Frogs / The Food of the GodsOverview -
"A shocker reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds" (Variety), this amphibious horror flick teeming with thousands of nasty-tempered creatures that are hopping mad - and murderous. Jumping with action, suspense revenge and Southern Gothic charm, Frogs' stars Ray Milland, Sam Elliott and Joan Van Ark are constantly a lily away from croaking!
Joan Crockett (Milland) is an aging, physically disable millionaire who invites this family to his island estate for his birthday party. The old man is more than crotchety...he's crazy! Hating nature, Crockett poisons anything that crawls on his property. But on the night of his shindig, it's nature's payback time, as thousands of frogs whip up every bug and slimy thing into a toxic frenzy until the entire environment goes environ-mental.
The Food of the Gods
Get ready for a taste of hell! Legendary director of Bert I. Gordon (The Amazing Colossal Man) - the father of the "gigantic creature" genre - delivers the biggest Midnite Movie of all with this spine-tingling tale of ecology gone berserk. Based on H.G. Wells' classic horror novel, The Food Of The Gods) predicts a future where animals are suddenly at the top of the food chain... and eager to get their fill!
On a remote island, a mysterious substance is oozing from the ground. A farmer sees that it acts as a growth hormone and thinks his fortune is made. But when rats, chickens, worms and wasps begin sampling the potent substance, they morph into bloodthirsty giants! Now, it's up to the island's few residents and visitors to destroy "the food of the gods"... before the animals take over for good!
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
There's something about a prescribed double feature billing that makes watching movies a lot of fun. Whether you have a local art cinema near you that offers up a slew of midnight movies or if you put your trust in the selection Scream Factory has to offer. Now, when you get a pairing like Burt I. Gordon's 'The Food of the Gods' and George McCowan's 'Frogs,' you shouldn't expect the most amazing films ever made. What you should expect is cheesy effects, over acting, goofy plots and two incredibly fun movies to enjoy with a group of friends. These two "Man VS Nature" American International films are an absolute riot from beginning to end.
The Food of the Gods
"Look lady, I already saw your chickens!"
Big time profootball player Morgan (Marjoe Gortner) and his buddies are ordered by their coach to take a weekend off practice, head into the mountains and live it up before the next big game. They rent some horses and have a great time riding around the mountains as they hunt some deer. That is of course until Morgan's buddy Davis (Chuck Courtney) runs into a nest of gigantic mutant wasps! After a few quick stings, Davis meets an untimely end and forces Morgan to seek out help. Finding a secluded piece of mountain property, Morgan meets Colonel Sander's worst nightmare - I gigantic six foot tall mutant chicken!
Local resident Mrs. Skinner (Ida Lupino) is the owner of these gigantic birds. She and her husband found this mysterious substance they call "The food of the Gods." It must be God's doing because with this mysterious food that they give their animals, they will become overnight millionaires! In fact they're ready to make a deal with a rich industrialist named Bensington (Ralph Meeker).
The only problem is it isn't just the Skinner's livestock that have gotten into "The Food of the Gods," every other little critter, namely a colony of rats have taken a bite. As the gigantic rats multiply, Morgan must help get the locals off the island and to safety. But when there are rats burrowing underground and running all over the mountain unchecked - surviving will be harder than ever.
Burt I. Gordon was a special effects wizard in his heyday. The man could take the smallest grasshopper, tarantula or even a man, put it in front of a stock photo background and make them appear gigantic. For his second adaption of the H.G. Wells classic story, he used all of the photography tricks he could to bring 'The Food of the Gods' to glorious life. Granted this movie is a complete 'Night of the Lepus' ripoff, with stupid people making dumb decisions being hunted down by gigantic versions of small animals - but that doesn't keep it from being a great time. If anything the ultra cheep and cheesy special effects are what help bring this movie home. When you see the late great Ida Lupino getting torn apart by a big stuffed animal or when Marjoe Gortner fights the giant chicken - you can't help but love this movie!
Working in the film's favor is the assembled cast. Marjoe Gortner, Pamela Franklin, Jon Cypher, Ida Lupino and Ralph Meeker play this beast 100% straight and honest. They could have camped it up as much as they wanted, but by keeping things on the level - the movie feels that much more incredibly schlocky and fun. This isn't one of those movies that should ever on the "good or bad" scale of things, it just is what it is. Burt I. Gordon's 'The Food of the Gods' is a great time that put a big smile on my face.
