Teen-Agers Zoom to Supersize And Terrorize a Town!
A group of city kids find themselves stranded in the small town of Hainesville, CA when their car breaks down. 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 developing a special formula that he calls Goo, which has the power to increase the size of animals roughly six-fold when it is consumed. When the city kids and the local teens collide, Fred and his cohorts get ahold of the Goo and decide to swallow it down for kicks. Now these 30-foot teenagers are primed to take over the town, and it’s up to Genius, his older sister Nancy (Charla Doherty), her boyfriend Mike (Tommy Kirk) and the rest of the townies to shut them down.
VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS 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 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.
There are an awful lot of close-ups of jiggling breasts, gyrating hips, and shimmying posteriors to keep the male audience member interested. 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. 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 prevent breaking down into self-parody. Because of this, it remains a hell of a lot of fun, no matter what the haters say. It may be teen exploitation…but it is exploitation of the most sugary kind. And everybody’s got a sweet tooth.
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.
Head hero Tommy Kirk had started out in the business as a Disney child star, but when the studio caught wind that Kirk was a homosexual, they terminated his contract in 1963. He managed to find work at American International Pictures, starring alongside Annette Funicello in PAJAMA PARTY (1964). The film was a hit, and he was signed on to star in another AIP film, HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI (1965). Apart from that studio, he was also signed to appear in John Wayne’s THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER (also 1965). Things took another turn, though, when he was arrested on Christmas Eve, 1964 for possession of marijuana. The charges were dropped, but his squeaky-clean reputation was damaged even further, and he was kicked from both of these impending films. He somehow managed to land work on VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS, though, and AIP quickly forgave him for his transgressions. They would hire him again for THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI (1966). Disney’s forgiveness came quite a bit later—although they asked him to star in THE MONKEY’S UNCLE (1965), this was strictly for financial reasons, as its predecessor, THE MISADVENTURES OF MERLIN JONES (1964) was such a surprise moneymaker. However, when they inducted him as a Disney Legend in 2006, more than three decades after he had publicly come out of the closet, it did appear to be something of an olive branch, extended for all the right reasons. His delinquent counterpart, Beau Bridges, and his pint-sized companion, Ron Howard, should be well-known by most everyone.
Among the good kids is a character named Red, played by Toni Basil. Basil is most well known as a choreographer and performer—her 1982 single “Mickey” (a pseudo-cover of British powerpop band Racey’s song “Kitty”) was a smash hit and one of the defining icons of the burgeoning music video culture. Looking at her filmography, though, she has appeared in a number of interesting films: the previously mentioned PAJAMA PARTY, the trippy Monkees film HEAD (1968), EASY RIDER (1969), MYRA BRECKENRIDGE (1970), and FIVE EASY PIECES (1970) just to name a few.
VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS was ostensibly based on the H.G. Wells book The Food of The Gods and How It Came to Earth, but that is something of an overstatement. Writer-director-producer Bert I. Gordon would adapt the book again in 1976 under an approximation of the original title (dropping the …and How It Came to Earth appendage), which proved to be a somewhat more authentic adaptation. Perhaps inspired by his initials, 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.
You can’t help but love Mr. BIG.