The Food of the Gods
...for a taste of Hell!
Year of Release: 1976
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Running Time: 88 minutes (1:28)
Director: Bert I. Gordon
Marjoe Gortner ... Morgan
Pamela Franklin ... Lorna
Ralph Meeker ... Bensington
Jon Cypher ... Brian
Ida Lupino ... Mrs. Skinner
John McLiam ... Mr. Skinner
Belinda Balaski ... Rita
Tom Stovall ... Thomas
H.G. Wells' classic tale of supernatural terror, The Food of the Gods is about a strange and powerful potion that causes animals to grow to a prodigious size and crave human flesh!
On a secluded island, a farmer discovers an odd substance oozing out of the ground. When eaten, the substance increases growth enormously. Farmer Skinner feels his fortune is certain with the gooey substance. he collects it and calls it The Food of the Gods. But, his "test" animals have other plans for the "food" - the giant rats and wasps he created have just begun to colonize and to terrorize their human prey.
Frightening and chilling to consider - the human race, destined to be The Food of the Gods.
The Food of the Gods, remindin' us that only vermin of the lowest order would ever cut off somebody's water supply. Who the heck do these rats think they are anyway? There could be thirsty Ficus plants inside that house, those monsters! Won't somebody please thing of the tilled fen? Sickenin'. Absolutely sickenin', but I guess that's what makes 'em such effective villains, right up there with that Grinch-faced water company guy that gets a boner while he's twistin' the shut-off valve. But anyhow, while I was glad to see Jock an Jill figure out a way to Orkinize the rats before Belinda Balaski got stuck tryin' to convince the cops that a dingo-sized rodent ate 'er baby, I also came up with an idea that I think would've been a lot more beneficial in the long run. See, in my vision, we get Willard to eat a couple quarts of this Nilbog ice cream that's been burpin' up outta the ground so that he can then dwarf the rats and pied piper their asses over to Russia. The way I figure it, President Ford really dropped the ball on this one. Now that I think about it, maybe that ball's what he slipped on just before he took that awkward step comin' offa that plane. But back to what I was sayin', if Ford had utilized *my* strategy to use the Rat Pack rather than destroy 'em, we'da had Alexei Kosygin quakin' in his Valenkis so bad that he'd be lookin' like Michael J. Fox doin' one of those Parkinson's research promos an he'da had no choice but to axe Communism quicker'n a marriage equality measure in Oklahoma. Now, I don't wanna take anything away from the Rooskies, cause they're tough. I mean, their current president can wrestle a bear live on pay-per-view an have Mental Ben stuck with 50:1 odds in Vegas, not to mention the fact that they've evolved the ability to survive on nothin' but a single bowl of Borscht an a fifth of vodka for upwards of two weeks at a time, but I'll tell you this much; if the Nazis had come ridin' up for Operation Barbarossa on giant, P.O.'d rats, the Rooskies'd all be speakin' German right now. A wise man once said that you should never get involved in a land war in Asia, but that man didn't have an army of giant, rabid, mobile assault vehicles at his disposal either. But my suggestion never got any traction in congress, an look at Russia now. Invadin' their neighbors with impunity cause they know we ain't gonna do diddly squat about it. We blew it. If we'd marched the rodent infantry in there when we had the chance, Ukraine'd still have its little peninsula an maybe we'da got some decent tunes outta Russia before T.A.T.U. finally burst onto the scene. It's a real burden bein' saddled with all this knowledge an not havin' anybody take you seriously, but I suppose it's my cross to bear in this lifetime. Sure can identify with Rodney Dangerfield sometimes, though.
