A film reviewer in the Guardian newspaper once dismissed Bert I. Gordon as `a man who has forgotten more about film-making than he ever knew’. Cruel, yes; amusing, certainly; and the statement also has a slight modicum of truth about it. Gordon is most famous for churning out cheap and cheerful sci-fi films in the Fifties, most famously The Amazing Colossal Man. By the Seventies however, his output was pretty much the same – still obsessed with giant people, animals and the like.
The Food Of The Gods tells the tale of a professional American football player, called Morgan, and his two chums who take a break on a rural island. One of the friends becomes separated (yawn) and has an unlucky encounter with a rather large wasp. Whilst searching for help Morgan has his own meeting with an over-sized beast. After ‘saying hello’ to a giant rooster (the film’s highlight!) Morgan meets an ageing farmwife who is concerned about ratholes in her larder. It seems the rats have been eating her ‘special’ foodstuff reserved exclusively for the poultry.
Food… is based on a `portion’ of a story by H.G.Wells. Some decent films have been adapted from Wells’ sci-fi fables such as Things To Come and The Time Machine. Needless to say, Gordon’s two efforts, this film and the later The Empire Of The Ants, are not among them. Still, I personally consider Food… to be the better of the two, in all respects from sound balance (a major problem in Empire’s early scenes), special effects, model work, pacing and story.
Sidenote: Joan Collins who starred in Empire… often cites it as her worst film. This is not so. The Monster, which was made in the mid-seventies, is much worse. Here she plays a stripper who rejects the amorous advances of a dwarf! The dwarf curses her so that her baby is born evil. Also consider her films based on her sister Jackie’s novels.
Food Of The Gods has two similarities to The Night Of The Living Dead. The rodent siege on the isolated farmhouse is an obvious likeness. Also consider the arguments between the characters as to how to deal with the situation. Morgan is quite a gung-ho person; he likens the rat attack to some sort of personal feud or battle of wits. Concern for his fellow humans does not seem to be a priority. Perhaps Bensington’s idea of escaping in the car would have been a better option than reinforcing the farmhouse (cf. Night…).
I liked Morgan’s idea that the rats would not be able to swim, as they were too big. Perhaps he should have explained some tenets of biophysics to all the infected animals. The drastic increase in body size would have to be compensated by gross changes in bone structure, blood circulation, organ size and other aspects of physiology and morphology. The rats and chickens would be unlikely to support their own weight otherwise and as for the wasps flying and their nest…
Finally, the film did not proceed in a direction I anticipated. The farmwife explained that the ‘food’ only effected young animals not adults. As a pregnant woman was introduced to the story, I thought she would somehow ingest the ‘food’. This would result in her giving birth to an oversized baby as an extra ‘shock’ near the end. The strain of such an unnatural parturition would probably kill the mother. A wasted opportunity perhaps. Still, the films actual ending did raise concerns over food safety and contamination. Such issues are always topical here in Britain, land of BSE, listeria, salmonella etc.