October Horrorshow: The Food of the Gods

This is an important day for the October Horrorshow Giant Monstershow. The featured auteur of this month of reviews has returned. For the seventh time this month, a review features a film by Bert I. Gordon. Yes, a filmmaker that showed mastery at failing to master the art of filmmaking is back. Today’s film, from 1976, also shows that although more than twenty years had passed since Gordon’s first movie, he stayed true to his unique abilities as a filmmaker.

The Food of the Gods is based, somewhat, on the H.G. Wells novel The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth. Gordon penned the screenplay as well as directing. The film stars Marjoe Gortner as Morgan. Morgan is a football player in what looks to be a professional 7 on 7 league that draws literally hundreds to its games. Why Gordon felt his lead needed a backstory that he didn’t have the budget to film properly is beyond me. Morgan could have just as easily been a firefighter or something, and the footage of him at a random firehouse would have been more believable than the ersatz football Gordon chose to shoot.

Morgan and a couple of his teammates, including veteran television actor Jon Cypher as Brian, decide to head up to an island in British Columbia to do a little hunting. Things go horribly wrong for the group, and for us viewers, when a swarm of gigantic wasps show up. Like in his other films, Gordon chose to shoot the special effects himself, with the result being effects that are not so special. The wasps look like purple plastic wrap cut into the shape of bugs. The process he used to integrate his puppet models into the shot left them with no detail whatsoever, and transparent. One can see the landscape of the shot through them. It’s dreadful.

One of Morgan’s teammates is killed by the wasps, so now he has a vested interest in staying on the island to investigate what happened.

It turns out there is plenty to investigate. It’s not just wasps that have grown to gigantic proportions on the island. At one of the farms on the island, run by Mr. and Mrs. Skinner (John McLiam and groundbreaking Hollywood actress/director/producer Ida Lupino), a fissure in the earth has opened (a mound of dirt, really), and an oatmeal-like substance has come oozing forth. In a fit of movie logic, the The Food of the Godscouple decides to mix the ooze in with their chicken feed as a way of disposing of it, or something. It doesn’t make any sense, at all, but this film has already featured giant, bug-shaped shadows in it, so it doesn’t really matter.

Anyway, the chickens also grow to gigantic proportions, as we see in an incredible encounter Morgan has in a chicken coop. When the giant chicken puppet heads begin pecking at Morgan, everything about the wasps can be forgiven. It’s a moment of shitty gold. But wait! There’s more.

This movie isn’t about giant chickens or giant wasps. It’s about giant rats. Those rodents got into the ooze, and have themselves become raging, bloodthirsty beasts. It is these creatures that threaten the inhabitants of the island, and only Morgan and Brian can do something about it. What follows is scene after scene featuring matte shots of humans on one side of the screen, and real rats, shot so they would look huge, on the other. For closeups of attacks Gordon worked up a number of puppets, and they do not look too unlike the real rats he shot scurrying around scale models of the island’s locations.

As threatening as Gordon wanted the rats to be, the footage of the swarming rats isn’t all that convincing. They just look like regular rats climbing on stuff and sniffing around. Only the puppet heads have any sort of ferocity. There’s also a lot of footage of people fending off rat attacks with shotguns and rifles. It’s more shitty gold. It looks like Gordon loaded up an air rifle with wads of cotton dipped in red ink, and then shot rats. Their shock at being splattered stands in for a full-sized shotgun blast. It’s cheesy as all hell, and works very well in this movie.

Gordon showed better pace and character development with this film than any other I’ve seen from him, which is probably why this was a hit for American International Pictures. But it’s still a Bert I. Gordon film, so there’s only so much quality filmmaking one can expect. The Food of the Gods is, however, a proper shitty movie. It’s bad while being very entertaining. But, from an objective standpoint, Alien: Resurrection is a better film.