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Subj: Sci-Fi Cinema #34 DOUBLE FEATURE - Village of the Giants (1965) and The Food of the Gods (1976)
Posted: Sat Dec 05, 2020 at 09:55:29 pm CST (Viewed 195 times)
I'm going to do this review a little backwards, and I hope it makes sense.
The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth was a 1904 novel by H.G. Wells, writer of The Time Machine, War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man. I haven't read it, but in preparing for these movie reviews, I read the synopsis. As usual, the source material sounds more compelling than the adaptations.
Like most of Wells' novels, it seems to be a social commentary of a sort. It is split into three Books, or sections. The first Book tells how a couple of scientists created a superfood eventually dubbed Boomfood which causes anything that consumes it to grow to giant size. I assume the reason was to increase food stores by growing the livestock. They start out by growing a bunch of chickens to the size of cows on a farm in a small town. Other critters get into the Boomfood and soon the town is crawling with giant wasps and rats. This part of the book is described as comedic in tone, highlighting the ridiculousness of a hunting party going after some oversized rodents.
The next two Books are about human children who were fed the Boomfood and grew up to be giants. Now it's years later and the adult giants are facing discrimination from the government. I think the social commentary was about the rich and the poor. As the poor grow in power (or size in this case) the wealthy elite get nervous and start passing laws and spreading propaganda against the poor (or giant). Soon the giants are being exiled from their home to go live on an island or something. From the reviews, a book that started out silly becomes fairly dramatic in the end.
Bert I. Gordon (B.I.G., get it?) produced and directed a number of movies about giant things attacking or people shrinking. Nose Norton mentioned Beginning of the End (1957) which was about giant locusts. He also produced/directed The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) and its sequel, and Attack of the Puppet People (1958). Then he got the idea to produce Wells' Food of the Gods, at least in part.
Village of the Giants (1965)
This might be the textbook definition of 'loose adaptation.' Gordon gives Wells a 'based on' credit (but probably didn't need to) for this movie about teenagers run amok who grow to giant size and dance all over a town, to comedic effect.
Genius (Ron Howard) is a boy genius with a junior chemistry kit who invents his version of the Boomfood called 'Goo' in this movie. He feeds it to his cat who grows to the size of a horse in front of his eyes. Also some ducks and a dog get big.
A gang of teenage punks lead by Fred (Beau Bridges) crash their car into a power pole, climb out, and just start dancing. They go to a dance club and dance some more. There are a few cameos by popular musical acts of the time, I suppose, such as the Beau Brummels and Freddy Cannon, doing full musical numbers while we watch more dancing.
The gang gets ahold of the Goo and grow to giant size. I thought this was going to be a dirty comedy (dirty for its day, at least) because when the kids grow to 50 feet tall they rip out of their clothes leaving everyone clutching their privates. But soon they toga up and decide to take over the town. Teens won't be ruled by grownups any longer. They even kidnap the sheriff's daughter and seem to threaten harm unless he backs off, which is kind of dark.
Mike (Tommy Kirk) leads the charge against the giants who mostly just hang out and dance. There is a pretty silly sequence where Beau Bridges is standing in the town square while cars circle his giant prop legs trying to trip him with ropes.
It's all over pretty fast (I mean after hours of dancing) when Genius whips up a shrinking gas and brings the teens back down to size.
Another gimmick of this movie is that most of the child stars were children of famous actors. Beau Bridges, Ron Howard, Tisha Sterling, Toni 'Hey Mickey' Basil, and Tim Rooney all had famous actor parents.
Not too silly for my tastes, but way too thin on plot or business. Mostly just filler.
You can watch Village of the Giants, at least the MST3K version, here.
The Food of the Gods (1976)
Now that Gordon had reduced the serious part of the novel into comedy, he decided to adapt the comedy part of the novel as an eco-thriller.
Some farmers in a small town find white goo bubbling up out of the ground and when the chickens start to eat it, they grow big. But pretty soon there's a giant wasp hive and the town is overrun by giant rats.
Morgan (Marjoe Gortner) is a pro football player and establishes that fact by having several conversations throughout the movie on his football field. He gives his friend a ride to the aforementioned small town where the friend is stung to death by giant wasps. Morgan starts to poke around town and soon he's trying to gather all the locals to a safe spot from the rodent infestation.
The effects are hit and miss. The wasps basically look like silhouettes of real wasps superimposed over the screen, which is probably what they were. The rats on the other hand aren't bad. Sometimes we see real rats attacking miniature houses, and other times actors are punching big fake rats in the head. Both look fairly decent.
To make the real rats look bigger they use the old trick of slowing down the footage. But when the humans start shooting rats with rifles, we are treated to shot after shot after shot of real rats being shot with what look like pellet guns and bleeding out. IMDb claims (or rather producers claim) that the rats were not harmed, but instead shot with red paint that knocked them out, but it looked like real animal death on screen.
The townsfolk gather on a rooftop while the heroes bust a dam, flooding out the rats which haven't re-learned to swim in their giant bodies, we're told.
Apparently, Bert I. Gordon was involved in the early production of a third movie which eventually became 1989's Gnaw: Food of the Gods II but he dropped out early in the process. That movie was still made with one Damian Lee writing and directing. I wasn't going to bother watching that one at all, but then I saw the trailer and read a recap and it sounds terribly wonderful. Or maybe just terrible. I might review it on the 80s and 90s board when I find a copy.
Jump to Gnaw: Food of the Gods Part 2 review.