The Scoop: 1976 PG, directed by Bert I. Gordon and starring Marjoe Gortner, Pamela Franklin and Ida Lupino
Tagline: One Taste Is All It Takes!
Summary Capsule: Giant fauna take over an island after an idiotic couple makes a Terrible Mistake and bler ber environment blah blah derp.
Heather’s Rating: I’m just annoying my cat right now instead of trying to come up with something clever. Her tail is all twitchy, and she is making funny noises. This will end well.
Heather’s Review: I was going to start this review off with a Mad Libs-related joke about how four or five words will give you the plot to half of all of Bert I. Gordon’s movies, but it got too clunky. Instead, I’ll just tell you straightforward that a large portion of Bert I. Gordon’s film repertoire is made up of sci-fi thrillers about giant animals, plants, people or insects; most of which want to stuff their insatiable maws full of tasty, tasty humans.
If you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, you’ve more than likely watched most of these films and are familiar with his work. I read online that, at eight episodes, Mr. Gordon’s movies were featured more than any other director’s in the show’s ten-year run. I looked up the three other most notorious directors featured on the show (Ed Wood, Coleman Francis and Roger Corman) and, as far as I can tell, that random internet person was right.
Food of the Gods is a landmark experience in cinema for me. It marks the first instance that I have ever seen “Based on a portion of the novel by…” anywhere. That’s a pretty lackluster way to tout your movie, but from what I’ve read the guy was at least truthful. We’ll come back to that later, after I get the plot rundown out of the way.
FOTG is set in an isolated island in British Columbia where Mr. and Mrs. Skinner, a couple of farmers, have discovered a goop that looks like oatmeal boiling out of the ground into their front yard. The first thing they decided to do was feed it to their livestock. You know, ’cause that’s what you do to your livelihood; feed them a random substance spewing forth from the rocks like Satan’s acid-reflux nightmare. The animals don’t want to eat it at first, so the couple mixes the gunk with chicken feed to entice them. Because they are idiots. This works, yielding them the results of gigantic animals to tend to, but with even more unexpected results: Them varmints got in an’ et it, too! That’s Skinner-speak for “The bugs and rodents also ate it.”
The two biggest threats on the island come from the now-gigantic wasps and rats, the former of which manage to murderfy a member of a group of football players vacationing on the island. The latter are steadily building up momentum for an all-out war against the human race to punish us for our sins against nature. It’s either for that or cheese, and our unfortunate heroes are fresh out of fromage.
One of the movie’s sillier aspects that I did not make up is that the rat army is led by an albino. Because the animal kingdom frequently places visually impaired easy targets in positions of leadership rather than killing them off. It seems the humans aren’t the only ones making stupid decisions in this movie.
Just so you don’t think I forgot it, I’m well aware of the ROUS joke I could be making. Unfortunately, every single other movie reviewer on the internet has made the same joke, so I’ll let that one slide.
Because every giant-things-takeover movie has to have people to take over, the movie throws about six more people at us, all of whom are inexplicably on this otherwise-deserted island on the same day. There’s one of the dead football player’s teammates, a man and woman interested in buying the FOTG, and a couple camping out of their broken-down RV. Never mind that the RV couple had no business being there, the girlfriend being super duper pregnant. We need to pad out the cast for an epic standoff against the rats, you see.
And epic it isn’t. The visual effects are ludicrous, just as you would expect, the sound effects are even worse, and the cast gets picked off one by one in order of their morality.
For a movie with a heavy-handed environmental theme slapped onto it, there isn’t much explanation about how or why the FOTG came to be. H.G. Wells’ novel Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth has, as the title would suggest, an explanation of the gunk’s origin. The small portion of the novel this movie was based on is the beginning of the book, with the novel leaving the island and focusing on all the ramifications of the FOTG reaching civilization. The film leaves us with an open ending that alludes to that part of the story, but of course BIGs obviously couldn’t be bothered with the rest of the book.
Food of the Gods is BIG’s second adaptation of the novel. The first, 1965’s Village of the Giants, was “loosely based” on the later bits of the story where we see the effects of the stuff on humans. A group of teenagers comes across the concoction (this time having been made in a lab, rather than the bowels of Hell) and they all become gigantic. This being the 60’s, it becomes immediately apparent during the giants’ dancing scene (just roll with it) that the only reason this movie was made was so the audience could see huge female jiggly bits in slow mo.
I marvel at the fact that a decade later Bert looked at that movie and said “Wow, that last attempt was idiotic. What would really bring some credibility to my reputation is huge rats and a man fighting a 10-foot tall rooster.”
- The tagline declares “One taste is all it takes.” To what, exactly? That statement, along with the cover art of a rat pawing at a scantily-clad woman’s bosom, leads one to some very unsavory conclusions.
- The “scary music” sounded like underwater farts. I can type “farts” here, can’t I? Farts farts farts…
- The gunshot wound effect was achieved with such realism that you can practically see the person behind camera sling-shotting red tempura paint onto the group of terrified rats.
- The boyfriend, after going outside to see a Volkswagen rat on the trailer, calls his pregnant girlfriend outside to look at it rather than run back inside for shelter. Congratulations, man. I didn’t think you could top the stupidity of going on a camping trip with someone days away from delivering your child, but…well done.
- Mrs. Skinner is obviously very religious, and frequently says that The Good Lord gave them the food. That would lead one to assume that she is Christian and, of course, monotheistic. Why, then, does she and her husband label the gunk food of the gods. What gods?
- Giant rats roar like lions.
Morgan: ‘Hey, look lady, I’ve already seen your chickens!’
Mrs. Skinner: Oh GOD! AAAAAAAAHHHH!
Mrs. Skinner: Until Mr. Skinner comes home and says he wants you to have our food, Mr. Bensington, nobody owns nothin’ but us. The good Lord give it to us to do as we please.
Morgan: [to Bensington] Well, it would appear that you just move back three spaces and lose a turn.
Mrs. Skinner: I won’t never sin again, never. Only don’t let no rat eat us, please, God!
Morgan: [narrating] My name is Morgan and I play football. We’d worked our butts off tryin’ to get it together for the big Sunday game, so the coach told us to knock it off and relax for a few days. One of my teammates, Davis, came up with the idea that we head out to the island. He went ahead to make the arrangements. I talked our PR man Brian into coming along. I felt the day off would do him some good, too. It’ll be great to be in the country again and enjoy some of the open spaces Man hasn’t screwed up with his technology. My father used to say, “Morgan, one of these days the Earth will get even with Man for messing her up with his garbage. Just let Man continue to pollute the Earth the way he is and nature will rebel. It’s gonna be one hell of a rebellion.” ‘Course, I never took ‘im seriously, but I still remember the way he looked at me when he said, “You’ll never know when and where it’s gonna happen. And once it starts, you’ll never know how and when it’ll stop.” It’s funny how my father’s prediction comes to mind when I go to the country, like today.
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