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H.G. Wells might have been surprised, shocked or even outraged had he lived to see what Hollywood filmmakers did to his story The Food of the Gods, a fanciful tale about a high-potency formula that drastically alters the growth rate of plants and animals. More than 60 years after it was written, B-movie maven Bert I. Gordon came along and turned Wells' visionary tale into a demented teenage musical fantasy entitled Village of the Giants (1965).
If nothing else, the film deserves some kind of cult status for the cast alone. Little Ronnie Howard (taking a break from The Andy Griffith Show) plays a pint-sized junior inventor, Tommy Kirk (a former Disney child star reduced to leads in exploitation films like Blood of Ghastly Horror) is the bewildered hero, and Beau Bridges is cast as the leader of the rowdy teenage gang (including Johnny Crawford, choreographer-dancer Toni Basil, and Tim Rooney) who grow to tremendous heights and gleefully trash their small town.
Think about it. Giant juvenile delinquents on the rampage - drinking, partying, dancing - and there's nothing their parents or the police can do to stop them. Director Gordon milks the latter situation for all it's worth, sticking in several groovy musical interludes to keep the teenagers hopping. You've got "Little Bitty Corrine" sung by Freddie Cannon, "Nothing Can Stand in My Way" performed by Mike Clifford, and "When It Comes to Your Love" by The Beau Brummels. But the real showstopper actually occurs right after the title sequence. A bunch of screaming teenagers emerge from a wrecked car and proceed to have a mud orgy in the pouring rain while the electric strains of "Woman" (also by The Beau Brummels) pulsate from the screen. A totally awesome moment.
Bert I. Gordon must have had some kind of obsession with Wells' original story because he filmed it again in 1976 under its proper title, The Food of the Gods. This version was a little more faithful to the original concept but it also had lots of typically perverse touches that only a misunderstood genius like Gordon could have concocted. Like the scene where a pregnant Pamela Franklin goes into labor while giant rats try to gnaw through her bedroom wall. Or the scene where Marjoe Gortner almost gets pecked to death by a giant chicken.
If you look closely at Bert I. Gordon's filmography, something becomes readily apparent. The director is all about the scale of things. How else to explain a career that includes King Dinosaur (1955), War of the Colossal Beast (1958), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), Empire of the Ants (1977), and The Cyclops (1957). Actually, his fans are glad he had a one-track mind. Otherwise, we wouldn't have guilty pleasures to enjoy like Village of the Giants.
Producer: Bert I. Gordon
Director: Bert I. Gordon
Screenplay: Alan Caillou (writer); Bert I. Gordon (story); H.G. Wells (novel)
Cinematography: Paul Vogel
Art Direction: Franz Bachelin
Music: Jack Nitzsche
Film Editing: John Bushelman
Cast: Tommy Kirk (Mike), Johnny Crawford (Horsey), Beau Bridges (Fred), Ronny Howard (Genius), Joy Harmon (Merrie), Bob Random (Rick), Tisha Sterling (Jean), Charla Doherty (Nancy), Tim Rooney (Pete), Kevin O'Neil (Harry).
by Jeff Stafford