Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

The Food of the Gods


Notes: American International Pictures. 88 minutes. MPAA rating: PG.
Directed: Bert I. Gordon
Produced: Bert I. Gordon
Screenplay: Bert I. Gordon
Based on a portion of a novel by H.G. Wells.

Morgan: Marjoe Gortner
Lorna: Pamela Franklin
Jack Bensington: Ralph Meeker
Brian: Jon Cypher
Mrs. Skinner: Ida Lupino
Rita: Belinda Balaski
Thomas: Tom Stovall
Davis: Chuck Courtenay
Mr. Skinner: John McLiam

The movie starts with Morgan talking. “My name is Morgan,and I play football. We worked our butts off trying to get ittogether for the big Sunday game, so the coach told us to knockit off and relax for a couple days. One of my teammates, Davis,came up with the idea that we head out to the island, and wentahead to make the arrangements. I talked our PR man Brian intocoming along. I felt the day off would do him some good, too.” This sets up how they end up on some island in British Columbia. Morgan continues, “It’ll be great to be in the country againand enjoy some of the open spaces that man hasn’t screwed up withhis technology. My father used to say, ‘Morgan, one of thesedays the earth will get even with man for messing her up withhis garbage. Just let man continue to pollute the earth the wayhe is and nature will rebel. That’s going to be one helluva rebellion.’ Of course, I never took him seriously, but I still remember theway he looked at me when he said, ‘You’ll never know when andwhere it’s gonna happen, and once it starts you’ll never knowhow and where it’ll stop.’ It’s funny how my father’s predictioncomes to mind when I go to the country, like today.” Hmm,I think this is called foreshadowing . . .

Now we have the three men on horseback following a couple dogschasing a small island deer. The dogs corner it, and Morgan,being the first to arrive, shoos it off. Davis is ticked becausehe wants to kill it, and Morgan says, “Aw, c’mon, Davis,we won, the poor bastard lost; what more do you want?” ButDavis is determined to get that deer, and he follows it into thewoods. Soon the dogs get upset and run away, then his horse spooks,and then he falls off (even though the horse is standing stillat this point). He’s now alone and looks up to see wasps thesize of domestic house cats descending upon him. One attachesitself to his back and he goes down. Brian and Davis find himlooking dead and puffy. “You stay with him, Brian, I’llbe right back,” Morgan says, leaving Brian to fend for himself.

Morgan rides up to a house. No one answers his knock at the door,but he hears some noises in a shed and goes to investigate. Nosooner has he opened the door than he is set upon by a roostersomewhat larger than the horse he rode here on. He kills it witha pitchfork and comes out of the shed without a scratch. Thereare a couple big white hens in there as well. He sees a woman,Mrs. Skinner, watching him from the house. He asks where shegot those chickens, and she says he had no business in there. He starts to leave because she doesn’t have a phone, but shewants him to come inside and look at something. She shows himsome rat holes and expresses concern that they’ve gotten intothe food. There’s a bowl of glop and several jars with FOTG writtenon them sitting on the table. A wasp is munching out of one ofthem, and Morgan asks if that’s what she’s been feeding the chickens. “The good Lord give it to us ’cause we’re deservin’ people,and we pray regularly, we do.”

Brian and Morgan head back on the ferry with Davis in the backof the open Jeep wrapped in a blanket. Mr. Skinner is travelingback to the island by ferry. Mrs. Skinner hears a clatter inthe kitchen and goes in to find some jars overturned. She startsto clean up and finds some giant mealworms crawling around onthe shelf. They all get on her arm at once, and she stares atthem chowing down for some time. On his way home after dark,Mr. Skinner gets a flat in his red Bug. He gets out to fix it,hears some rustling in the bushes, shines his flashlight, andsees a herd of pony-sized rats bearing down on him. He jumpsinto his car. The rats break in, do some serious chewing, anddrag him off. Meanwhile, Morgan and Brian receive the doctor’sfindings on Davis’ death: he had wasp venom in his system equivalentto 250 stings.

The next day, Lorna, a female bacteriologist, and Jack Bensington,her boss, are driving out to a farm. Jack’s driving, and he passesa red VW Bug with the passenger door torn off and bits of gorestrewn about without even slowing. Then they come across a motorhomestuck on the side of the road with a very pregnant woman tryingto flag them down, and Jack races on by. Lorna tells him howinsensitive he is, and he says they’ll stop if the RV is stillthere on their way back. They arrive at the farm and see thatsomething has broken into the shed and killed the chickens. Lornasays she’s really impressed, and Jack says, “Aw, I don’tknow. You can’t tell much when they’re dead.” No one answersthe door, so they wander into the house and see the dead larvaein the sink. Mrs. Skinner shows up with a bandaged arm and tellsthem about the worms, and the rats, and that Mr. Skinner didn’tcome home last night. She leads them to a small spring of whitegoo out in the yard. She explains the history of it. “Whenwe found out it weren’t no oil, there was nothing to do aboutit so we fed it to the chickens.” Makes sense. Apparentlyit only works on the young, growing animals, and they won’t eatit at all unless it’s mixed with something else. Then the waspsappear and they all run into the house.

Brian and Morgan are coming to ask Mrs. Skinner some more abouther big chickens, and they stop to help the couple, Rita and Tom,in the motorhome. “Did you see them?” Rita asks. “Itwas last night. They were right there in the middle of the road,right in front of us. We almost hit one.” Big rats, shemeans. The guys want to take them to the farm, but they staywith their vehicle. When Morgan and Brian get to Mrs. Skinner’shouse, Jack is out front swinging a shovel at the wasps. Morganpulls one off Jack’s back and he and Brian shoot the rest. Jackgets defensive on the issue of the white goo because he sees Morganas a competitor for the rights to it, and Morgan threatens himwith charges of second degree murder if he’s responsible for thegiant animals. Lorna’s clearly aroused by the way Morgan handlesJack. “You don’t like women around when you’re doing yourthing, do you?” she says to him. “What’s my thing?”he asks. “Facing danger,” she replies. Meanwhile,Rita feels the baby kick. Tom pressures her to marry him, andshe tells him no.

