Another Zombie Club, another eco-horror movie, but this time with no Italians in sight. Yes, on this occasion it’s up to the notorious Bert I. Gordon to impress us all with Food of the Gods, in the same way that Empire of the Ants floored us all a few months ago. Well, floored is a bit hard but you get the idea. Plus Marjoe Gortner’s in it, who we are developing a bit of a soft spot for here at Zombie Club, in an entirely hetero way of course. He was Akton in Starcrash you know, and was in Earthquake, and he had quite an amazing upbringing too, which I’m sure one of the boys will tell you all about when it’s their turn.
Gnaw: Food of the Gods Part 2 I knew nothing about, except that it was made near the end of the 80s, is gory in parts and has nothing to do with the first film except the title. So, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Tonight's Zombie Club was brought to you by Jim, in association with the amazing Marjoe Gortner. He's quite a guy, you know.
Food of the Gods (1976)
Plot Marjoe Gortner and pals fight of rats on a small Island off New England somewhere, with hilarious consequences.
Jim The plot is simple enough. The amazing Marjoe Gortner plays Morgen, a football quarterback ("I was a Tight End for the Torquay Trojans!" - Rawshark) whose hunting trip to an island off the coast of New England goes horribly wrong when his friend Davis is attacked and killed by a swarm of giant transparent wasps. After taking Davis's body back to the mainland, Morgen and his mate Brian return to investigate only to find mad of lady Skinner's farm where they get attacked by probably the best giant chicken you'll ever see. And then things get really odd. ("That chicken'll keep you in Sunday roasts for quite some time..." - Zomblee, "...and the eggs'd be good too!" -Rawshark).
Sadly though, the giant chickens are not this flicks main eco-terror. The mad old wench has been feeding her secret F.O.T.G stuff to the chickens, yes, but all the other household pests have had a nibble too, which is where the fun begins.
The conundrum of which giant animal is going to cause the most hassle ("Hedgehog?" - Rawshark, "Cat?" - Zomblee, "Beaver?" - Rawshark) is solved pretty early when we witness a bunch of giant rats storm Mr Skinners VW Beetle and eat him alive. Or is it a bunch of normal sized rats and camera trickery? ("There must have been a massive bit of cheese in that little car!" - Zomblee). Oh, that's how they did it. Probably.
As soon as that's established the rest of the cast turn up. We get greedy Mr Bensington with a plan to con mad lady Skinner out of the F.O.T.G for a fraction of what it's worth, with reasonably attractive secretary in tow. Then there's Tom and his heavily pregnant girlfriend Rita, who turn up in a motor home, which is soon heavily overrun by rats of course. What a pregnant lady is doing in a motor home I'll never know, but hey, this is the movies.
So with everyone on the island they formulate a plan, which is to "...hold up in the house and fight them all off..." (thanks Zomblee) which of course they do, while Rita has the baby ("A nice, natural, 30 second birth…" - Rawshark) and we crack as many rat gags as possible, especially Rawshark, although we never did think of one use 'rat race'. Shame.
We’re pretty such hoping that they didn’t harm any rats in the making of this movie, although some of the ‘rats getting shot’ effects at the end look pretty convincing, and you can only get this on DVD in Japan where animal welfare laws are traditionally slacker than they are in the West. Hmmm…
"I don’t suppose he’s said anything about seeing some big things? "
Rawshark Oh yes, there were some pretty big things in Food of the Gods tonight, starting with those pesky giant transparent wasps. They were pretty cool, but nowhere near as good as the giant chickens that popped up 5 minutes later to menace our good old friend Akton from Starcrash. After Empire of the Ants we knew we could trust Bert I. Gordon to treat us to a good old ‘big animal’ attack, and this one doesn’t disappoint with a fantastic rubber rooster claw mixed in with the superimposed footage. Still can’t believe none of took the opportunity to shout out ”Look at the size of that giant cock!” at the screen at the time of the ‘cock attack” though. We must be slipping in our old age.
Food of The Gods (based on a portion of an H.G. Wells novel) is a fun old romp for all fans of big creature movies. We get giant giant wasps, giant chickens, giant maggots (”They’re the best giant maggots I’ve ever seen!” - Jim), and lots of ”free-flowing FOTG”, although technically it’s more like a very slow geyser of disgusting yoghurt, and a lot smaller than it first appears.
