Saturday, March 21, 2009

Vault Master's TOP TEN KILLER ANIMAL FILMS: #9 - Frogs (1972) and Food of the Gods (1976)

Because I just couldn't make up my mind, I ended up with a two way tie for the 9th spot on my top ten killer animals list. Here are two insane films from the psychedelic 70's!

Frogs (1972)
90 minutes / Color / Rated PG

The Culprit(s): Frogs, Snakes, Tarantulas, Snapping Turtles, Lizards, Alligators, etc.

The Plot: A physically disabled old bastard named Jason Crockett (Ray Milland) is holding himself a little birthday party at his swampy island estate. Though it is an all family affair, the party is crashed by a young freelance photojournalist named Sam Pickett (a young Sam Elliott!), who has been photographing the heavily polluted swamp. Apparently old man Crockett hates every living thing in the bog and has done all he can to have every bug, reptile, and amphibian eliminated from his property. But it is not nice to f*ck with Mother Nature, and soon, everything in the nearby swamp is lending a hand in the battle against humanity. In the end, Sam Pickett and a few others make a hasty retreat away from the Crockett mansion, leaving the nature-hating cripple to his own fate.

Why it made the list:
More than anything, nostalgia was the lead factor in my choosing this film for this list. "Frogs" is not very good or exciting, but it is fun to see the parade of critters that lash out at the offending humans. This cheesy exploitation flick is pretty much the "Last House on the Left" of the nature strikes back genre. It has a gritty feel, and features some of the most intelligent animals I've ever seen, including ambushing arachnids and lizards that engage in chemical warfare. While it is very dated and seriously flawed, I can't help but love it.

Why YOU should watch it: Because you will see a crippled man being covered from head to toe in big ugly frogs at the film's insane climax. Also it's kind of cool to see actors reacting to actual animals, rather than unconvincing ones that have been rendered with CGI. Plus, this film is proof that Sam Elliott was actually young once. Why is that a big deal? Because it now gives you the advantage against a fellow film nerd that swears that Sam Elliott is an immortal.

Is it worthy of a remake?
Not really, but I wouldn't mind seeing a new and improved version of this flick, especially if the frogs from the title actually attacked and devoured people!

Food of the Gods (1976)
88 minutes / Color / Rated PG

The Culprit(s):
Giant rats, giant wasps, giant worms, and giant chickens!

The Plot: A gent named Morgan and his friends are spending some time hunting up in the Canadian wilderness, when suddenly they are accosted by giant wasps! They flee to a nearby farm that is owned by a crazy old woman name Mrs. Skinner. According to this shit-kicking wench, the wasps grew to their abnormal size after eating "the food of the gods," which turns out to be a strange white viscous fluid that suddenly began coming up out of the ground. But the wasps (which are later wiped out in a daring raid on their nest) aren't the only pests that got into the super-grow jizzum. Some worms snacked on it, then later snacked on Mrs. Skinner's hands before she took a knife to them. A rooster had a bit, turned into a huge cock (sorry, I couldn't help myself), and was later killed by Morgan with a pitchfork. But the worst plague of giant critters arrives later, in the form of an army of giant rats! The giant rodents go on a rampage, eating everyone in their path, until Morgan and friends devise a plan to get rid of the overgrown vermin.

Why it made the list: Again, nostalgia played a role here, since I love the films made by the late and great Bert I. Gordon. (a.k.a The "Notorious B.I.G.") This guy had a strange obsession with making movies about giant things, and gave us such classic sci-fi fare as "The Amazing Colossal Man," "The Beginning of the End," "Attack of the Puppet People," and "Village of the Giants." Bert's "The Food of the Gods" was based on the H.G. Wells tale, and features some fairly impressive effects. In particular, the giant rats look pretty good during their closeups, mainly because mechanical rat heads were utilized.

Why YOU should watch it: Because this film is a classic in its own right and showcases some nifty old school special effects. Before the dawning of CGI, film makers had to rely on various forms of practical special effects. If a film called for a massive battle between two armies, then a casting call for thousands of film extras would go out. And if a movie needed giant killer animals, then folks like Bert I. Gordon would fall back on forced perspective shooting and/or the creation of life-sized mock-ups of the animals needed for the film. Plus, it's always awesome seeing someone battle for their life against a stuntman in a rat costume, especially after you have a few brews in you.

Is it worthy of a remake? Well H.G. Wells "War of the Worlds" and "The Time Machine" were remade, so why not just go ahead and redo this one too? Since it is not hailed as a classic by critics or the general public, no one will be up in arms if the "Food of the Gods" gets remade. Heck, it can't be any worse than the hilariously cheesy 1989 sequel, "Gnaw: Food of the Gods Part II" which also featured giant rats, as well as a giant, foul-mouthed child!

Check back tomorrow (especially if you're a William Girdler fan) to find find out what killer animal flick made it to the number eight spot.


FilmFather said...

Ah, Food of the Gods. That was one of my favorite "monster" movies to watch over and over on HBO as a kid in the late '70s. I even drew a very colorful picture of the siege at the cabin, complete with giant rats being shot or eating a human or two. (These days, I'd probably get sent to a child shrink for something like that.)

Alas, you can never go back: I watched it again last year, and what I remembered as awesome action/horror was reduced largely to camp. Still fun to watch, but for different reasons. However, I will give the film props for its classic '70s open-ended/downer finale.

The Vault Master said...

Isn't funny how our perceptions of things, especially films, changes as we get older? I'm finding that I still really enjoy a lot of films that I liked as s kid, but as you say, I'm liking most of them for different reasons. Nostalgia is a very fickle mistress.

Information Geek said...

Ugh, Frogs! I hate that movie a lot and I have review that speak more than what I can. It seemed like it would have been a strange little b-movie that would have made me laugh at all bad it was. It didn't, it made me bored, sleepy, and angry that the Frogs did nothing!! Plus, some of those frogs are just toads! ARGH!