Morgan and Brian find the wasps’ nest. There’s a storm that nightand the rats are crawling around elsewhere on the island. Theboys go back to the nest and put incendiaries inside and set fireto it; it explodes, then silence. Mrs. Skinner shows up to tellthem that the rats got Lorna. They came to the house, Lorna ran,and she fell into one of their burrows. Jack says, “Is thereanything you didn’t feed the food to, Mrs. Skinner?” Shesays, “Oh, Lord, it’s happened just as Mr. Skinner said itwould. The punishment–we, we sinned against nature.” “Theonly sin, Mrs. Skinner, is your goddamned stupidity!” saysJack. “You’re not a good man, Mr. Bensington,” shereplies. They drop a rope down the hole, then a rifle, and Morganclimbs down to tie the rope around Lorna. Pulling her up goesbadly and she gets dropped back down. Brian goes down anotherrat hole nearby. Morgan and Lorna wander along their own passage,shoot a couple rats they encounter and beat another one to death,then find Brian and make their way out. “Thanks to you twowe missed the last ferry,” Jack complains.

The giant rats show up at the motorhome the next day. Rita andTom run away as the rats pile onto the RV. One giant white ratwatches everything from a distance. The couple runs out to thefarm, and Jack says they should just drive on through the rats. Morgan takes his keys because Jack’s car may be their only wayout, then suggests he and Brian go out in the Jeep to take a look. “Maybe those kids exaggerated a little.” Brian likesJack’s plan and fails to see why checking out the situation inan open vehicle is better than trying to plow on through in Jack’scar, but he goes along with Morgan anyway. They see a lot ofrats swarming the motorhome and head back. Back at the farm,Jack’s filling bottles with the white goo and Rita’s feeling sick. Morgan stops to shut a gate, then takes another road. Briansays that’s the way the rats are coming, and Morgan tells himto relax. They see that the fence goes all the way down to thewater, but Brian doesn’t think anything will stop them. Morganclaims they can’t swim because they’re too heavy, and Brian says,”Oh, come on, are you kidding? Have you ever seen moviesof a hippopotamus in the water? I should swim so well!” Meanwhile Lorna’s dutifully ragging on Jack about his selfishgreed. Tom blames himself for their situation and Rita’s pregnancy.

Morgan has decided to attach a generator to the fence to electrifyit. The rats appear on the other side. They grab the fence forawhile and then run off. The rats head for the water and findthey cannot swim after all. Morgan is suspicious because onlyhalf the rats have come to the water. They head back to the generatorclimbs down to tie the rope around Loand find various tree limbs and logs on it. Morgan gets jumpedby a single rat, and Brian is set upon by several at once. Morganfrees himself from his rat and starts shooting other rats. Apparentlyby this time Brian’s head has gone missing, so Morgan leaves hisbody and drives off.

Jack is still loading up on white goo. Morgan arrives minus apassenger. He starts dumping out all of Jack’s goo. The ratsshow up and gnaw on Jack, who’s still fretting over his spilledgrowth formula. The others board up the windows of the house,and Tom and Morgan shoot at the rats through the windows. Thewhite rat watches from a distance again. They can’t get any waterin the house because the rats have chewed through a pipe outside. Tom isn’t thrilled with Morgan’s leadership style, and Morganstarts making bombs. A rat bursts through the front door andLorna shoots it.

Lorna and Morgan have a private moment. “If I told you howI felt right now, you’d think I was crazy,” she says. “Tellme.” “I want you to make love to me. It is crazy,isn’t it, at a time like this.” He kisses her and says,”The first thing we’ll do when we get back to the mainlandis continue this conversation, okay?”

Rita’s getting morbid, talking about how she used to fantasizeall sorts of horrible ways to die, but this tops them all. Morgangets snippy with Tom and starts barking out orders. They bothrun out the front door throwing bombs around and drive off inthe Jeep. The rats swarm the house again, chew on the walls. Mrs. Skinner grabs a cleaver. A rat breaks into the kitchenand she hacks and he chomps and they end up killing each other. The roof creaks and breaks in. Lorna runs into the bedroom withRita and slams the door on a rat’s head. She braces the door.

Morgan sets bombs on the dam Mrs. Skinner had apparently mentionedto him at some point. They drive back to the farm. Meanwhile,Rita gives birth to a boy. Tom and Morgan throw some more bombsand shoot rats to get back into the house. They haul the womenupstairs and onto the roof just as a deluge of water comes alongto flood the island and drown the rats. A couple crawl onto thesafety of the roof and are shot. The white rat then appears onthe roof, but the boys are out of bullets, so Morgan beats itwith his rifle.

The waters have receded. Tom and Morgan are piling the rat carcassesto burn them. “Well, I guess that’s the end of them,”Morgan says. Switch to two jars of FOTG being washed away, downinto a herd of cows. Morgan worries that they didn’t get it all. The movie ends as we watch a bunch of dairy cows being milkedand then some kids drinking milk in their school lunches.

Ouch! Something just hit me over the head. I think the messageis that man is abusing the earth, and he’s going to be sorry oneday. We should just be thankful that no raccoons or snakes gotinto the food.

And those women, all they ever think about in a crisis situationis sex, especially with assertive men. Don’t they understandthat they’ll get to have more sex in the long run if they survive? It’s called deferring gratification.

What We Learned: Nature’s going to get us.

Animals and Insects Films