"What if nature was trying to get back at us?"
Ecologist photographer Pickett Smith (Sam Elliott) is taking his time canoeing around a scenic lake taking pictures of the local wildlife, birds, frogs, snakes, and the numerous amounts of trash and poisonous chemical runoff that ruin their habitat. After getting knocked out of his boat by a high speed motorboat being driven by a drunken local boy named Clint Crockett (Adam Roarke) and his flighty sister Karen (Joan Van Ark), Pickett is invited back to the Crockett family's estate in time for their big annual lake-front celebration.
When Pickett arrives he sees more is amiss with the property than the eccentric head of the family Jason (Ray Milland). Everywhere Pickett looks, he sees an oversized creature of some sort, namely frogs. As Pickett learns that the Crockett family has been dumping poisons and fertilizers on the land to keep the grounds looking lush and healthy, creatures from the swamps begin to pick off members of the group one by one until they're forced to make a last ditch effort for survival.
'Frogs' may be a bit of a misnomer for this film. Yes there are a lot of frogs, big ones even, there are more snakes, gators, skinks, geckos, tarantulas, snapping turtles, and lethal leeches to suck the life out of people. The titular frogs appear to be super intelligent and are working to direct the efforts of the other creatures. The where-to and what-for of this movie is relatively unimportant. All that maters is the cast is thinned out one by one in a delightfully icky and slimy way. Like 'The Food of the Gods' this isn't a particularly scary movie, it can be very unsettling while being incredibly unintentionally funny at times.
I'll give a lot of credit to Sam Elliott for being able to play this one straight without giving a hint of laughter at what I am sure was a hard shoot to keep a straight face during. I absolutely lost it watching one of my all time Western heroes slap at a water snake with an oar! But that's how most of the performances are, people pretending to be attacked by an offscreen icky creature of some sort. In one shot you have a guy or gal screaming in terror, cut to a snake, spider, or snapping turtle and then cut to the person now covered in thick bright red gooey blood! By the big grand finale, I had a giant grin on my face. This one was just great fun and Director George McCowan really brings the show home.
If you're someone going in to this movie expecting frights and terrors - you've got the wrong movie. That is unless you're actually scared of any of the critters I mentioned above then you should be absolutely terrified. Hell, I had a pet tarantula as a kid and this movie gave me a bit of arachnophobia during a specific scene. My favorite kill involved blood-sucking leeches that also peeled off people's skin! I wish the snapping turtle had gotten to do more damage on camera - especially after 'Cannibal Holocaust' - that guy deserved some sort of revenge.
At the end of the day, 'Frogs' is a great finish to this little double feature. Yeah the Man VS Nature theme is a bit heavy handed, but it's just there as an excuse to have people meet an untimely end by slimy critters. If there is an actual environmental message to this movie - it's quickly lost. But that's fine - a hammy message would have just bogged this one down.
It had been a long time since I'd seen either of these films - and then they were either edited for TV or on low quality DVDs. Bugs, rodents, slimy critters have long proven to be the perfect fodder for over the top goofy horror. At a combined three hour run time, 'The Food of the Gods' and 'Frogs' are a perfect pair. Again, these aren't the greatest movies ever made - they just happen to be two of the most entertaining for those willing to put their feet up and let the fun happen. This set belongs alongside your copies of 'Night of the Lepus' and 'Kingdom of the Spiders.'
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Food of the Gods' and 'Frogs' make their Blu-ray debut thanks to Scream Factory. Pressed on a Region A locked BD50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard case with reversible artwork that showcases the international marketing designs for both films. The disc loads to a central menu allowing you to chose which film you want to look at.
The Food of the Gods:
As with any of these double feature discs Scream Factory releases, expectations need to arrive in check in order to fully appreciate their respective transfers. In the case of 'The Food of the Gods' things are looking pretty darn good for this 1.85:1 1080p transfer. Grain has been retrained throughout leading to some outstanding detail levels. Darker scenes and process shots can look like they were invaded by insects, especially during a hilariously rough looking giant wasp attack. Black levels are actually very strong leading to a solid sense of depth to a lot of the image. Most of the time the blended photography techniques work very well and look great in HD. Others, not so much - but that's more indicative to the special effects of the time, rather than any kind of transfer issue. Colors, while purposefully drab, look great and blood reds offer a lot of cinematic pop. With only modest print wear in the form of nicks and specks, this is a marked improvement over the previous MGM "Midnight Madness" DVD release and should delight fans of the film.
