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MGM Studios DVD presents
"Think of the money we'll make!"
DVD ReviewWe often see tributes and award ceremonies associated with the big names in directing: Scorsese, Coppola, Spielberg, Kubrick, etc. However, one director lost in the shuffle is always Bert I. Gordon, the mastermind behind such projects as The Amazing Colossal Man, Earth vs. The Spider, and Beginning of the End (featuring giant grasshoppers). Although his reputation is planted firmly in the history of bad B-moviedom, he has had an amazingly diverse career. Unfortunately, the body of his work is just not very good. Like Ed Wood, though, one must respect his devotion to the craft of filmmaking and his particularly wild subject matter.
Though questionably credited as being 'inspired' by the H.G. Wells story Food Of The Gods, Village Of The Giants is more likely inspired by the popular generation of beach movies. Tommy Kirk stars as Mike, a fairly average kid who likes to party, dance, and hang out with his friends. His little brother, auspiciously named 'Genius' (Ron Howard), however, prefers to experiment and tinker in his basement-style laboratory. One day, the tyke cooks up a weird, red Slurpee that makes things—like cats and dogs—grow. Mike and his friends "grow" some huge ducks and take them out to a club (complete with music by the Beau Brummels) but, in the process, they reveal their secret to the rather unpleasant Fred (Beau Bridges) and his cronies.
When Fred, his girlfriend, and a few others manage to get their sneaky hands on Genius' formula, they make themselves giant-sized and proceed to be generally unpleasant to the local townsfolk. They take over, rule things from a local theater, and attempt to make Mike and his friends their personal slaves. So now, Mike and company must concoct a plan to not only bring them back to normal, but stop them from controlling the town by holding the sheriff's daughter hostage. It's wild, wacky, 1960s kookiness at its most painful, but it's still fascinating to watch.
Bert Gordon really went for the gold here, and it's obvious. Casting the then-popular, former Mouseketeer, Tommy Kirk, in the same "beach guy" role he'd been playing for years probably worked to get audiences packing the theaters. I'm sure it helped that the Beau Brummels (at the time) were a hit, as was the idea of twisting the familiar "teen" movie into something so weird. Despite all that, this is still a typical Gordon movie with things becoming huge (a theme in his career), and special effects that are painfully low-budget. We also get to see a young Beau Bridges doing things like walking and talking slower than normal to try and appear massive. Oh, and there's plenty of dancing, as well.
Village Of The Giants is fun to watch for a lot of reasons, but it's certainly not a classic film for any particularly good reasons. It does make a comfortable fit into MGM's 'Midnite Movie' series, because that's really where it belongs. Part of me is disappointed, however, that MGM bothered to put this out when they could have been really nice, sold the rights to Rhino Home Video cheaply, and we could have gotten the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+
Image Transfer Review: To begin with, I have doubts this film is in its proper aspect ratio. While I was unable to find the official specification for the original film format, it really looks like it was made for 1:85:1, squeezed into the 1:33:1 frame. Not cropped mind you, squeezed, meaning we get that weird, elongating effect. When I imagined the compression being taken away, it felt very much like 1:85:1, or perhaps 1:78:1. Something about the transfer just feels very wrong, whether it's this squished look or the fact that people and things seem oddly composed out of the frame, so I doubt this is proper presentation. (Notice how the chapter selection photos are obviously wide-format and are not squeezed.) That aside, the film doesn't look very good anyway. It's heavily faded in some sections, and in others, the colors bleed horribly from over- saturation. While compression artifacts are not present, the film is pretty grainy and a bit blurry, looking a little like bad edge-enhancement.
Image Transfer Grade: D
Audio Transfer Review: The audio is Pro-Logic Mono, and is servicable. Nothing is terrible, but nothing stands out much either. The music sounds pretty nice, which is a good thing, I guess, since it features so heavily in the film. There are really no complaints here.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
Extras Review: Other than subtitles, there are no extra features here. As per usual, I'm annoyed with what MGM did to the cover (making their own instead of using original artwork), and there is no insert. There's not much to discuss here.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsIronically, Gordon would later make an actual film version of Food Of The Gods that was, in some repsects, better than this comedic farce. Unfortunately, this is a rent-only disc, not even worth owning by B-movie/badfilm lovers. Bert I. Gordon deserves better, and though I don't want 2-disc, super-versions of his movies, a little respect would be nice.
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