplishments, he would add film producer to the list.

Anyway, enjoy this movie about a giant lizard!  Gila monsters, I should add, are freaking scary enough when they’re normal-sized.  That said, the lizard in this film is actually a Mexican beaded lizard and not an actual Gila monster.


Music Video of the Day: Possum Kingdom by The Toadies (1994, dir by Thomas Mignone)

I was really excited when I first came across this video because I assumed that it was about a bunch of possums.

Then I found out that actually, the song was named after Possum Kingdom Lake, which is a real lake down here in Texas.  Unfortunately, I’ve never seen any possums at Possum Kingdom Lake but I assume that there must be a few around because, otherwise, the name would be inaccurate, right?

Anyway, when I first heard the song, I thought it was about a vampire.  Then I had my BFF Evelyn listen to it and she thought it was about a serial killer.  It turns out that we’re both wrong.  According to the lead singer of the Toadies, the song was actually about a ghost who was inviting someone to join him in the netherworld.

By the way, this video was shot in Dallas.  Woo hoo!  Overall, it’s a good song, though the “so help me, Jesus” stuff feels a bit forced.  And it’s a good video, full of atmosphere and menace.  It’s a perfect video for our October Horrorthon!


Music Video of the Day: We Ready (Dallas) by Moses Uvere

I’ll be honest.

The main reason why I like this video is because I recognize every location where it was filmed, from the DART Station to Reunion Tower to Forrest Lane to that stairs.  I think I even recognize the elevator.


Music Video of the Day: Young OG — 4am in Dallas (2016, dir by X Prophecy)

Hi, everyone!  Lisa here with today’s music video of the day!

So, I’ll be honest with you.  The main reason that I picked today’s video is because Dallas is my hometown.  I love it and I love the fact that this song is not only about Dallas but it was actually filmed here as well.

One thing you’ll notice about any video, movie, or TV show shot in Dallas.  There’s always going to be at least a few shots of the Bank of America Plaza in the background.  That’s the building that non-Dallasites tend to refer to as being “that big green building.”  There have been so many nights where I looked over my shoulder, saw that building behind me, and I somehow knew everything would be okay.



Celebrate Texas Independence Day With My Favorite Scene From Bernie!

Happy Texas Independence Day!

Down here in Dallas, we celebrate Texas Independence Day by going down to Dealy Plaza and laughing at all the northern tourists sweating and talking about how they’re about to faint because they can’t handle a 75 degreee day.

But, if that sounds a little bit too mean-spirited to you, you can celebrate by watching my favorite scene from Richard Linklater’s Bernie!  I know that I’ve probably shared this before but what can I say?  I really love this quick lesson about my home state:

By the way, that line about “Dallas snobs,” always got a big laugh from the audiences at the Dallas Angelika.  It’s important to have a sense of humor.

Don’t worry, Vermont.  You’ll learn how to laugh at yourself someday.


The Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Honors Moonlight!

Dallas is my home -- deal with it, haters!

The Dallas-Forth Worth Film Critics Association met today and the critics from my hometown named Moonlight the best film of 2016!

Hey, DFWFCA — why haven’t I been invited to join yet!?

Anyway, here are the winners in Dallas:




Winner: Casey Affleck, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Runners-up: Denzel Washington, FENCES; Joel Edgerton, LOVING; Ryan Gosling, LA LA LAND; Tom Hanks, SULLY


Winner: Natalie Portman, JACKIE
Runners-up: Emma Stone, LA LA LAND; Ruth Negga, LOVING; Amy Adams, ARRIVAL; Annette Bening, 20TH CENTURY WOMEN


Winner: Mahershala Ali, MOONLIGHT
Runners-up: Jeff Bridges, HELL OR HIGH WATER; Michael Shannon, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS; Lucas Hedges, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA; Ben Foster, HELL OR HIGH WATER


Winner: Viola Davis, FENCES
Runners-up: Naomie Harris, MOONLIGHT; Michelle Williams, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA; Greta Gerwig, 20TH CENTURY WOMEN; Judy Davis, THE DRESSMAKER


Winner: Barry Jenkins, MOONLIGHT
Runners-up: Damien Chazelle, LA LA LAND; Kenneth Lonergan, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA; David Mackenzie, HELL OR HIGH WATER; Denis Villeneuve, ARRIVAL




Winner: TOWER




Winner: Kenneth Lonergan, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Runner-up: Barry Jenkins, MOONLIGHT


Winner: Linus Sandgren, LA LA LAND
Runner-up: Rodrigo Prieto, SILENCE


Winner: Justin Hurwitz, LA LA LAND
Runner-up: Mica Levi, JACKIE

RUSSELL SMITH AWARD (best low-budget or cutting-edge independent film)