Sunday, October 14, 2007
31 Days of Halloween - Day 14 - Movie
I remember when my cousing and I first saw the trailer for "Food of the Gods" (1976) how excited we were to see it. I didn't see it with him, but when I saw it on my own, I felt pretty let down by it. Even by fourth grade standards it wasn't all that great. Watching it as an adult, my assessment hasn't really changed.
Made during the ecological horror phase of the 1970s, "Food of the Gods" is incredibly honest when it claims to be "based upon a portion of the novel by H.G. Wells, " rather than simply based upon the novel... The movie centers on a football player (Marjoe Gortner" while vacationing with another player and the team's publicist runs afoul of giant wasps and giant chickens, created by a mysterious substance fed to them by a pair of kooky farmers. The football player returns to the island, and the farm, where he and a motley group of people find themselves fending for their lives from a large colony of giant rats.
The film is executive produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff and written, produced, directed, and with special effects provided by Bert I. Gordon. This in itself seems promising, as these two men provided some of the most fun genre movies of the late 1950s-1960s. If only it were so. From the get go, the voice over narration is klunky, pretty much telling us just what to expect in this movie. Gordon's special effects (with creatures provided by the Burmans) are, like most of his movies, wildly uneven, the biggest problem being that the rat costumes look nothing like the actual rats they are meant to represent. Even more problematic than any technical flaws is the fact that rats just aren't scary, no matter the scale. "The Killer Shrews" (1959) while looking nothing like shrews, and more like what they were; dogs wearing costumes, are far more effective because they look monstrous, savage, and unreal. The rats look like they're just looking for corn kernels to gnaw on. The giant rooster is far more threatening than this cute band of mice, and maybe if the movie had used the giant chickens as the threat, it would be more effective. Probably not, though.
The most troubling aspect of this film though was the obvious animal abuse that was taking place on the set. Just as it's hard to watch those dinosaur movies which feature the footage of the caiman and the monitor lizard mauling each other to death, it's a little hard to watch these rats being blasted by airgun projected pellets of red paint. You can see that it clearly hurts them. Then there's the matter of the rats being drowned later in the movie. You could argue that the corpse rats were purchased that way, but I wouldn't necessarily be convinced. Some of the rats struggling in the water don't look like they're having such a swell time.
Overlooking this, was it a fun movie? More or less, leaning towards the less end of things. It's about on par with "Empire of the Ants" (1977) made by Arkoff and Gordon the following year, and also loosely based on the same material by H.G. Wells.