Akton (Marjoe Gortner) is surprisingly good as Morgan, the savvy US football player who stumbles upon the miracle yoghurt factory, as is John Cypher (surely that’s a code name) as Brian, who incidentally looks like a cross between James Cromwell, Robert Duvall, Will Ferrell and Chad’s (from the Red Hot Chili Peppers) dad. However, the real stars of the show are undoubtedly the rats, especially the ‘stunt’ rats featured in that terrific last siege scene following the bursting of the dam. Poor old things, they really do look like drowned rats. Quite literally.
”You were right, they can’t swim”.
Zomblee Akton from Starcrash in a Bert I Gordon movie? I guess I can see why Jim was a tad excited about tonight's Zombie Club. It has always amused me that (the notorious) B.I.G. seems obsessed with small insects / animals that, for whatever reason, get really BIG. That's what happens here, too, and all because of that slimy looking FOTG stuff.
Not long after being impressed by freeze-frame credits we're treated to the lush visual feast of a first attack - BIG transparent wasps. Cue shaky camera work with close-ups of models to disguise the fact that the models are a bit shit, and you've got yourself a BIG attack, BIG style. Shortly after though, it gets a bit better - Look at the quality of the giant chicken!" (Jim).
The "mad old wench" Jim mentions is Ida Lupino, from meltfest The Devil's Rain but, more respectably, stuff like Nicholas Ray's On Dangerous Ground and God only knows how many other Hollywood classics of them there olden days. She was a real trooper and one of the many, many screen legends who ended up doing shit movies. Except this isn't shit, and if it is, we don't care because it's great fun. Even though George Kennedy (or Arthur Kennedy for that matter) is nowhere in sight. But that shouldn’t matter when we have Ralph Meeker, right? Right.
There are lots and lots of BIG rats in Food of the Gods - Gordon must have been fighting the urge to do a giant rat movie for some time because this really is a ratfest and no mistake. That was fine with myself and Jim, but I’m not so sure about Rawshark - ”The chickens are very underused.” Couldn’t agree more, Rawshark.
"This is the food of the gods! We're talking the end of world hunger here!"
Director Bert I. Gordon
Cast Marjoe Gortner
Runtime 88 mins
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Food of the Gods II (1989)
Plot Harrison Quaid's lab is trashed by annoying animal rights activists, with hilarious consequences.
Zomblee This "sequel" pretty much fails to tick most boxes for me and were it not for my always-entertaining ZC company, I would have had enough shortly after seeing the giant boy. The last bit of that sentence will make sense if you've seen Gnaw. The chances are, you haven't, and I'm certainly not in a position to urge you to do so, because life's a little too short.
If however you have an insatiable appetite for shockingly bad 80's horror (which never manages to descend to the utterly incomprehensible world of Bruno Mattei), complete with women who think it looks good to wear massive stonewash denim jackets, thus making them look like they've got huge shoulders, then this just may float your boat. Or float your rat. In a swimming pool. It pleased Jim no end that this movie featured a "grand opening" of a swimming pool - conforming to the standard eco-horror criteria always puts a smile on our faces and makes us feel at home. Or at Zombie Club, which is a little bit like home.
Almost as bad as the general fashion sense in Gnaw, is the quality of the acting - "For the first time, I'm actually annoyed with the actors..." - he's got the patience of a saint, that Rawshark, so if it's annoying him then yes, it really can't be good. When it's this bad, you may, like me, stop caring about the plot, which is why I can't remember anything about it. This movie didn't even feature one of those old actors who make a desperate appearance just for the dough. I was really hoping to see an old, familiar face, which is why I was gutted when Jim, suffering from impaired drunken vision, said, "Is that George Kennedy?" Guys, can you please fill our readers in on the plot of Gnaw?
”Can’t you even estimate how much it weighed?”
Rawshark There was a plot to this film? Really? Ok, well I guess it went something like this; early on there’s a great appearance from ‘Big Bobby’, a very large baby boy (which brought a lot of applause), before we cut straight to some animal activists, tomatoes and something about growth hormones. Well, wouldn’t you know it, things soon go wrong, the activists activities lead to the big man-eating rats escaping (Zomblee liked the irony of this) whereby they go on to wreak havoc on the campus and the synchronised swimming competition. There’s a bit of blood-letting, and ‘Big Bobby’ makes a small and fairly pointless return towards the end of the film.