I'll try to find a reason to go on a little later, cause right now I'd like to run down a few of the finer points that've been brought to light in what has to be the finest giant rodent movie since Ray Kellogg strapped discounted shag carpeting to a buncha Coonhounds an made movie history with The Killer Shrews. So first thing; people that live in isolated backwoods locales with no phone or electricity don't know a rat hole when they see one. Generally, it's not until some football player that stays in four star hotels all week comes along to confirm, that they're able to nail-down the rat-hole hypothesis. Second, if you've got pressing, giant rabid animal related business to attend to, you always get to be the first one on or off of the ferry boat. An third, Sasquatch ain't no missin' link. It's just somebody's Capuchin monkey that sucked down some of this naturally occurin' porridge an went all Bruce Banner on the Pacific Northwest. But relevant as those things are, what I'd like to bore the ever-lovin'-crap outta you about in greater detail is reading comprehension, particularly as relates to the bible. Reason bein', I'm pretty sure that this entire situation we've got here in the movie is a direct result of Ida Lupine's inability to understand just exactly what it is that God's been tellin' us. Now, I theorize that to begin with, the food that Ida finds is in fact the benign gift from God that she believes it to be, an was indeed intended as a reward for 'er good Christian-like behavior, just as she said it was. However, it looks to me like what ended up queerin' the deal was the title she chose to bestow upon this food when she made the discovery. IE; The Food of the Gods. Gods. Plural. See what I'm gettin' at now? That title suggests that there is more than one God, an I think we all know exactly how the big guy feels about that school of thought, now don't we? Now I ain't no English major, but He did sorta dedicate an entire commandment to it, so it stands to reason that He considered it kinda important, that's all I'm sayin'. Once she stuck that name on the creamed crap, God got so P.O.'d about 'er goin' Sinderella on 'im that he turned the food into Grade-A vengeance an herded alla His creatures right into the lunch line to teach 'er heathen ass a lesson in humility. People gotta understand that when the big guy chisels somethin' into a stone tablet, by-Him, he means it. Just what in the heck was this hollow-headed heretic thinkin'? That all the other commandments were real important but that one was optional? Far as I'm concerned, Ida got what she deserved, an I'm not gonna grieve for 'er one bit. Maybe after watchin' this one people'll start learnin' from 'er example an come to understand what things actually mean for a change. Like that whole "any man who lays with a man as he lays with a woman must be stoned" thing. It's not really condemnation of homosexuality, all He's sayin' with that one is that it's okay, provided you've smoked a Cheech & Chong sized doobie first.
The movie begins with these three meat-headed jocks (Morgan, Brian, an Davis) who're tryin' to break into the Canadian Football League goin' out to this island offa the coast of B.C. cause it's the only place that'll let 'em hunt deer with horses an German Shorthairs. An if that wears thin, you can always fish with dynamite. Eventually, they're able to corner this terrified little doe that's about the size of Woody Allen when Soon-Yi puts the leash on 'im an makes 'im walk around on all fours, til Morgan decides to let it go about three seconds before its left ventricle bursts from high blood pressure. But then Davis starts noticin' his power-boner goin' flaccid an takes off after it 'til his horse goes apeshit an throws 'im like a Roger Clemens fastball an pretty quick a buncha those Chinese Yellow Jackets the size of Robert Z'Dar's head come outta nowhere an sting the bejezus out of 'im til he's paralyzed an swollen up so bad that he looks like Eric Stoltz in Mask. Fortunately, when the bees see Morgan comin' they mistake 'im for an industrial sized drum of Raid an take off to go look for a big hollowed out milk jug to fly into an drown, while Morgan instructs Brian to watch over Davis an make sure his face stays in the pomegranate-tones while he goes for help. Once somebody's face goes from pomegranate to plum, the only thing left to do is start divvyin' up their stuff. Eventually, Morgan makes it over to Ma Barker's place an starts peekin' inside 'er barn when all the sudden the world's biggest an most P.O.'d bucket of Original Recipe starts tryin' to peck his eyes out like it's auditionin' for a role in a Hitchcock movie til he has to pitchfork it like Satan in a "stand-your-ground" state. So then he heads back over to the cabin an finds Ma lookin' at 'im an by now he's just a little bit P.O.'d about nearly gettin' mutilated by a 20,000-piece McNugget an starts yellin' at 'er for not warnin' 'im about the Growed Island Red out in the barn. Then he tells 'er he needs to use 'er phone, course the guy's kind of a chunkhead an hadn't noticed the lack of power lines anywhere on the island, an then she asks 'im to come in an take a look at somethin' an tell 'er if it's normal. He tries to tell 'er that after seein' 'er cock he's had about all the sight-seein' he wants for one day, but he eventually starts feelin' sorry for 'er an goes to look. Yup, those're rat holes alright. Nevermind that my buddy's layin' out in the woods lookin' more'n more like a cherry cheesecake by the minute. Then she shows 'im this crap that looks like somebody tripled the water on a batch of Cream of Wheat an tells 'im that the Lord sent it to make 'er rich so she can afford indoor plumbin' someday an that it'll make anything that eats it swell up like a Macy's Thanksgivin' float. Apparently this lady's been out in the back forty too long an nobody's told 'er about the fast food industry, which'll do the same thing for a lot less than she thinks she's gonna get outta this stuff.
