10/24/12

The Bigger and Badder Halloween Top 13: #8: Village of the Giants (1965)

So far on the B&B H13, we've had a huge snake, a dinosaur on the loose, a gaggle of deadly enlarged rabbits, and a colossal croc, but today I have one of the scariest things to ever reach enormous proportions, teenagers. Thankfully, today’s movie was made in the 1960s because they don't make an iPhone big enough to quell a tremendous teen of this day and age. Back then, all anyone wanted to do was make the scene and go-go dance with some oversized ducks, but not everyone could make that kind of happening get to happening. I'm getting ahead of myself though. Today is the first time (and possibly not the last) that I'll be talking about Bert I. Gordon, the master of the B grade giant creature feature having directed 10 such films in his forty five year career behind the camera. (Editor's Note: I know this doesn't make sense because Food of the Gods was yesterday, but, to make in clear, in layman's terms, I fucked up and reversed the order on these two films.) Of course, if your initials spelled out B.I.G (and you were not Notorious), you might have a certain affection for the overly large in life as well. The flick I'll be talking about today came out in 1965, right at the height of the “Beach Party” movie craze, and grafting elements of this style onto an extremely fast and loose adaptation of an H.G. Wells novel, Gordon created a film with great comedic moments, some near scandalous special effects, and maybe even a thing or two to say. I hope you’ll join me now as I take a trip to the nice, quiet town of Hainesville which is just about to become The Village of the Giants

A group of rowdy teens rolls into get their car stuck in the mud outside of Hainesville, and after some dancing and wrestling in the mud, Fred (Beau Bridges) convinces the other kids they should go into town to look up a girl he knows named Nancy (Charla Doherty). Nancy is hanging out at home with her boyfriend Mike (Tommy Kirk) and her junior scientist brother who calls himself 'Genius' (Ron Howard). While Genius is showing off his lab, the family cat eats up some Goop which causes it to grow to 10 times its normal size. To make sure that it wasn't a fluke, Mike feeds it to a pair of ducks who also grow to enormous proportions, and then, as giant ducks are known to do, they head down to the local go-go bar to dance the night away with the teens. When the out of town kids see the giant water fowl and learn there is some secret behind their size, dollar signs springs to mind and they soon are trying to get their hands on some Goop. When they finally do, they eat it themselves and become massive thirty foot giants who soon rule the town. Fred and his gang kidnap the daughter of the sheriff (Joe Turkel) lay down a new set of rules on the helpless adults including a curfew. As Genius hurriedly tries to concoct another batch of Goop, the town's teens resist the rule of the giants, and they are the last line of defense if no antidote can be found. 

While many of the films on this list have come degree of comedic value, both intended and unintended, Valley of the Giants is probably the most squarely comedic film on my list. That being said, it's not all fun and games. While there are some tremendous sight gags (and a killer laugh at the end of the film), Gordon seems to have had a message as well. By 1965, The Beatles had invaded America and a legion of imitators and offshoots had sprung up (including The Beau Brummells who appear as the club's house band), but the real rise of youth culture which would lead into the Summer of Love, the hippie movement, and the anti-war protests had to yet begun in earnest. As with most giant creature movies, the huge beasties tend to represent a fear, nature out of control, climate change, or nuclear war to name a few. Here the over large teens are a prescient symbol of Middle America's fear of the youth on the loose. The giants first appear as youths out of control, dancing in the mud and rain, and then they get too big for the britches literally and figuratively. Meanwhile the town teens are portrayed as even headed, bright, responsible young people who made a mistake letting Goop get out. This seems a corollary for rebellious youth versus traditional values, and I doubt it will come as a surprise to anyone who wins in the end. While many films have explored the fear of the young from The Blackboard Jungle to Wild in the Streets, Village of the Giants gives the theme a larger than life spin on the topic. It is also possible that the film is meant to portray the fear of the elder generation of the oncoming Baby Boomers whose giant generation was on the cusp of coming into their own and outnumbering their parents. Of course, it also could be that Mr. Gordon was making a “Beach Party” style movie which was full of silliness and I am reading way too much into it. 

