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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Food of the Gods (1976) review


Marjoe Gortner (Morgan), Pamela Franklin (Lorna), Ralph Meeker (Bensington), Jon Cypher (Brian), Ida Lupino (Mrs. Skinner), Belinda Balaski (Rita)

Directed by Bert I. Gordon

A gooey substance found erupting from the Earth by some farmers on a small Canadian island causes enormous growth in their chickens after its mixed in with chicken feed. The thick milky matter is later ingested by other creatures including wasps and worms. Soon, hordes of rats grow to gigantic proportions and devour a number of the inhabitants. A small band of survivors hole up within a cabin besieged by the ravenous rats.

Ida Lupino (top middle) shows where she found the FOOD OF THE GODS

Bert I. Gordon made a seemingly very successful career out of directing movies about giant monsters. He was about as prolific as the propagating creatures found in his films. Beginning with KING DINOSAUR in 1955, Gordon utilized macro enlarged lizards to populate the barren landscape of Nova, a newly discovered planet investigated by scientists sent to explore it. From there he went on to giant locusts in one of his best loved bad movies with BEGINNING OF THE END (1957), starring the late Peter Graves. THE CYCLOPS (1957) about a giant one eyed monster and more macro enlarged lizards masquerading as dinosaurs.

Gordon continued his 'BIG' movies with THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN (1957) and its sequel, WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST (1958). He also dabbled with "little people" with ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE in 1958. Mr. B.I.G. went big again with the entertaining EARTH VS. THE SPIDER (1958) and the abysmal VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS in 1965. Gordon then went on a hiatus from giant creature features until 1976 rolled around leading into this laughably bad throwback to his woefully entertaining monster movies of yesteryear.

Trapped underground in the lair of the rats

FOOD OF THE GODS, unlike Gordon's EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977), borrows a bit more from Wells' original story. Whereas his story had science create the growth serum, the movie has it emerge from the Earth. The giant fowl are the focus in Wells' story while the rats take up the bulk of the screen time in the movie version. People also ingest the foodstuff in the book and the films ending threatens this. The 'late-to-the-party' sequel from 1989 explored this aspect by concluding with a gigantic young boy running wild. Gordon also surveyed Wells' tale in his goofy comedy sci fi flick, VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS (1965) which co-starred a young Ron Howard.

Gortner (left) gets his hands on a big rubber wasp

Former evangelist and faith healer, Marjoe Gortner really gets into his role as the football player, Morgan. He doesn't do a whole lot of "acting" during the dialog scenes, but when it comes to battling the beasts, Gortner showcases a lot of verve. Whether he's electrocuting or shotgunning the various outsized creatures, Gortner comes to life. The rest can't be said for the rest of the cast. Everyone else merely goes through the motions performing the required screaming and running when the creatures are onscreen often times seeming indifferent or embarrassed about the whole thing.

It's all a laughable mess, really. It seems to be the more popular of Gordon's double dose creature feature 70's revival, the other being EMPIRE OF THE ANTS released the following year. Despite its large following, it doesn't seem to have been a huge hit during its release. FOTG must have been big business in Japan, though, considering the lavish box set the film received there. Still, the film has more than its fair share of hilarious and cringe-worthy sequences.

The attack by the giant chicken (the sound of that is funny in itself, but MYSTERIOUS ISLAND from 1961 pulled it off nicely) is one for the books and Ida Lupino's arm being gnawed by enormous worms is rather grim. The numerous rat attacks are violent pushing the PG rating about as far as it will go. Also, the shots of the rats being blasted by rifle fire are a bit disturbing. The creatures are obviously being hit with something, whether it's fake or otherwise is unknown to me. There is no ASPCA credit during the ending crawl.

Gordon is less successful in the pacing department here than he was in his follow up. I was honestly just a slight bit disappointed upon finally seeing this movie for the first time when it hit DVD a few years ago. After family members and fans somewhat raved about it, it wasn't quite as "memorable" (although it's certainly more ambitious) as Gordon's giant ant non-epic, which got heavy rotation on television during the 80's and 90's.

I do recall getting a hold of the Famous Monsters of Filmland (I have since gotten two or three of them) issue from back then which featured a cover spread on the film as well as seeing it listed in the TV Guide from time to time. For whatever reason, I was unable to see it at that time.

No doubt fans of 'Nature Gone Wild' movies will surely want this in their collection. It would make a grand double bill DVD show for trash fan get togethers with its sister release from the following year. With FOOD OF THE GODS, Bert I. Gordon showed he still "had it"...even if "It" hadn't changed one damn bit since his Golden Age heyday.

This review is representative of the MGM Midnite Movies DVD.


Unknown said...

A laughable mess is a good way to sum it up. Not one of my favs, but it's still a b-movie style good time.

venoms5 said...

I agree, Rev. Now if only MGM (or whoever owns it now) would release BIG's two COLOSSAL MAN (that would be a cool double feature) movies and THE CYCLOPS on DVD. I wish I still had the Thriller Video tape of the latter.

R.D. Penning said...

This movie is so bad it is good. I love it. I am a sucker for abnormally large creatures though, but nothing compares to the amazing Night of the Lepus!

dfordoom said...

Empire of the Ants is one of my favourite campy horror B-movies, so I'll have to try ti find a copy of Food of the Gods as well.

They don't make B-movies like that any more.

venoms5 said...

You're right about that, D. Those terrible CGI filled creature movies that are a dime a dozen now come nowhere near the level of "greatness" the old ones do.

venoms5 said...

@ R.D.: NIGHT OF THE LEPUS...I couldn't even finish that one even as a kid! Terrible movie. I should probably watch it again now, though. I might appreciate its awful qualities more.

dfordoom said...

I couldn't watch Night of the Lepus - it seemed too much like they were really doing bad stuff to real bunnies.

venoms5 said...

That and it's just hard to such a premise seriously. I would buy that DVD in a second if they would have put a commentary track on it. I would love to have heard what the actors thought about doing that movie. I imagine there were tons of wasted footage from where the cast couldn't hold back the guffaws.

I Like Horror Movies said...

Not only have I never seen this one but I have never actually read a review for it either. I'll be sure to que it up on the wishlists for some sweet ass animals gone wild fun!

venoms5 said...

It's a hoot, Carl. If you've seen EMPIRE OF THE ANTS, you kind of know what to expect.

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