Course, by now Davis's up at the pearly gates showin' Saint Peter his touchdown dance, an so Morgan an Brian have to drag his carcass back to the mainland an try to figure out what they can tell everybody that won't result in a career endin' drug test. Then, about the time they're gettin' back to their home and native land, Pa Barker hops on the ferry after his weekly hooker binge (as you can imagine he's been experiencin' a devout drought ever since Ma hit menopause) an heads for home. Only once he gets back on solid ground an stars drivin', one of his tires blows out like Elvis' heart valves durin' that last big push an when he gets out to try changin' it he ends up gettin' mugged by these Volare sized vermin that proceed to make Ratatouille out of 'im to avenge their lost brethren who got ground up into hot dogs. While that's goin' on, Ma's sittin' at home with 'er peacemaker just in case the boys come home with the law hot on their heels when she hears somethin' break in the kitchen an goes to see who's tamperin' in broad's domain. Only when she does she starts to suspect that Geena Davis is around somewhere cause when she hits the kitchen she's immediately attacked by these giant maggots that try eatin' 'er arm like an ear of corn til she grabs ahold of 'em an squeezes 'em til they bust like a coupla cheap condoms. The next day, Morgan an Brian're over at the Hoser Dome havin' practice til Brian tells Morgan about the coroner's report on the great white dope an how the corpse had enough venom in it to kill half of Edmonton an Morgan gets this look on his face like he's got some unfinished beesness out in the Strait of Goregia. Meanwhile, back on the Island of Dr. Goreau, this jackass that looks like Burt Young on stilts (Bensington) an his subordinate're headin' out to Ma's place to try bilkin' 'er outta the Quaker Oats fountain an en route end up blowin' right by this distressed couple whose RV's stuck in the mud worse'n Artax in The Neverending Story. Then once they finally get up to Ma's place they notice the door to the barn's been torn up worse'n the audience's Levis at a Metallica concert an when they peek inside what's left of the door there's Chicken Cordon Slew all over the place. Cripes almighty, I haven't seen this many mutilated cocks since Lorena Bobbitt did that guest shot on The Bachelorette. So then they go ahead an invite themselves inside the house an Ma just about parts Lorna's hair with a meat cleaver thinkin' that the lanky, pasty white thing must be the queen of the maggots, til they can get 'er calmed down enough to tell 'em about the rats. Course that don't matter none cause Bensington's already in full corporate sociopath mode by now an so Ma takes 'em outside to show 'em the Elmer's glue oasis an pretty quick Bensington starts gettin' those cartoon dollar signs in his eyes.
