"Hi, my name is Morgan. I play football." And so begins The Food of the Gods, a cautionary tale of ecology run amok. Or something like that. I have a stronger feeling that writer/director Bert I. Gordon saw the words "giant rat" and thought that would make a good addition to his ever growing filmography of projects involving a variety of large animals and people. Quality was not one of his concerns. H.G. Wells must have been turning in his grave when this one went before the cameras, with only the slight consolation that this was based on a mere portion of his novel. Bert certainly loved over-sized critters, evidenced by titles like The Amazing Colossal Man, Empire of the Ants, and Earth vs the Spider (heck, check his initials for a clue describing what you'll find in his movies).
The Food of the Gods has a structure that is very similar to that of Night of the Living Dead — an isolated farmhouse, an odd collection of individuals with varying desires to survive, and an unnatural force outside that has instinctual designs on their demise. The trapped group argue about what to do, just like in Night of the Living Dead, but without the intelligence. Meanwhile, outside the farmhouse is an ever increasing mischief of rats (yes, a group of rats is called a mischief). However, I'm getting ahead of myself.
After watching Morgan (Marjoe Gortner) practice some pigskin and talk about getting ready for the big game, he is told to relax (all in highly dramatic voice-over). So he heads to a small island with some friends for a relaxing hunt. It doesn't last long as one of their own is attacked and killed by giant wasps. While looking for a phone, Morgan stumbles across a farm where he is attacked by an over-sized chicken! Discovering no phone, the remainder of the group head back to town. After some more football, Morgan and Brian (Jon Cypher) head back to the island to find some answers. That's about as deep as it gets. The narrative gaps and leaps of logic are absolutely astounding. I could have forgiven all of that had the movie been at least somewhat fun, perhaps if it embraced the campy aspects of the material.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch… A jerky businessman, Bensington (Ralph Meeker), and his microbiologist employee(?), Lorna (Pamela Franklin), arrive at the farmhouse to make an offer for this creamy goo that was found on the land. If you couldn't guess, this goo was what caused the giantism in the wasps, chickens, and rats. The God-fearing farming family mixed it with the chicken feed, resulting in giant chickens. The fowl grew as large as a man. It's too bad that the rats got into it, as they have a meaner disposition and a stronger instinct to breed.
Before long, Morgan and Brian get to the farmhouse just in time to start fending off the giant rats. Oh yeah, there is also a pregnant woman and her boyfriend stranded in the woods after their Winnebago broke down and was overrun by the giant vermin who join the farmhouse party. The rest of the movie features the group bickering among themselves with an occasional break to shoot a couple of rats, electrify a fence, blow up a dam, and argue some more.
That's about it. We get plenty of shots of the rats crawling over miniature sets. Some get "shot" with red paint, and some people in rat costumes maul a few characters. There is really nothing of note in this movie. The acting, effects, screenplay, and direction are abysmal. Actually, the best thing about this movie was the ending, which I won't spoil for you brave souls who wish to wade into the gooey waters.
Audio/Video. Neither are all that good, although it is probably the best it has been presented since its release in 1976. The video is anamorphic widescreen that shows its age and low budget roots. The video is a little dark, but is generally free of any digital issues. Audio is presented in both mono and stereo, neither one really stands out. The mix is a little hollow sounding. Overall, this will never be confused with a big budget flick. But for MGM's Midnight Movie line? Sure, load it up!
Extras. Nothing, not even a trailer.
Bottom line. Unless you love unnecessarily subjecting yourself to bad movies, this would be best left on the shelf. Fortunately, I occasionally like biting the bullet and watching an awful piece of dreck. The giant rats are pretty funny, though. In honor of its DVD line, this would be best to watch at midnight when you're half asleep.