MGM Studios DVD presents
Food of the Gods (1976)
"Lady, how much do you think those rats will grow if they got into this food of yours?"- Morgan (Marjoe Gortner)
Stars: Marjoe Gortner, Pamela Franklin, Ralph Meeker
Other Stars: Jon Cypher, Ida Lupino, Brenda Balaski, Tom Stover, Chuck Courtney
Director: Bert I. Gordon
MPAA Rating: PG for (violence, gore, some language)
Run Time: 01h:28m:19s
Release Date: 2007-09-11
DVD ReviewMovie adaptations of H.G. Wells' works are all over the map in terms of quality, and the general rule of thumb is that the farther they get away from the subject matter the worse they tend to be. That's certainly the case with this adaptation set in modern dress that swaps Wells' science and philosophy for religion and gore.
Football player Morgan (Marjoe Gortner), his teammate Davis (Chuck Courtney) and PR man Brian (Jon Cypher) take a ferry to a secluded island for a little R&R and hunting, but things take a turn for the worse when Davis is killed by a groups of gigantic wasps. Looking for help, Morgan and Brian come to the cottage of Mrs. Skinner (Ida Lupino), who has raised some gigantic chickens thanks to some mysterious goop coming out of the ground. Although Mrs. Skinner believes it is a gift from God, the consequences of the Skinners' poor housekeeping means a variety of bugs, wasps and even rats are growing to enormous size. Businessman Bensington (Ralph Meeker) and his bacteriologist Lorna (Pamela Franklin) aim to make a lot of money from the food, but the lot of them find themselves under siege at the farmhouse, along with an expecting young couple, Thomas (Tom Stovall) and Rita (Brenda Balaski). The size, numbers and ferocity of these creatures mean that if the humans are to survive they're going to have to use all their wits.
Director/writer/producer Bert I. Gordon had a run of sci-fi movies featuring gigantic people (Village of the Giants, The Amazing Colossal Man, War of the Colossal Beast), so it's fairly natural that he'd take on a movie that features gigantic creatures as well. The effects work is critical to the picture working at all, and they range from convincing to decent for their time to laughable to downright painful. The giant wasps are very poorly done, with the poor actors flailing away in pantomime at giant wasps superimposed optically, but in a way that makes them look entirely transparent. On the other hand, the model work, especially on the Skinner cottage as the giant rats swarm over it, is quite excellent. But Gordon is entirely going for shock and horror moments here; nothing remains of Wells' philosophical musings about supermen and evolutionary processes, so it's for the best that the credits carefully state that the movie is based only on a part of the novel.
The characters are pretty thinly drawn, with most of them simply cardboard caricatures that are put through their paces. Bensington is a money-grubbing type who cares nothing about people or human life. Mrs. Skinner is a garden-variety movie religious fanatic, while Lorna is a mouthy feminist who for some reason puts up with Bensington pushing her around. And of course there's the cliche of the young woman having to give birth during the siege of the farmhouse. The theme of the rebellion of nature had already been done in similar fashion (and more frighteningly) in Frogs. There are a few amusing touches, such as the reproduction of American Gothic seen hanging on the wall of the Skinner home, as the story descends into Gothic horror. Money must have run short, since several naturally cinematic scenes (such as Lorna falling into a rat hole) are only described and not seen.
Former child preacher Marjoe Gortner is a decent enough leading man, though he lacks any sort of range. Pamela Franklin is stuck with a rather thankless role and little to actually do. Ida Lupino was apparently brought in for some name value, and she's made to suffer the indignities of having her hand attacked by giant caterpillars and a grisly death scene in hors de combat with a giant rate. On the positive side, there are some rather clever methods used to fight the giant creatures, and the climactic showdown at the farmhouse can hardly help but be suspenseful. The brisk pacing helps keep interest from flagging too much. It's cheesy but a decently amusing timewaster.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The source print is quite clean, with no serious issues other than occasional speckling. Color is fine, with decent black levels. However, the anamorphic widescreen picture is rather soft, and the grain is heavy and tends to be a bit sparkly. Some edge enhancement is also visible at time but it's seldom too obtrusive.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
|Mono||English, French, Spanish||yes|
Audio Transfer Review: Both mono and stereo English mixes are included. Both are nice and clean, though they're lacking in range and presence. The several explosions do have good bass levels. The foley effects and the echoes in the rat hole are mixed a bit loud on the stereo version and the mono version is generally preferable.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Extras Review: The disc is totally barebones; not even a trailer is present or a paper insert. At least chaptering is generous.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsForget the philosophy; bring on the giant rats! The effects work is pretty lacking, though it does have its moments. At least the transfer is reasonably good.
Mark Zimmer 2007-12-14