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Village of the Giants

Part Three of JD's & Rocketbras

     "All right, now -- What is this?" 

-- Sheriff Buford T. Understatement    

 

     

Reviews:

Gonzoid Cinema

 

 

Buzzkillers!

"Man ...  pa never told me about women like you!"

 

Watch it!

AMAZON

DVD

 
Sights &
Sounds:
Village of
the Giants
(1965)
 Berkeley Productions /
 Embassy Pictures

Career Killer?

Beau Bridges

"My agent is sooo fired."

Brotherhood
of the
Traveling
Matte:
The Films of
Bert I. Gordon.

The Cyclops

Attack of the Puppet People

War of the Colossal Beast

Tormented

The Magic Sword

Village of the Giants

Empire of the Ants

Food of the Gods

 

Beginning with perhaps the greatest opening title sequence since the long tracking shot in Touch of Evil, as the thunderous chords of "The Last Race" cause our scantily clad giants to shimmy and shammy, we glean from the passing credits that we're definitely in for a real treat. For not only do we get Tommy Kirk, Beau Bridges, Toni Basil (...yes -- "Oh, Mickey youíre so fine, youíre so fine you blow my mind. Hey, Mickey!" -- that Toni Basil) and a post-Mayberry pre-Happy Days Ronnie Howard, we receive the final coop-da'-grass: produced and written and directed by one Bert I. Gordon. 

Yeehaaw!

Once the credits are out of the way, our movie proper opens on the washed-out road to Hainesville, with a slow pan that eventually settles on a wrecked car. The driver obviously ignored the warning signs blocking off the road, and when this teen-filled clown-car opens up, Fred, Pete, Rick and Harry (Beau Bridges, Tim Rooney, Robert Random and Kevin OíNeil), along with their respective girlfriends, Marie, Elsa, Georgette and Jean (Joy Harmon, Gail Gilmore, Vicki London and Tisha Sterling), all spill out into the torrential rain to joyously celebrate the wreck by shot-gunning some beer and jamming out to the Beau Brummels. Then, after the scene quickly degenerates into a mud-slinging orgy and wrestling match, Pete is the first to emerge out of the muck and suggests that they should push on into town and stir up some real trouble -- and the other rebel-rousers are quick to agree.

Meanwhile, in Hainesville, as a boy passionately makes out with his girl at her parent's house, their necking is crudely interrupted by her kid brother, Genius (Ron Howard). Kind of a proto-Dexter, complete with a secret laboratory, Genius wants to show off his latest experiment to Mike (Tommy Kirk) -- a volatile mixture that, for some reason, hasnít exploded yet. Unimpressed, his sister Nancy (Charla Doherty) kicks him out of the room. Seconds later, the whole house is rocked by a massive explosion. Rushing to Geniusís lab, the couple finds him still in one piece but completely covered in his latest experiment -- all except for a small amount left at the bottom of the beaker that slowly fizzes and mutates into some kind of JELL-O like mold. And while the kids clean up the lab, the family cat enters and eats some of that concoction and quickly grows to the size of a cow! The feline is not real happy with this development, but the group is saved by Woof, the family dog, who chases the cat out of the lab.

Quickly forgetting about the giant-sized cat currently running loose in the house -- My god ... just think of the sofa-sized hairballs, oh, the humanity! -- Mike realizes it must have been Geniusís experiment that caused the rapid growth. Dubbing the mold "goo",  they head outside and test it on some ducks, and when they grow, too, Mike sees nothing but dollar signs and the end of world hunger. But first they'll need more goo, and for that, he turns to Genius. But being more of a mix first and take notes later kind of inventor, Genius thinks he can recreate the formula and leads the others back to the lab to give it a try ... Again, completely ignoring the giant mutant ducks -- Egad! Just think of the duck droppings! -- and to make matters worse, Woof eats some of the discarded goo, too.

Elsewhere, after breaking into an abandoned theater and setting up camp, the muddied-teens clean up and then head over to Hainesville's famed Whiskey A-Go-Go, where they find The Beau Brummels playing live. Catching a glimpse of Red (Toni Basil), go-going up a storm, and being happily waved at by her boyfriend, Horsey (Johnny Crawford), the group joins in on the dancing -- until the giant ducks show up and take over the dance floor. After tracking down and claiming the giant dancing water fowl (-- I assume by following the aforementioned amazing colossal duck droppings --), Mike and Nancy are overwhelmed with questions. When Harry asks what they've been feeding them, Mike says itís a million dollar secret as he shoos the ducks back outside. With that, as the dancing resumes, the visiting teen-gang huddles up, and wanting to cash-in, decide to try and steal the magic feed. Trying the subtle approach first, Fred turns the smarm charm on Nancy while Jean vamps on Mike. But neither get very far as Mike quickly sniffs out what theyíre really after. 

Well, so much for the subtle approach.

Then it's back to the lab we go, where we're entreated to the first of many scenes of Genius blowing himself up as he unsuccessfully tries to recreate the elusive goo formula.

