Mr. B.I.G. Bert Gordon

Bert I. Gordon is most famous for such science fiction and horror B-movies as The Amazing Colossal Man and Village of the Giants.

Most of Gordon’s work is in the genre of giant monster films, for which he used rear-projection to create the special effects. His nickname “Mister B.I.G.” is a reference both to his initials and to his preferred technique for making super-sized creatures.

Gordon began his career directing television commercials before moving to film in 1954 to produce Serpent Island. In 1957 he began his prolific association with American International Pictures.

His early films were usually threadbare—classic mom-and-pop operations, with Gordon and wife Flora Gordon chipping in for most of the offscreen labors—they were not slapdash; within the confines of his circumstances, Gordon usually tried to do good work, and if blessed with capable performers and a decent story, he might succeed. Only when Gordon attempted to cater to teenagers—an age group he manifestly did not understand—was an abysmal failure guaranteed.

That is why, out of all the films of his first prolific decade, only The Spider and Village of the Giants should be avoided at all costs; both mingle dubious science fiction with the inane antics of talentless teenage actors, and are as a result the sorts of films that only someone chained to a chair could reasonably be expected to watch in their entirety. Vastly superior is one of my three favorite Gordon films, The Beginning of the End, where a young Peter GRAVES confronts the challenge of protecting Chicago from an invasion of giant grasshoppers with startling conviction. Equally meritorious is The Amazing Colossal Man: even though visibly a hurried effort to exploit the success of Jack ARNOLD’s The Incredible Shrinking Man, the film nonetheless managed to convey the genuine anguish of a man being separated from his wife and society by a growing deformity, and if Glenn Langan did not quite possess the acting ability for the task, well, neither did Shrinking Man’s Grant Williams. Other commentators might offer kind words for Attack of the Puppet People, with John Hoyt hamming it up as a man deriving perverse pleasure from shrinking people and toying with them, or Tormented, an innovative collaboration with screenwriter George Worthing YATES involving a man haunted by the body parts of his dead wife. The other Gordon films from this era—King Dinosaur, The Cyclops, War of the Colossal Beast, The Boy and the Pirates, and The Magic Sword—will at least keep you entertained, even if they do not inspire tremendous admiration.

The decline of the B-movie in the 1960s left Gordon floundering for a while, and his only contributions were the undistinguished horror film Picture Mommy Dead and the black-magic epic Necromancy, starring an Orson Welles increasingly desperate for sources of income to finance his films. But Gordon did manage to garner the resources for two major films in the 1970s based on the works of H. G. WELLS. The Food of the Gods is generally risible, inadequately anchored by hapless leading man Marjoe Gortner and sabotaged by a senseless story line, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Empire of the Ants, the third film I would submit in any defense of Gordon’s talents. Its giant ants represented the pinnacle of Gordon’s limited success with special effects, and its moderately involving plot features the two most distinguished performances in Gordon’s oeuvre: Joan COLLINS, road-testing the rich-bitch persona that would later serve her well in Dynasty, and a refreshingly surly Robert LANSING.

None of his films has received significant critical attention, but his work has attained popularity in some circles. The cult TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) has featured several of his movies.Bash, held each June, at the Pittsburgh, PA Airport Four Points.