Unless otherwise noted in the post title, these are not
reviews, per se. They are articles for people who have already seen the film or read the book in question--meaning that there will be spoilers. If you're already familiar with the material being covered, or don't mind the plot being spoiled, please read on and leave a comment.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

[Ephebiphobia] Village Of The Giants (1965)

Village Of The Giants - Theatrical Poster
Theatrical Poster
A group of city kids out looking for kicks wreck their car and have to walk three miles to the nearest town—Hainesville, CA. Their leader Fred (Beau Bridges) makes an executive decision to spend a while checking out the local scene, so they find a crash pad in an abandoned theater.

Meanwhile across town, a young boy known as Genius (Ron Howard) is showing off the formula he created to his older sister Nancy (Charla Doherty) and her boyfriend Mike (Tommy Kirk). The formula, which he dubs Goo, has the power to increase the size of animals roughly six-fold when it is consumed. First a stray cat and then Genius's pet dog are accidentally giantized, and then they feed it to a few ducks, apparently just to be sure that it works. While Mike and Nancy are busy pontificating how to make a quick buck with the Goo (while simultaneously solving the world hunger crisis), the ducks fly away, threatening their plan to keep the Goo a secret until they can file a patent.

The city kids and the townies meet when Mike and Nancy chase the ducks to a real swinging party that Fred and his cohorts have crashed. While the Beau Brummels perform in the background, all the teenagers—and the giant ducks—shake their tail feathers in a modishly surreal scene that must be viewed to be believed. The ducks are a huge hit amongst the teens, but in a cruel twist, Mike roasts them up and feeds the whole town with them the following day.

When all the jumping and jiving is complete, and Mike has accidentally let slip that it is a secret formula
Village Of The Giants - The Giant Teenagers
The Giant Teenagers
responsible for the duck's growth, Fred's gang decides that they need to get their hands on it—you know, for kicks, man. Kicks. When they finally manage to procure the Goo, it is divvied out amongst them and, like a drugsploitation movie, those who do not want to participate are peer pressured into it. Upon consuming the Goo, they grow to 30 feet tall, shredding their clothes in an almost-revealing moment that surely frustrated thousands of libidos that were watching this at the drive-in. They are, momentarily at least, regretful of their decision, but quickly decide to make the best of their situation by taking over the town. These giant teens speak at normal speed, move at normal speed, and basically do everything at normal speed...unless they're doing something important. At that point, they move painfully slowly, lumbering about as if through molasses, possibly only as a means to give our protagonists a fighting chance at defeating them.

In many teen movies (at least those that were actually aimed at teens), it is the adults who are cast as the antagonists, whereas here the adults are mostly just ineffectual. In movieland, outsider often equals bad guy, and teenagers view adults as outsiders (and vice versa) so those roles make sense. Here, though, it is the big city delinquent teenagers playing the outsider role, following in the footsteps of the BEACH PARTY films. The townie teenagers are forced to step up and solve the problem themselves—with a little help from the boy genius who accidentally started it all.

The local teenagers would be the underdogs even if Fred's gang didn't have the height advantage. His group rolled into town with good dance moves and a bad attitude, instantly making them a threat to Mike's mostly-wholesome circle. It is no coincidence that the clothes the city kids piece together after being giantized look like glitzy versions of something out of a Hollywood Biblical epic. This isn't just the Little Guy versus the Big Guy. This is David versus Goliath, which is never as apparent as when Mike takes on Fred with an honest-to-God sling in the final showdown.

This is a truly offbeat affair, and not just because of the combination of "monster" movie and teen comedy. It features performances by three genuine musical acts that just so happen to be hanging around in this sleepy California town, all at the same time: The aforementioned Beau Brummels, Freddy Cannon and Mike Clifford. Everybody in town must have medical marijuana cards, too, because there's not a single person who seems all that surprised that there are giant teenagers roaming the streets. The soundtrack is fantastic, and the kids are well aware of it. They get down with the go-go dancing at the drop of a hat, and for sustained periods of time.

Village Of The Giants - Giant Cleavage
Giant Cleavage
There are an awful lot of close-ups of jiggling breasts, gyrating hips, and shimmying posteriors to keep the male audience member interested. And this may be a given, but there is something wildly erotic about a 30 foot tall young woman shaking her goods in super slow motion. When she picks up a normal sized male and clutches him to her chest, leaving him hanging on to her mammoth cleavage for dear life, that's frankly something that reality just can't hold a candle to. For the fetishists out there, the movie opens with a crazed dance scene in the rain (featuring plenty of shots of feet sloshing about in the mud) that eventually devolves into a full-fledged mud fight. Right out of the gate, it was apparent that this movie was going to be absolutely drenched in teenage hormones.

And yet, despite all of the suggestive gyrations and exposed flesh, there's a certain undeniable innocence here. It seems entirely quaint in a post-Two Girls, One Cup world, mere flirtation as opposed to outright seduction. And that, oddly enough, makes it all the more appealing.

This movie was ostensibly based on the H.G. Wells book The Food Of The Gods, but that is something of an overstatement. Writer-director-producer Bert I. Gordon would adapt the book again in 1976 under the original title, which proved to be a somewhat more authentic adaptation. Perhaps inspired by his initials (B.I.G.), Gordon made multiple films that dealt with normal-sized things becoming giant-sized things, including THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN (1957), EARTH VS. THE SPIDER (1958), and EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977). He did the reverse with ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE (1958), though the basic concept remains the same.

Village Of The Giants - Original Newspaper Ad
From The Victoria Advocate, 09.11.1966
VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS is a downright goofy movie. There is absolutely no denying that. But it is fully conscious of its status and doesn’t try to be anything else, somehow managing to never breakdown into self-parody. Because of this, it remains a hell of a lot of fun, no matter what the haters say. It may be exploitation...but it is exploitation of the most sugary kind. And everybody’s got a sweet tooth.


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