None of the acting in Village of the Giants rises above the level of a typical mid-60s teen flick, but I did enjoy a number of the performances and the familiar faces that popped up. Young Beau Bridges, as Fred, the leader of the titanic teens, is probably the best of the cast, and even in this early role, he shows off why Lloyd’s eldest son is still a mainstay in TV and film productions. (Also Beau Bridges and The Beau Brummells in the same film, coincidence? I think not.)  The same can be said about Ron Howard. Already five years into his role as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show, Ron shows off poise that very few kid actors have, and the role of Genius required a confidence he had in spades. I should also note that his father Rance, who I just spoke about days ago in my review of Rosewood Lane, appears here as Joe “The Shining Bartender” Turkel’s deputy. Tommy Kirk, who was an alum of many live action Disney films including The Shaggy Dog and Son of Flubber, makes for a clean cut, wholesome hero, but he just isn’t as interesting as Beau and his band of giant baddies. I would also like to mention the appearance of Toni Basil, best known as the singer of the 80’s tune “Mickey” as the club’s resident Go-go dancer Red who appears shaking her groove thing in several scenes. 

What really makes Village of the Giants work is the combination of the underlying themes with a heavy dose of comedy. In one of my favorite scenes, the teens have a big cookout on the lawn while roasting one of the giant ducks on a spit, and in another, one of the normal sized teens hangs in terror from the bikini straps of a giant girl. Though, for the life of me, I had a hard time pondering how giant boobs were that scary. Another great sight gag involves the giant teens wanting a snack and the inadequate portions of Cokes and KFC. These moments of comedy make the film go down easy, but just beneath the surface there seems to be something more at work. Something, dare I say, bigger. Speaking of bigger, The Bigger and Badder Halloween Top 13 will continue to roll on tomorrow as we get further into my top 10, and I'm willing to wager (especially because I know for sure) that there might just be another Bert I. Gordon film coming up on the list. To find out when, make sure you tune into the LBL every day, and don't forget  to keep scrolling down under the trailer for today’s giant submitted list. 

Bugg Rating



Today's list comes from my friend Todd Cauley. Not only is he a great writer as evidenced by his work on Video Tape Swap Shop, anyone who has listened to The Death Rattle Movie Club can vouch for his skill at impersonating Charles Bronson. Todd has given us one of the most original of the submitted lists, but I won't bother to explain I'll let the man do it himself.

In an effort to partake in the list, and in light of the fact that I'm absolutely horrible at lists of any stripe, I decided to try something a little different in regards to my top 13 giant monsters.  I have them listed from 13  to 1, but instead of writing a little paragraph about each, I decided to picture them in my mind and then write the first word or thought that popped into my head for each.  Ready?  Here we go:

13.  Guiron from Attack Of The Monsters:  Not too sharp (okay, this has not started well).
12.  Guilala from The X From Outer Space:  I like pancakes.
11.  Caltiki from Caltiki The Immortal Monster:  Canelloni
10.  Anguirus from the Godzilla series of films:  Poor guy.
9.   Frankenstein from Frankenstein Conquers The World:  Fugly.
8.   The Centaur from The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad:  Four flushing cheater
7.   The giant ants from Them!:  Mustaches
6.   King Ghidorah from the Godzilla series of films:  Sweaty
5.   Bruce from Jaws:  Effin' scary
4.  The Alien Queen from Aliens:  M&Ms
3.  The Ymir from 20 Million Miles To Earth:  Mustaches
2.  Sanda and Gaila from War Of The Gargantuas:  Shoulder pads
1.  King Kong:  Muzzle

Thanks for putting up with my crap.

Todd, we here at The LBL are happy to put up with "crap" like that anytime! There's some great pics on there, and at least one or two who might still be seen in the next nine days. So tune in every night from now until Halloween for more Giant Monster Madness!

2 comments:

  1. I think you have the deputy wrong. It's Rance Howard, Ron's dad.

    By the way, it's the birthday of both Tisha Sterling and Tommy Kirk.

    http://thisdayinscifi.blogspot.com/2013/12/10-december-2013.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sorry, I screw up my last comment. I thought you listed the actor as Rosewood Lane.

    My bad.

    Still, Tommy and Tisha's b-day.

    http://thisdayinscifi.blogspot.com/2013/12/10-december-2013.html

    ReplyDelete

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