Effectively a cheap 80s rip-off by some cheapskate money-driven producer, Gnaw is largely lifeless although it does contain a few amusing moments. Stand out of these is the very peculiar sex scene where the man in the ”lab sex montage” (Zomblee) grows big hands mid-coitus (this film gets an extra star from me for that scene alone!) and the moment when Dr Matthew Kelly gets infected and melts in boiling flame. There’s also the standard issue 80s ”green goo” (Jim), a comedy appearance from the two rat catchers (”I love flamethrowers, but when you have especially modified flamethrowers, it gets even better” - Zomblee) and a beautifully cheap ending that takes place in a swimming pool (did I mention the synchronised swimmers?) with intercut miniatures and full-scale shots.
Michael Copeman as the gum-chewing cop adds a modicum of flavour to this rat stew, but it’s overall final taste is really not all that, despite it’s occasional lunges for originality (or at least I can’t remember another film that features rat POV). Apparently Burt I. Gordon was originally supposed to direct, but fell out with the producers. After watching this, I can only guess that the even the notorious B.I.G. thought the script to be beyond salvaging.
But I’m tellin’ ya – that was the Loch Ness monster of rats”
Jim You guys, you just not as forgiving when it comes to pointless, badly acted, badly dressed piles of 80s gore laden mumbo jumbo, now are you? Because I put it to you that with the right people in the right state of inebriation, Food Of The Gods 2: GNAW! is a lot more fun than you guys give it credit.
”80s music and names I’ve never heard of…” remarked Zomblee over the opening credits just before the film opens with those activists who protest for animal rights while wearing hideous denim. You see, the lead character - quickly dubbed Harrison Quaid by Rawshark for his uncanny resemblance to both Harrison Ford and Dennis Quaid - runs a lab at the university but also has a an old friend whose son Big Bobby has grown to silly proportions by having some kind of growth hormone treatment. So Quaid takes a blood sample and experiments with it to try and find a cure for the poor lad, along the way creating some massive tomatoes (”What big plums you have!” – Rawshark). And then the annoying activists fuck things up for everyone by breaking in rather lamely (“I’m gonna mess his books up!” - Zomblee), letting the rats out, who feed on the massive tomatoes and, well, you can guess the rest (which prompted Rawshark to come out with ”It’s the first film I’ve seen where I’m annoyed with the activists…” and not actors as Zomblee reckoned early, but we forgive him as he was drinking like a trooper, probably because he hates the 80s.)
One thing leads to another, the giant rats go nuts, we have a few ”rat montages” (Zomblee) and the university brings in a comedy rat exterminator who thinks he’s Clint Eastwood to sort things out. ”Just because he’s got a cigar and a beard doesn’t mean he’s cool…” observed Rawshark, but I’m not sure I agree with him about that. Meanwhile a load of students get killed in an orgy of rat violence - including a guy who dies ”…with his bum out.” (Rawshark) ”There’s no dignity in that.” (Zomblee) – before we nicely move on to the eco-horror pool opening, with the synchronized swimming competition that the rats obviously interrupt big style. ”It’s interesting that in the first film they can’t swim, but in the second film they attack through the swimming pool…” pointed out Rawshark, and he’s right too. We should tell someone.
Anyway, Food Of The Gods 2: GNAW! has got some good rat gore, that comedy big shag scene, a really big boy that says fuck a lot, a lab sex montage (“I take your pants of in the name of science!” - Zomblee), a wicked melt sequence (although you can see the guys pumping the puss bladders in the corner of the frame) and enough corny characters to keep those forgiving types happy. Yes, it does have some very bad 80s fashions and music and pretty much dire acting across the board but, you know, if you can see past that you might dig it. Probably not that much though.
”Is it true Edmond? Have we really found pure green?”
Director Damian Lee
Cast Paul Coufos
Runtime 91 mins
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Alright guys, that's enough. I've heard enough rat gags to last a lifetime, I'm tired, and I'm a bit smashed. But you'll be glad to know that Zomblee and Rawshark made their train on time and everyone lived happily ever after. Except maybe a few rats from the first movie, but we can't be sure about that so don't quote us.
Oh, and Marjoe Gortner? He was actually a one-time child evangelist whose exploits on the church tent revivalist circuit were captured in the part documentary, part expose Marjoe. And then he went on to appear in Earthquake and Starcrash and A-Team and Fantasy Island and other such TV hocum. Crazy, eh?
Next time Possession Night, which promises plenty of low-budget Italian contraversy. Brilliant.