Fortunately, the hornets from Occupy Waspstreet choose this moment to upset Bensington's investment portfolio an start buzzin' around his head while he swings a shovel at 'em like a piss drunk 49er. Meanwhile, the two jocks that'd be lucky to even warm the bench for the 1978 49ers finally make it out to the island, only they do actually stop to play good Samaritan for the crew of the USS Constipation (Thomas an Rita) an offer 'em a ride. But they've got a lotta bickerin' to do about whose idea it was to come out here for vacation so they tell 'em they'll just wait til they're passin' by on their way out an that if the jocks happen to see any gigantic rats pokin' around not to make any James Cagney-esque "you dirty rat" jokes cause they hate that. Then Morgan an Brian head down the road a piece til they get to Ma's place an blast all the bees into McCormick ground pepper an tell Bensington that if he's negotiated the rights to the food already he's prolly gonna wanna get goin' on those Chapter 11 forms cause his ass is about to get sued harder'n Napster after Lars Ulrich went all taint anger on 'em. By this point, the subordinate, Lorna, is startin' to take a shine to Morgan after he went an made Bensington's winkie go shrinkie right in front of everybody an so she goes with 'im to find the hornet's nest so they can throw rocks at it. They're eventually able to find it, an so later that night Morgan an Brian sneak back out to the hive once they're sure the bees're all tuckered out from a long day of concussin' themselves against people's windows an plug the thing with gun powder an blow the shit out of it so Morgan can go back to bein' the only queen in the movie. But then Ma shows up an tells 'em that Lorna took a header into an open rat-hole so Morgan an Brian have to hold their breath an go down into the underground stale-road an shoot a whole mess of R.O.U.S.es for not buildin' their tunnels up to code before they can haul 'er butt outta there. Elsewhere, the trailer trash're sittin' around yellin' at each other about their decision to make the RV into a PV (that's a Procreational Vehicle) when they start hearin' clicks an clanks up on the house-top. Then Thomas gets this "that better be Santa Claus" look on his face an heads outside, only to find that General Willard's army has 'em surrounded an is demanding the unconditional surrender of their Gouda. So, with no other choice, the couple abdicates the trailer and its porcelain throne to the rats like a temporary F.E.M.A. shelter an run for cover while the victors pile in an start settin' human traps around their perimeter. Shortly thereafter, they're able to make it to Ma's place an warn everybody that the rats've initiated a troops surge, conquered their mobile home, named Mrs. Frisby as their official spokesvermin, an that they're amassin' down the road an preparin' to go all Rats of 'Nam on their hineys.
Then Bensington starts tryin' to convince everybody to get in the war Wagoneer an plow their way through the herd, only Morgan has a pretty good idea what it's like tryin' to drive through a buncha linebackers on fourth down an so he an Brian go out on a scoutin' mission so they can start passin' out Glowers for Algernon. So while the hip cats're away, the metaphorical rat goes out back to play in the gruel pool an scoop up as much as he can into Canada Dry bottles so he'll have somethin' to show the Koch brothers or whoever sent 'im out here. Elsewhere, Morgan an Brian go drivin' around the back forty an notice a fence separatin' the BLM land from Ma's that goes all the way down into a pond an Morgan gets this look on his face like he just got peanut butter in his chocolate. So then they go hook up this generator to the fence an about that time the special ops ratallion spots 'em from across the way an charges right into the fence like a buncha Verman tanks an get the bejezus zapped out of 'em til the place reeks like a North Korean barbecue joint. Then some of 'em try swimmin' around the fence, only they swim about as well as Sonic the Hedgehog wearin' cement shoes an so they all start sinkin' like Carnival cruise ships an makin' P.O.'d leopard sounds while Morgan an Brian go back around the other side to make sure that despite all their rage, they're still just rats in a cage. Unfortunately, they weren't countin' on the Gnawty Pine Beaver Brigade havin' the rats' back an when they get to the generator they find a downed tree layin' on it an the fence tipped over like Dolly Parton tryin' a toe touch. Then Skewart Little grabs ahold of Morgan an starts chewin' on 'im like a bag of Red Man at a PBR competition an Brian ends up pickin' his shot about as fast as my ex pickin' out a pair of shoes an ends up gettin' The Rend in the Willows. Morgan's eventually able to land a right cross an get ahold of his gun, but by then Brian's been pretty well reduced to goulash an so he heads back to Ma's place an starts bustin' alla Bensington's goop soup containers while the jerk blubbers like James Van Der Beek an the rats start barrelin' down the road towards 'em droolin' like the after church crowd headin' for a Logan's Roadhouse. Naturally, Bensington tries to salvage as much as he can now that the juice is loose, an pretty quick he gets eraticated an sent to the big board meetin' in the sky as the ravenous rodents pile onto the porch an start tryin' to bust inside an execute their search an destroy warrant. So now for about the next ten minutes we've got the rats goin' all Ruby Ridge on the place tryin' to eat everybody's lunch while Morgan an Thomas hide out beside a coupla windows an make like Chris Kyle anytime the shrewbonic plague starts losin' respect for their firepower. But after awhile Morgan ends up gettin' P.O.'d an starts McVeighin' 'imself up some explosives an pretty quick he goes all Nuke of Earl an sends the rats packin' long enough to get in his Jeep an initiate phase two of operation Verminator. Will cut it here cause quite frankly, that's about all the bad puns I can muster.
