I love my father. I truly, truly do. I mean, the man introduced me to films in the first place! To hair-raising spectacles like THE THING and EVIL DEAD or the brilliant/stupid comedy gold found in the likes of THE JERK or PLANES, TRAINS, & AUTOMOBILES, my father has opened the wonderful world of cinema up to me. Indeed, without my father I would not be here now writing baseless film reviews or toiling away at possibly brilliant or more likely, middling, scripts. But this…this film THE FOOD OF THE GODS (based off a story by H.G. Wells) may be the event that marks the end of my father and I’s relationship. And honestly who could blame me?
But I digress, my father and I’s possibly deteriorating relationship has nothing to blame but this damned film. It’s a shame too because not only was Papa Norris very excited to show this film to me, but the story itself,(another exercise in oversized fauna tearing apart humans in the 70’s) holds promise. I mean, how can one mess up the premise of a pro football player who looks like he moonlights as a pop singer (Marjoe Gortner) fighting off a bunch of oversized chickens, wasps, and rats? How foolish of me to believe such a feat could be pulled off.
Football players fighting off oversized animals aside, THE FOOD OF THE GODS is just a slog to get through. Sure, the film offers a different enough locale in the Pacific Northwest forests brought to crisp clarity through Reginald H. Morris’ camera but the film squanders that interesting setting with an array of dumb, boring characters and lackluster monster action that push the lush trees aside to mainly duke it out in a plain as white paint cabin. From the buzzing wasps that only get one scene to lackadaisically buzz around before unceremoniously being blow apart to the scene stealing giant roosters that are quickly shunted away, THE FOOD OF THE GODS instead resorts to its neverending legion of giant rats. And I’m gonna be honest here, rats are far from the scariest things that you could enlargify because whether you want to admit it or not, rats are kind of cute so when you just bump them up a few sizes what I see is a giant army of cuddle buddies (rabies and everything else withstanding, of course). And the film banks a lot on its rats but sadly, the filmmaker, writer/director Bert I. Gordon (who made the dull yet momentarily enjoyable EMPIRE OF THE ANTS) resorts to the non-threatening visual display of cross-stitching scenes of regular rats running around on one side of the screen while the stale human performers scream on the other side in face-offs that literally go nowhere. This technique did not derive scares in EMPIRE OF THE ANTS and it does not do it here. But hey, even if that doesn’t work at least the rat puppets look a little better somehow.
So, THE FOOD OF THE GODS can’t deliver on the monster mayhem (and for ratings sakes, I really hope they weren’t shooting and drowning actual live rats to make this crappy film) but what else does it offer? Ah well, nothing much else. As mentioned, the performances all around are pretty pat, with Gortner failing to make much of an impression as both a professional NFL player and rat slayer. Elsewhere, performers either match Gortner in wood-based acting, such as Pamela Franklin as the woefully underwritten Lorna, or overcome rigidness in an effort to deliver camp which Ida Lupino, as a crazy elderly shacked up in a cabin nearly delivers, injecting the film with the smallest dose of cracked out energy. Sadly for Ms. Lupino, any energy that she commits is only further washed down by seriously stilted dialogue and a story that has characters making some of the dumbest decisions ever committed to film.
Tragically, all of these apparent flaws could have been pivoted in a way that would have infused the film with a raggedy, “tongue-in-cheek” kind of energy but Gordon instead is content to roll B-footage of rats expecting it to act as entertainment for 90 minutes or so. No doubt, I’m being a little rough on this movie when it is in fact, simply a B-movie about giant rats; and to any reader who will trudge on after reading this review (ha!), they may actually find some images and situations here to enjoy. But for me, THE FOOD OF THE GODS can take a hike. As for the relationship between my father and I after watching this at his recommendation…well, the jury’s still out.