Segueing to the next day, we find the giant ducks, a true scientific miracle, have been summarily executed, plucked and cooked on a spit for a barbecue. (Isnít anyone worried about the possible side-effects of the contaminated meat? Somebody call the FDA!) And after another mindless musical number and gratuitous dancing sequence unseen by those of you whoíve only seen the MST3k version (-- and lucky you), Genius rides up on his bike with another vile of goo. But when it quickly evaporates, Elsa overhears his disgust and then tricks Genius into spilling the beans about where the magic goo is located ... Later that evening, when Mike and Nancy return to the lab to lock up what precious little goo is left, they find something else beat them to it! No -- not the rival teens, but a spider that has mutated so big that it actually growls at them! But with some quick thinking, Mike manages to electrocute the arachnid by breaking a water pipe and throwing a busted light into the water. (Man, MacGuyver would be proud.) After taking care of the goo, and I assume cleaning up the crispered spider carcass (-- well, at least they didn't try to eat it), Mike and Nancy leave to rejoin the party. When they're gone, Pete breaks into the lab and finds the goo -- but also triggers Geniusís very loud burglar alarm, alerting Mike and his pals. A brief rumble ensues, and even though the good guys technically win the battle, the bad guys won the war by making off with the only goo left.

Holing up in their hideout, as the victors plot their next move, Harry hits upon an idea: Maybe they should eat the goo. All the others think itís a great idea -- except for Fred, who protests vehemently, but he eventually caves to peer pressure. Divvying up the goo, they quickly finish it off -- and itís here where we get the best F/X shot as the teens rapidly grow and split out of their clothes. Stunned by the new altitude, a few regret the hasty decision while the others canít wait to take advantage of their new stature. But first, they have to make some makeshift togas out of some discarded theater curtains -- this is a PG film after all.

Meanwhile, Opie -- Iím sorry, Genius, is still having no luck; although he does manage to create some kind of mutant hell beast that escapes down the drain. And over at the park, where it seems that yet another party is going on, the giants make their first public appearance:

 

Man, the internet is truly a wonderful thing! And that is one truly hilarious sequence as we keep cutting from the dancing giants to shots of the gawking crowd, whose expressions remain dully fixated despite the fact that eight giant people are jerk'n the monkey a mere 20 yards away! Only when Marie picks up Horsey for a closer look and gives him a ride on her make-shift bra (-- "My eyes are up here, jack-ass" --) does Mike spring into action. Demanding that they put him down, although I must point out that Horsey really doesn't seem to mind, when Marie refuses, Mike breaks a chair on Fredís leg and gets a giant floppy hand right in the kisser just as the Sheriff (Joseph Turkel) arrives. Also strangely unaffected by the sudden appearance of several twenty-foot tall teenagers in his jurisdiction, the Sheriff orders the crowd to disperse, and when Rick threatens to squish him, Fred intervenes and the giants retreat peacefully -- for now.

The next morning, Mike tags along with the Sheriff as he heads to the theater to order the giant troublemakers out of town. Before they arrive, Harry spots them and warns the others that the Sheriff has a rifle. But Rick and Pete tell everyone not to worry because they've secured some insurance, and after they've been given the ultimatum to leave or else, Rick reveals that theyíve kidnapped the Sheriff's daughter, whom they will continue to hold as hostage to keep him in line. Left with no choice, the Sheriff quickly surrenders, and then Fred sets the new ground rules: first, all adults will have a curfew, and second, they have to round-up all the guns in the town and bring them to the theater for safekeeping.

With the Sheriff neutralized, Mike rallies the other teens to save the town. And while Genius switches gears and begins looking for an antidote, the others finally hit upon a plan to get a hostage of their own. Grabbing their lassos, they mount their hot-rods and motorcycles and go hunting for a giant ... Finding Fred separated from the others, they attack and try to Gulliver him via, hands down, the absolute worst F/X shot of the film. 

Their plan almost works, too, until Pete, who overheard the commotion, grabs Nancy and threatens to squish her if they donít let Fred go. Now with two hostages in need of rescuing, Mike and his pals have to come up with another hair-brained plan, and once again, they at least live up to the hair-brained part ... Knowing that giants only leave one person on guard duty, Mike will provide a distraction to get the others outside; then Horsey and the others will use some ether Genius cooked-up to knock out the remaining giant, rescue Nancy and Laura, and get the guns back.

A short time later, inside the theater, as he tries to make nice with Nancy, Fred is soon distracted by the sound of breaking glass. Following the noise outside, he finds Mike with a slingshot chunking rocks at them. Quickly recognizing the David and Goliath motif, Fred grabs a light pole for a spear, and after ordering Marie to go back inside to watch the hostages, he gives chase. The other giants tag along, hoping to see somebody get squished, but the fleet-footed Mike proves too fast for the lumbering Fred and easily dodges his blows as he draws them away from the theater.

