12 May 2009

The Rat Snuff

Food of The Gods (1976)

It’s easy to get very excited about Food of The Gods; an island bathed in mist is inhabited by giant chickens, wasps, rats, and well.., lots more rats. This was certainly enough to sell it to me, that and the awesome cover artwork. It all starts fine and dandy, some neat opening titles where we meet our leading men (pro American Footballers), great use of the mist shrouded lakes and islands of British Columbia Canada, and some very entertaining first encounters with the giant animals. Lets get a little plot out of the way. Three (quite mature) footballer jocks head to a secluded island for a little R&R horse riding-style, whereupon one jock falls victim to giant (super imposed see-through) wasps. Lead jock, played with real gusto and effort by Marjoe Gotner, decides to return to the island to investigate the badly imposed super wasps, only to encounter giant chickens, giant rats, and the cause of the local wildlife’s gigantism, a strange porridge that is bubbling up through the ground. The giant chickens and rats are realised via some great practical effects mixing puppetry and real animals placed against miniature sets and backgrounds. All of this is kitsch, but strangely effective.

The humans are on the whole pointless and annoying, but you’ve got to love Gotner’s nonsensical plans, which he carries out with the dedication and determination of a first class B-movie loon. Sadly director Bert Gordon see’s fit to fill much of the film’s second half with the actual shooting and killing of the poor bastard rats that happened to find themselves unwittingly stars of a history’s biggest rat snuff movie. That’s right, when the actors shoot their guns at the fictional giant rats we are shown actual rats being shot by what must have been small air guns. You really get to see rats all but exploding at times, including one rat’s head coming clean off. It really is a vile viewing experience and one that just can't be understood as a viable filming method. If rats getting shot isn’t enough for you, that’s fine, you get to see them drowned too. What turns out to be a promising bit of 70s late night monster trash turns into a detestable act of cruelty. How this ever got past any censorship board I’ll never know. One of the worst H G Wells adaptations it has to be said.

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