1976: The Food of the Gods
Written and directed by Bert I. Gordon
Okay, wait, come back. There is in fact a logic to this. Trust me.
There’s this magical time in early adolescence when we have yet to develop taste. When every movie is this wondrous experience that exists on a scale of “I liked it!” to “I liked it a lot!” Just the act of being in a theater was enough to satisfy us, and movies that we’d later recognize as complete crap still held us enthralled because we just didn’t bother to process the boring or stupid parts. And so I was able to successfully weather large doses of Marjoe Gortner because there were giant chickens and rats running around.
In the 1970s, American International Pictures was as fine a purveyor of cinematic cheese as you were likely to find. They made a cottage industry out of butchering Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, did even less justice to H.G. Wells, and churned out every variety of exploitation film you could think of. If it drove a car, had the potential to turn on mankind, or stalked teenagers, chances are good AIP made a movie about it. And while some of its films are memorable for legitimate cinematic reasons — The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Blacula are considered genuine horror classics, and for a while their dubbed release was the only way to see Mad Max in the States — for the most part, it’s their repeated presence on episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that they’re remembered for.
But to seven-year old me, none of that was so much as an inkling in my mind. All I knew was that the guy who was stung by all the giant wasps scared the daylights out of me. That the giant rats looked so realistic. And that the ending, wherein the titular food is washed away to be consumed by cows and eventually make its way into school children, was clearly something tremendously important. The whole thing is completely laughable now, but sometimes I miss that wide-eyed optimistic innocence of being able to simply enjoy whatever it is I see, blocking out the bad parts until the good parts seem that much better.
It’s also a film that, in retrospect, makes me respect my dad even more. Because he gladly took me to see some real crap over the years for no other reason than I wanted to see it. Sure, we saw some classics too, but boy did I drag him into some stinkers. And he never once complained or said, “No,” or tried to dampen my enthusiasm when I now know what I was putting him through. He took plenty of bruises as part of my cinematic upbringing. But, as we’ll see in the next entry, he managed to get me to see some good ones too.