The Food of the Gods (1976)
The Food of the Gods (1976)

Genre: Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 28 min.

Release Date: June 18th, 1976 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Bert I. Gordon Actors: Marjoe Gortner, Pamela Franklin, Ralph Meeker, Jon Cypher, Ida Lupino, John McLiam, Belinda Balaski

 


 

F

ootballer Morgan (Marjoe Gortner) narrates, explaining how a teammate and staff member travel to the country for a quick vacation before the big Sunday game. As he takes in the sights on the British Columbia ferry ride over, he reminisces about his father, who spoke regularly about mankind’s disregard for the planet. Clearly, this monster movie is hiding behind the thin veneer of being a cautionary tale about pollution and Mother Nature striking back against destructive humans. Curiously, the opening credits state that the film is based on a portion of the novel by H.G. Wells – an admittance rarely conceded in such terms.

Once in the woods on the island, fellow player Davis (Chuck Courtney) is attacked by enormous wasps, leaving a swollen, bruised corpse. Morgan runs off to get help while promoter Brian (Jon Cypher) stays behind. But just as Morgan spies a barn, he’s ambushed by an oversized chicken, which shreds his jacket and nearly eats him alive. The adjoining house contains the frightened, batty Mrs. Skinner (Ida Lupino), who reveals that the special food she’s been preparing for her animals may be the cause of the startlingly abnormal growths – in everything from her livestock to insects to pests.

Everyone is exceptionally calm, such as when Skinner watches as Morgan is accosted by the frenzied fowl, which segues to commonplace chatting, as if they’re both only mildly disconcerted about the extraordinary events that just took place. Of course, in the worlds of Samuel Z. Arkoff’s American International Pictures, here also produced and directed by Bert I. Gordon, uncanny monstrosities abound. With minimal setup and even more nominal character development, no time is wasted getting right into the mutilative assaults – and many of them are impressively bloody.

“It was the big worms, miss.” There’s an obvious attention to suspenseful violence over everything else, especially considering the narrative’s design in regularly introducing additional roles, most of which essentially just provide fodder. People have a habit of spontaneously showing up on the island, solely to succumb to gigantic creatures. Fortunately, many of these sequences are effective – in a cheesy, low-budget, dated sort of way – through the utilization of live-action animal footage rapidly cut with animation, miniatures, puppets (and gooey, rubbery props), and plenty of gore effects. It’s not always convincing, but it has a certain charm to it – as long as viewers can keep their expectations to Z-grade ’70s exploitation mode.

As if to fill a quota for these types of killer animal flicks, “The Food of the Gods” also features a money-hungry businessman, Jack Bensington (Ralph Meeker), who can only concern himself with potential profits; an available female companion, Lorna (Pamela Franklin), to complement the macho jock, providing intermittent sexual tension; a pregnant woman, Rita (Belinda Balaski), whose condition evokes extra sympathy and vulnerability; aggravatingly panicky reactions, which only worsen the situations; the notion of religion and God being responsible for enacting this devious brand of revenge against transgressors; and, of course, a conclusion with a shrewd wink. “We sinned against nature!” But by the end (which starts to resemble the showdown from “Night of the Living Dead”), the most memorable aspects of this fast-paced, mediocrely-acted, moderately-exciting endeavor (aside from the nonsensical disbelief maintained by the main characters, immediately after witnessing firsthand the extent of the gargantuan man-eaters) are the 150-pound rats, amusingly portrayed every so often by colossal, fake heads and appendages. “Don’t let no rats eat us!”

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10