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The Food of the Gods (1976) by Bert I. Gordon, starring Marjoe Gortner, Ida Lupino, Ralph Meeker, Pamela Franklin

The Food of the Gods

The Food of the Gods (1976) by Bert I. Gordon, starring Marjoe Gortner, Ida Lupino, Ralph Meeker, Pamela Franklin

In The Food of the Gods, on a remote island a farmer discovers a strange gooey substance. It causes young animals to grow rapidly. His problems begin when the creatures get hungry – they prefer human flesh. Loosely based on H.G. Wells’ 1904 novel.

Review

Ida Lupino in The Food of the Gods

To say that The Food of the Gods is loosely based on H. G. Wells’ novel is a gross overstatement. Bert I. Gordon takes the idea of a substance that causes enormous growth in men and animals and runs wild with it. He mixes it with an ecological message that’s heavy-handed as well. H. G. Wells would turn over in his grave if he had lived to see his name attached to this.

In addition, the characters are two-dimensional at best, and the acting is mediocre, as are the special effects. There’s a lot of gore thrown in, and some early political correctness as well. Marriage? That’s so outdated! Someone’s religious? They must be portrayed as stupid hicks. Etc.

Random thoughts:

  • Why does F.O.T.G. (the in-movie name for the Food of the Gods chemical) turn all of the animals carnivorous?
  • Why does it turn them into cannibals?
  • Ida Lupino is a highly accomplished actress and director. Why is she in this schlock? How the mighty have fallen …
  • There’s a fair amount of gross-out in the film.
    • Giant maggots eating Ida Lupino’s arm.
    • Giant rats eating the man inside a car.
    • The fight against a giant rooster.
    • Giant rats eating giant chickens, etc.
  • The characters are two-dimensional at best. Couldn’t B.I.G. have invested a little time to flesh them out a little?

Cast of characters

  • Marjoe Gortner (Earthquake) as Morgan. Professional football player who’s come to the island for a hunting trip with his buddies. After one buddy’s killed by giant wasps, he ushers the others off while he returns. The protagonist of the movie. He tries to lead the various survivors.
  • Pamela Franklin (The Legend of Hell House) as Lorna. Bensington’s assistant, a bacteriologist. She serves as love interest to Morgan, and remind Bensington that he’s bad, greedy, and evil. Frequently and often.
  • Ralph Meeker (The Dirty Dozen) as Jack Bensington. The one-dimensional, evil capitalist who wants to use the goop. He runs a dog food company; I’d hate to see the size of those dogs in a competition. Being a one-dimensional character, he cares for no one and nothing but money.
  • Jon Cypher as Brian. Morgan’s friend, who serves as a counterpoint to Morgan’s idea. Although Morgan never listens, and Brian goes along with Morgan every time. He’s killed by giant rats.
  • Ida Lupino (High Sierra) as Mrs. Skinner. With her husband, they take the bubbling goop, mix it with chicken feed, and feed it to the chickens. The adults are unaffected, but the chicks grow gargantuan … and eat the adults. The religious Mrs. Skinner considers the goop a “gift from God” to make them rich. She is a negative stereotype of all religious people. Ida’s a fine actress, but she’s given very little to work with.
  • John McLiam (Cool Hand Luke) as Mr. Skinner. The owner of the remote farm along with his wife. He’s killed by giant rats in his car.
  • Belinda Balaski (Gremlins) as Rita. Very pregnant, traveling with her boyfriend. She sees no sense in marriage, despite Thomas’ wish. After all, he’s only the sperm donor. And, financially responsible for the child for the next 18 years…
  • Tom Stovall (Silkwood) as Thomas. Rita’s boyfriend, the father of her child. He wants to marry her, but she refuses.

Editorial review of The Food of the Gods courtesy of Amazon.com

The Food of the Gods (1976) by Bert I. Gordon, starring Marjoe Gortner, Ida Lupino, Ralph Meeker, Pamela Franklin

Though many of director Bert I. Gordon’s previous films tackle the man versus nature theme central to the sci-fi genre, Food of the Gods’ ecological concern makes it a bit more prescient than his classics from the 50s and 60s. Having unleashed gargantuan humans in Village of the Giants, and insects in Empire of the Ants, Gordon adapted the eponymous H.G. Wells novel into a film that highlights human responsibility in nature as well as his ability to make animals look as large as trees and cars. Set on an island off the Canadian coast, Morgan (Marjoe Gortner) and some buddies from his football team retreat to the “country,” but flee horrified after three giant wasps sting their friend to death.

Following this initial attack, the viewer learns that on a nearby farm, Mrs. Skinner (Ida Lupino) and her husband are feeding a mysterious, toxic ambrosia labeled F.O.T.G. to their chickens, causing them to grow into huge mutants. As other forest dwellers accidentally ingest this foamy liquid, which bubbles up from the ground in a polluted artesian well, they become rabid human killers, symbolizing the revenge nature reaps on those who don’t protect her.

Meanwhile, bacteriologists Jack Bensington (Ralph Meeker) and Lorna (Pamela Franklin) visit to buy the rights to this disgusting, yellow goo. The most satisfaction comes during scenes in which maggots hiding amongst Mrs. Skinner’s canned peaches attack her arm, or when giant rats invade a neighbor’s motorhome. The culmination of horror in the final scenes is slightly gory (think bomb-exploded rats) but humorous enough not to nauseate. Serious environmental undertones in Food of the Gods only add depth to its schlocky tendencies, making it, overall, a great example of the “gigantic creature” special effects mastered by this remarkable director. —Trinie Dalton

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