Alright, well, when you consider this one was made by The Inglorious B.I.G. himself (Bert I. Gordon), it can at least be considered one of his better movies. Bert kinda specialized in these movies that revolve around giant monsters of one flavor or another, though I think this one is better than many of the others because A) he's working from an H.G. Wells story and B) the special effects technology had advanced at bit since he made some of his less enjoyable titles like The Beginning of the End, The Amazing Colossal Man, and Village of the Giants. I mean, not having to look at an enlarged Beau Bridges alone has to count for something. That said, Bert has the dubious distinction of having more of his movies riffed by Mystery Science Theater than any other director, with a total of eight. In fact, that's one out of every three of his movies, used to torture all the captives on the Satellite of Love. Even still, you may be asking yourself how it could possibly be as bad as the IMDB rating (4.1) suggests it is. Well, see, Bert didn't just direct. That would've been too easy. No, Bert also wrote the screenplay, produced, and worked on the special visual effects. Interestingly, a young Rick Baker also worked on the special effects for this one, but when you figure Bert was getting the final decision on everything, Baker had to wait a while longer to get the recognition he deserved. I really don't mean to crap on Bert so hard, after all, he does at least make *fun* bad movies. Even the ones that were manhandled on Mystery Science Theater were generally funny, albeit in a most unintentional way (less The Magic Sword, just forget about that one). And honestly Food of the Gods is, in my opinion, the best of his movies that I've seen, if for no other reason than the fact that he's got *some* decent special effects in this one. Sure, it's got the green screening, miniatures, and merging of shots that have marred his lesser efforts, but this one also has some pretty respectable creature creations as well, by 1976 standards anyway. This is actually a movie that could conceivably benefit from a remake, and thus, we'll probably never see one. That said, it'd probably be loaded with rotten CGI effects and completely negate the one area in which the original could be drastically improved upon, so maybe it's best left as is. It's unquestionably got some really hokey, antiquated special effects in it, but for me, they're just a different flavor of phony when compared to CG. A remake could also up the gore a little bit as well, though the movie only sneaked by with a PG because it predated the PG-13 rating, much the way Jaws did. So for a movie with a PG rating, this one's actually a little bloody and, particularly, violent. It's also got pretty decent pacing going for it, and it rarely lags. So is it a 4.1? I think not. But does it deserve a pass? Let's see.
