What would you get if you mixed the premise of the H.G. Wells story “Food of the Gods and How it Came to Earth” with that of the beach party film genre? Now, no one in their right mind would even posit such a question but questionable sanity was never really a concern of producer/writer/director Bert I. Gordon and thus in the mid-60s he would take his penchant for “size-themed movies” and blend it with some ’60s teen culture, what could go wrong?
From the film’s opening psychedelic credit sequence, with half-naked teens gyrating to some 60s pop music in wild technicolour, you know exactly what kind of movie you are about to watch and that pretty much sums up the films of Bert I. Gordon a man who doesn’t just deliver a film on an incredibly small budget he also makes a product that completely fulfills the promise of said story, no matter how goofy or bizarre. And just how messed up and bizarre is this film? Well, the very first scene is a bunch of teens stumbling out of their car after it wrecks during a rainstorm, and by stumbling, I mean they come out of the wreck dancing and gyrating like complete lunatics while reaching for more beer.
Meanwhile, over in the nearby town of Hainesville, an eleven-year-old named “Genius” (Ron Howard) has accidentally stumbled upon a growth formula while playing with his chemistry set in the basement, as kids of this ear were apt to do, while his sister Nancy (Charla Doherty) and her boyfriend Mike (Tommy Kirk) make out on the living room couch, but when the formula turns the neighbour cat into a giant feline it takes Mike no time to realize the money-making potential of such a formula would have. A quick test resulting in two giant ducks proves that the formula can make them a mint with giant livestock, unfortunately, the group of rowdy teens from the film’s opening have made their way into town, crashing at the closed-down theatre, and they have a close encounter with gigantic ducks when the fowls turn up at the local nightclub. The leader of the group, Fred (Beau Bridges), decides a little industrial espionage is in order so he and his girlfriend (Joy Harmon) try and seduce the secret of the growth formula from Mike and Nancy.
The out-of-town teens’ scheme to learn the secret of the growth formula, and while seduction fails, they are ultimately successful with a little breaking and entering, escaping with a sample of the “Goo” and returning to the theatre to make their plans. Then with a colossally stupid turn of events, Fed is goaded into trying some of the Goo himself – he is called “chicken” and no self-respecting leader can let something like that stand – and so he slices of the sample into eight portions, and everyone partakes, but what exactly does one do when you’ve turned yourself into a thirty-foot giant? Why, you decide to take over the town, of course. That Mike hitting giant Fred across the shin with a chair actually hurt makes it clear that these giants are far from invulnerable and so they take Sheriff’s (Joe Turkel) little girl hostage to insure their safety and then demand that everyone in town hand over their guns, which they do. With the adults proving themselves to be completely inept, it’s up to the town’s teens to step in and save the day. The first attempt involves Mike and company trying to rope Fred up like Gulliver from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, but this fails when Nancy is taken hostage as well.
With the still adults paralyzed by ineptness and the “Gulliver Plan” turning out to be a complete bust, Mike turns to Genius to make them a supply of ether, so that they can neutralize the one giant left guarding the hostage while Mike attempts to distract the rest of them by playing David and Goliath with his puny sling. What’s interesting here is that while the plan to knock out one of the giants works, with one of our heroic teens dropping onto the chest of a giantess to drug her with a giant swab soaked in ether, the day is not saved by our intrepid teens as that honour goes to Genius, who accidentally discovered an antidote to his original creation and he rides over on his bicycle with a pail full of the fuming antidote, that then reverts all the giants back to normal size.
• This would be Bert I. Gordon’s second of three “adaptations” of H.G. Wells’s story Food of the Gods and How it Came to Earth, with the first being Beginning of the End and the latter one actually being called Food of the Gods.
• This movie was filmed in something the studio called “Perceptovision” which was just another gimmick like “Smell-O-Vision” and like most of these types of gimmicks it didn’t add to the film at all.
• One of the giants is seen reading an issue of “Famous Monsters of Filmland” that has War of the Colossal Beast on the cover because Bert I. Gordon loves self-promotion.
• The cat in this film was the same feline used in the classic science fiction film The Incredible Shrinking Man, and I must ask “Is that typecasting?”
• That all the citizens of a small American town are willing to hand over their guns is a bigger piece of fantasy than that of giant teenagers.
• After the antidote reverts Fred and his pals back to normal size the Sheriff just allows them to leave as if kidnapping and holding an entire town in a grip of fear wasn’t actually a crime.
• The movie ends with the now normal-sized teens meeting a travelling band of little people who have heard about the growth formula, but as the giants had destroyed all communications in and out of the town, I’m not sure how this was possible.
• Science fiction films dealing with animals or people growing tend to ignore where all that extra mass is coming from, if we were dealing with magic that would be one thing, but this is supposed to be a scientific growth formula not a wish from a genie.
• On the money-making side of things, what would the cost of producing enough food to keep your giant livestock healthy be? Would a giant cow eat less or more than three normal-sized cows?
Bert I. Gordon’s Village of the Giants is perfect drive-in fare as not only does it center around fun and a goofy group of teen protagonists and antagonists, with adults being completely useless, the film is padded with several musical numbers that will allow teens in their parked cars plenty of make-out time without there being in danger of them missing any important “plot” moments, and the movie itself will give any guy in the audience plenty to look at as we get endless views of partially naked female bodies gyrating to the rhythms of the Beau Brummell’s or Freddy Cannon, in fact, this film should have been called Village of the Giants: The Male Gaze.
What a modern viewer will get out of watching Valley of the Giants is the novelty of seeing a young Beau Bridges in a toga and an even younger Ronny Howard as the film’s boy genius, both of whom actually give really fun performances in this outing, we also have Disney mainstay Tommy Kirk as the hero, sadly, he’s pretty forgettable along with the rest of the cast and kind of annoying. As to the special effects and photographic trickery utilized to create the film’s titular giants, well that is actually done surprisingly well for a film that was clearly on a shoestring budget, add to this the fact that the film is quickly paced and you’ve got yourself a nice little sci-fi flick that is about as entertaining as one could expect to find in a story about giant rebels without a clue.
Village of the Giants (1965)
Movie Rank - 4.5/10
If you like campy psychedelic craziness, then Bert I. Gordon’s Village of the Giants is the film for you, if you want a story with sensible characters and a plot that makes a lick of sense, maybe look somewhere else.