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Dustin Putman




The Food Of The Gods/Frogs  (1976/1972)

Reviewed for TheBluFile.com by Dustin Putman

The Films
    The Food Of The Gods (1976)
    1 Star
    Frogs (1972)
    2.5 Stars
(Release Date: May 26, 2015) – Nature runs amok in 1976's "The Food of the Gods" (based on "a portion" of the novel by H.G. Wells, as the credits tell it) and 1972's "Frogs," a double bill very similarly related in concept but decidedly divergent when it comes to their quality of writing.

Up first is writer-director Bert I. Gordon's "The Food of the Gods," wherein a British Columbian island becomes overrun by deadly overgrown animals and insects—rats, wasps, chickens—who have begun to feed off of an environmentally unfriendly bubbling crude in farmer Mrs. Skinner's (Ida Lupino) backyard. When their buddy is killed by a wasp on a hunting trip, professional football player Morgan (Marjoe Gortner) and friend Brian (Jon Cypher) return to the scene of the crime to investigate, ultimately getting mixed up in a fight for survival alongside smarmy dog food company owner Jack Bensington (Ralph Meeker), forthright bacteriologist Lorna (Pamela Franklin), and expectant couple Thomas (Tom Stovall) and Rita (Belinda Balaski). "The Food of the Gods" shows its age when it comes to its spotty effects work (the wasps look less like insects and more like translucent brown smudges on the screen), but it would be a generally silly and harmless low-budget horror picture were it not for one majorly detrimental issue: its ugly, incessant animal violence. As the movie presses on, it grows increasingly clear that not only were real rodents used in many shots, but that they were inhumanely shot and drowned during filming. This flagrant disregard for animals' rights—all for the purposes of a schlocky B-movie—gives "The Food of the Gods" a nasty, unclean stench that steals away whatever fun there is to be had.

Things brighten up considerably with the tautly suspenseful, misleadingly titled "Frogs," directed by George McCowan. In his first leading film role, a strikingly handsome Sam Elliott stars as Pickett Smith, an ecology magazine photographer who crosses paths with a well-to-do family attending the reunion/birthday celebration for patriarch Jason Crockett (Ray Milland). Unlucky for all involved, their secluded island mansion and the surrounding marshlands are suddenly attacked by all manners of wildlife. Rattlesnakes, tarantulas, lizards, alligators, and even turtles get into the murderous act as the Crockett clan's getaway turns into a weekend of terror. "Frogs" is an odd name for a thriller where the title amphibian is just about the most docile of all the animals in view, but regardless of what it is called, this is a jittery and effective horror picture, atmospherically shot, memorably scored, and featuring a number of uncomfortably plausible set-pieces where the animal population pounce on their human targets. Why does Pickett decide at the onset to stick around and hang out with this family of strangers? Who knows? If "Frogs" isn't always perfectly logical, it is unnerving, providing apt foreshadowing to its ecological, don't-mess-with-nature themes without having to turn the proceedings into a preachy message movie.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound
The Food Of The Gods: B/B
Frogs: A-/A-

"The Food of the Gods" and "Frogs" nibble and ribbit their way to Blu-ray with 1080p transfers that should certainly please fans of these films who are only used to seeing them on VHS or standard-definition DVD. In a race between the two, "Frogs" wins out with a picture presentation that is largely clean and at times strikingly dimensional for a low-budget film made over forty years ago. Indeed, depth is strong throughout, clarity is solid, and the grain field is healthy and even. One shot features a prominent case of print damage—a vertical tear across the image—but it disappears almost as quickly as it pops up. "The Food of the Gods" is slightly rougher around the edges with a fair amount of dirt, white and black specks, and hints of mosquito noise encroaching upon an otherwise very good transfer that stabilizes quickly and improves as it goes. Both films come with 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, and "Frogs" once again comes out on top with an immersive mix that leads with its superbly modulated, surprisingly robust music score. "The Food of the Gods" has a satisfying audio track, as well, but seems more of its time and perhaps a little tinny on occasion. In contrast, "Frogs" sounds like it is a much newer film than it actually is.

Blu-ray Features

The Food Of The Gods
  • Audio Commentary with Bert I. Gordon
  • "Rita and the Rats: An Interview with Actress Belinda Balaski" Featurette (11:36, HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:00, HD)
  • Radio Spot (0:59, HD)
  • Photo Gallery (4:21, HD)
Frogs
  • "Buried in Frogs: An Interview with Actress Joan Van Ark" Featurette (10:08, HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:12, HD)
  • Radio Spot (1:01, HD)
  • Photo Gallery (2:49, HD)
Bottom Line
Scream Factory's double-feature Blu-ray release of "The Food of the Gods" and "Frogs" is another homerun for the company, especially when taking into account these titles' mid-level notoriety and fanfare. While "Frogs" is far superior to "The Food of the Gods," it is also good enough on its own to recommend. Having a second movie on the disc—and one with a flurry of special features, to boot—is only a bonus. Genre enthusiasts for an appetite in films where nature strikes back should especially be all over this release. Recommended.

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© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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