On the surface, 'Frogs' apparently makes a fantastic leap to Blu-ray. For the most part everything is fine. Colors are bright and have a lovely pop to them - especially blues and greens. With grain retained, there is a lot of detail to soak in here. Just look at the scenery, or the beautiful close ups of the critters - you can see individual fine hairs on the spider's legs and scales on the snakes, or even worts on the frogs. Black levels are also very strong here - like 'The Food of the Gods' there is a lot of depth to this image. No doubt this is probably the best this film has ever looked… but the print leaves a lot to be desired. Now, I don't have my DVD handy for a screen comparison but the print damage is now extremely noticeable in certain places. The common and expected nicks and scratches are there - but the big things like cigaret burns marking reel changes are there, as is one very noticeable film tear. Without a total and complete restoration effort this film will probably never look any better than it does now. Over all it's a very good looking transfer, so I have to tip my hat to Scream Factory on that end. In fact it's beautiful most of the time, but the print damage really kicks this one down, it could have easily been a 4.
Both 'The Food of the Gods' and 'Frogs' get high marks for their respective DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono audio tracks. Considering only one channel is readily getting used, imaging is actually very lively for both films. Whether you're listening to the screeching rats or buzzing wasps in 'The Food of the Gods' or the croaking frogs and hissing snakes in 'Frogs' the sound design for these films have incredible auditory life. The mixes for both films provide plenty of atmosphere and space allowing dialogue, sound effects and their respective scores to have plenty of life. Thankfully for both films there isn't any interrupting track damage giving both films a crisp, clean and clear audio track. I'm unsure if 5.1 or true stereo tracks were ever knocked together for these releases on DVD, but these mono audio tracks offer plenty to appreciate on this Blu-ray release.
The Food of the Gods - 4/5
Frogs - 4/5
The Food of the Gods:
Audio commentary: Burt I. Gordon alongside moderator Kevin Sean Michaels work their way through this one. It's a fun track, Kevin is clearly in awe of sitting next to Burt. At over 90 years old, just having Burt there is a treat. He doesn't offer a lot of insight to the production, but get the man talking special effects and it's a blast.
Interview with Belinda Balaski: This is a fun and lively interview and she really expands on a lot of the details Burt mentions in his commentary. It would have been great to have her on the commentary as well - but this is still a lot of fun.
Theatrical Trailer: (HD 1:00) This rough print is an absolute blast - I really wish they marketed movies this way still. The tagline "For A Taste of Hell" seals the deal.
Radio Spot: (0:59) Audio plays over a still of a poster. Again, I wish they made these kinds of spots, just tons of fun.
Photo Gallery: This is a fun collection of behind the scenes stills that are a lot of fun to see.
Interview with Joan Van Ark: She offers a lot of fun and interesting insight into the film as well as the experience of working with Director George McCowan as well as being covered with slimy animals.
Theatrical Trailer: (HD 2:12) this is a quick and fun trailer that does a great job selling this movie. I wish Drive-Ins still ran these kinds of movies!
Radio Spot: (1:01) I wish I was old enough to have heard this on the radio.
Photo Gallery: This feature is actually quickly becoming one of my favorite reoccurring extras on scream factory releases. Just being able to see all of the marketing and the numerous posters that were printed up for this movie are incredible.
What more can one say about a double feature disc of 'The Food of the Gods' and 'Frogs?' These two movies are just a complete blast from start to finish. With three hours of entertainment packed onto one disc, there isn't a single dull moment. The pacing for both films are quick and to the point and do just the right amount of character development to keep you hooked. Gather up your friends and put this one on - it's the perfect group movie experience from beginning to end. Everyone should be extremely happy with the picture quality on display, the outstanding audio tracks, and the fine collection of extras on this disc from Scream Factory. This double feature of 'The Food of the Gods' and 'Frogs' is recommended through and through.
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