Meanwhile, the second part of the plan goes off without a hitch as Marie gets a face full of ether and passes out. Nancy and Laura are saved! And to top that off, Genius has finally discovered the antidote when Woof catches a whiff of his latest smoldering concoction and shrinks back down to normal size. Good timing, too, because Fred has finally managed to corner Mike and is about to impale him when Genius arrives with the antidote. And as the gas envelopes the giants, they quickly shrink back down to normal size. Disoriented by the lower altitude, Mike takes the golden opportunity to clock Fred in the nose before the Sheriff and the rest of the townsfolk surround the gang and run them out of town.

That's it? What about all the felonies? Isnít kidnapping a federal offense? And how come their clothes shrank too?

We then end where we began as the teens trudge back to their car -- and steel yourself for one last and truly tasteless altitude joke that I wonít bother to spoil for you.

The End

Damn it, but I -- despite all better judgment -- loves me some Bert I. Gordon movies. And here we have his attempt to cash in on the campy, teen-fueled beach-bunny movies of his former employers over at American International. Whatever the subject matter, all the Mr. Big staples are present and accounted for: traveling matte F/X at their mediocre best; a bare-bones plot barreling for the climax; a killer soundtrack; and lots and lots of go-go dancing. I also love the way everybody is so nonchalant about the sudden appearance of all the big cats, ducks, dogs and people -- only the icky spider is deemed a menace to society and fried on the spot. And if Gordon wants to claim H.G. Wells as inspiration for the film, then he might as well give a co-credit to George Orwell, as thereís just as much Animal Farm as The Food of the Gods up on the screen. I mean, look at the evidence: originally, the giants wanted to share authority with the rest of the teens after their revolution only to wind up replacing the adults with themselves, and eventually force Mike and the others to do their bidding. Again, do I find myself reading too much into this? Probably. As the wise old philosopher Crow T. Robot once said, "Based on? Oh, yeah -- based on that theyíre both in English." If nothing else, Village of the Giants will probably go down as one of the greatest episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. For me, it ranks right behind Teenage Caveman and The Fugitive Alien episodes.

Also of note, The Beau Brummels can officially join The Del-Aires as one of my favorite B-movie rock-n-roll bands; although "Woman" and "When It Comes to Your Love" pale in comparison to tracks like "Drive" and "The Zombie Stomp" from The Horror of Party Beach soundtrack. (I wonder why they didnít sing "Laugh, Laugh?") I also really dig Jack Nitzsche's "The Last Race" -- the thunderously groovy instrumental that accompanies the hilariously long dancing sequences. Nitzsche was a composer and songwriter, who helped build Phil Specter's Wall of Sound. He also penned, among other things, "The Lonely Surfer" and contributed to the soundtracks of other genre fair, like Greaser's Palace and When You Coming Back, Red Ryder.

Speaking of dancing the sequences, I think old Bert could definitely be accused of ogling with his camera as there are many a-lingerin' shots of giant breasts and shaking hinders. Not that Iím personally complaining, mind you; there's a lot of beautiful eye-candy on display here. Most folks might recognize Joy Harmon as the lustful gal washing the car under the lusting gaze of the prisoners in Cool Hand Luke, but I was too busy being smitten with Tisha Sterling to really notice anyone else -- except for that one character among the male teen giants, who will remain nameless (-- but it wasnít Fred, Rick or Pete), who always seemed to be trying to cup a feel on his female co-stars during the mud dance that really creeped me out. Yeah, I know. Pot? Kettle. Kettle? Pot. I also must be watching too much of Bill Nye and Beakman because at the end, when Fred and the gang shrank back down to normal size, all I could think about was how their stomachs and intestines should've exploded after the massive quantities of chicken and soda-pop they consumed earlier. And then I said a little prayer, hoping that Tom Savani or Umberto Lenzi would helm a remake someday.

Now, before I wrap this up, I also want to give a big THANK YOU to MGM for finally getting this and other cult classics out on video as part of the much welcomed Midnite Movies series. I had been trying own it for years and can remember getting into a hotly contested bidding war on eBay for an out of print VHS copy a while ago, where my rival bidder wound up paying $55 bucks for it -- other copies were going for as much as $80! He won. I lost, and wound up paying $9.99 for my brand new copy. So whoís laughing now, Mr. Sniper Bidder! Thhhbbbbbbbttthhh!

Despite the "Just say no" to goo angle, I'll admit that Village of the Giants teeters on the brink of the parameters I set for this J.D.ís and Rocketbras retrospective, but I thought, screw it, I love this movie and I think you will too -- especially the fifty odd shots of Opie blowing himself up.

Where did that kid get his wonderful chemistry set?

Village of the Giants (1965) Berkeley Productions :: Joseph E. Levine Productions :: Embassy Pictures / EP: Joseph E. Levine / P: Bert I. Gordon / D: Bert I. Gordon / W: Bert I. Gordon, Alan Caillou / C: Paul Vogel E: John Bushelman / M: Jack Nitzsche / S: Tommy Kirk, Ron Howard, Beau Bridges, Tisha Sterling, Joy Harmon

More J.D.'s & Rocket-Bras!

Originally Posted: 10/16/00 :: Rehashed: 04/22/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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