Okay then, time to clean out the chicken coop an see how much shit sticks to the wiring. The plot is pretty well old hat, even by 1976 standards, but because it's based on one of the earliest novelizations of this concept, I think a pass is in order in terms of its lack of originality. But it is noteworthy to mention that, unlike most of these nature-gone-wild movies, the idea here is that this substance is either nature rebelling, or God punishin' us for bein' jerkoffs. Normally, we cause the mutations with our toxic waste or something along those lines, but here, we've got environmental retaliation for bein' lousy stewards of the land. I realize that to the average person it's six of one, half a dozen of another, but for those of us who can appreciate the details, it is a little different. So the plot's okay, if a little tired. The acting isn't anything special, though it's not bad either. Ida Lupino is great as the God-fearin' backwater ruralite, and Ralph Meeker is a pretty decent jackass as well. Marjoe Gortner, despite playing a rather uninteresting character, probably gives the best acting performance, as he's able to convey some pretty genuine terror while being attacked from all sides by giant, animatronic rat heads. Nobody else is particularly memorable or interesting, but nor are they bad actors, in my estimation. Here's who matters and why: Marjoe Gortner (Mausoleum, Starcrash), Pamela Franklin (The Legend of Hell House, Necromancy), Ralph Meeker (Without Warning, The Alpha Incident, The Dead Don't Die, The Night Stalker), Jon Cypher (The Invaders, Masters of the Universe), Ida Lupino (The Devil's Rain), Belinda Balaski (The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy, Gremlins 1 & 2, Amazon Women on the Moon, Explorers, The Howling, Piranha, Till Death, Locusts), Chuck Courtney (Pet Sematery, Billy the Kid vs. Dracula, Teenage Monster). And for you normal people out there; Marjoe Gortner was Vince Karlotti on Falcon Crest, and Ida Lupino was Eve Drake on Mr. Adams and Eve. Ida was actually a pretty big deal once upon a time in the sense that she was one of the first prolific female directors, sticking mostly to things normal people would have enjoyed in that time frame, but at least she got to go out on a high note with The Food of the Gods. Additionally, Ralph Meeker played Sergeant Steve Dekker on Not for Hire, General Marcus Craig on Major Dad, Dr. Arthur Donnelly on Santa Barbara, and Chief Fletcher Daniels on Hill Street Blues. Still pretty good, even though it's chock fulla TV actors.
The special effects are extremely hit and miss. What we've got here is a middle of the road horror flick in terms of available technology, with a director that was pretty old school. Essentially, what that means is that it could have been a lot better than it was, but because it isn't terribly old, it could also have been a lot worse. The practical, tangible effects, for the most part, are pretty good. The giant attack rooster's a bit on the hokey side, but the animatronic rat heads look good, and the giant maggots look good. Conversely, any time they break out the miniatures, or start superimposing images, the believability hits the toilet quicker'n a car fulla women after drivin' over a mountain pass. I'm not really even sure how they did the scenes with the hornets, looks like they're all superimposed, but they kinda look rotoscoped too, so who knows. It's not quite *as* bad when they pull out the rats an the Tonka trucks cause they're inter-splicing those scenes with shots using the more convincing animatronic effects, but it's still a long way from polished. Most people'd prolly laugh at a lot of the effects in this one and it's pretty tough to chide 'em for it, though I still like it better than CG. Course I like shavin' my testicles with a cheese grater better'n CG, but... well you get the idea. There's also a whole lotta shots where the rats're getting shot in slow motion, which I think look pretty decent because they're shooting chunks of some meaty substance at 'em and it comes across lookin' like gut splattering, but some people don't seem to like it much. I'm thinkin' some of these rats probably died for the sake of great cinema on this one too, but that's not definitive based upon what makes it into the movie. The shooting locations are excellent. Not quite the high point of the movie, as that honor's prolly gonna go to the plot, but the cabin in the woods looks great, and the woods in Canada always do an outdoor movie justice. Plus you can do movies up there and actually end up with some of your budget up on the screen, rather than linin' some asshat's pockets. But the cabin and the surrounding forest are great, as are the shots from the ferry boat that's haulin' all the cars around so the people who live on the islands don't have to chain their bicycles to redwood trees at the ports to get home in a timely manner. The soundtrack is pretty decent as well. At times, it reminded me of Troll and Dawn of the Dead, both of which it was released prior to. I've seen quite a few 70s horror movies in my time, and another thing I'll say for this one is that the soundtrack doesn't reek of the 70s the way some of 'em do. Doesn't really jump out at you, and isn't used for cheap scares, just kinda hangs out in the background discreetly. It's not bad, adds some atmosphere here and there, and generally does the movie a solid. Overall, the special effects really hang it out to dry, and leave it looking very much a product of the era in which it was made, but it's not completely terrible as the IMDB would have you believe. Recommended only to those that can overlook the special effects issues, and who enjoy embiggened, angry fauna.