Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mr. B.I.G.- or how I stopped worrying and learned to love Bert I. Gordon

I can pinpoint when it happened. Crow T. Robot said, "You know- this isn't a bad film for Bert I. Gordon." It was at that moment, in the middle of my first viewing of THE MAGIC SWORD, that I became a fan.

Unlike most fans of his movies I first encountered the films of Bert Ira Gordon on MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. At the time I was stumbling my way through college and a bit of humor was appreciated/needed. While THE BEGINNING OF THE END, THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN and its sequel were roasted by Joel & the Bots I laughed along and had much fun noticing the less than special effects. But, as with many of the older flicks on the show, I found myself laughing at the movies AND enjoying them too. So when I eventually got the chance to see them unaltered I was happy to discover that while they were not classics by any means they had a charm that I loved. Their charm is such that if I had caught them at a younger and more impressionable age I would have gloried in their pulp styled tales of animals and men grown larger than a fearful public could accept. Most point to COLOSSAL MAN as his best film and it might be. It was the first of his movies to make me think there was something else going on than just the surface story. Some how I realized on some level (even while laughing) that this tale of a man increasing in size was sharper than the average giant monster flick. As Glen Manning loses his hair and is forced to wear a diaper its hard to miss the symbolic reversion to childhood on display. What else is Manning (nice choice of name there) by the end of the film but an angry child seeking to break what it can no longer have. I love this kind of under the radar stuff and to spot it while watching a humor show was refreshing. As I delved further into Gordon's movies I found he was truely a kindred spirit. Here was a man in love with science fiction and horror weaving stories that must have looked perfect projected on a drive-in screen. I would love to be able to see EARTH VS. THE SPIDER on a giant outdoor screen some warm August night with a like minded group of people.

I guess another moment when I should have realized how much Gordon’s films meant to me was last summer. I was a little financially strapped and yet when I saw a foot tall statue of the Colossal Beast I knew I had to have it. A bit of cash and a little bartering is all it took and now that figure stands atop my chest of drawers threatening to hurl a bus onto my bed at any time. Sadly, this may have stunted my sex life but these are the risks one takes for the love of cheesy monster films.

When I look at Gordon's list of directorial credits I am stunned by how many films he produced in such a short space of time. After the release of KING DINOSAUR in 1955 he didn't get his next film in theaters until '57 but then they just rolled out. Three in '57 and three more in '58 which is all the more incredible when you know that he and his wife Flora were responsible for almost all of the behind the camera work. Their cheap but fun special effects were often poorly realized rear projection efforts but the movies are so much cheesy fun I always end up not caring. Not content to just make giant bug movies Gordon made Giant Mutant Beast movies (WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST), a large breasted Ghost movie (TORMENTED) , a kiddie adventure film (THE MAGIC SWORD) and a Giant Teenager movie (VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS). He even threw in a film about shrinking people down to miniature size for some extra variety with ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE. All of these are entertaining movies and great slices of late 50's monster/adventure fun even if I have a hard time forgiving him for the dancing ducks and cute brainy kid in VILLAGE. Of course, being the completist that I am, I long to see the few films Gordon directed that I still haven't found. THE CYCLOPS, NECROMANCY, THE MAD BOMBER and BURNED AT THE STAKE all rouse my curiousity. Luckily his pirate film from 1960 THE BOY AND THE PIRATE is being issued by MGM in a few weeks so I can tick that one off my list.

Now if some one would just issue his output from the 70's and 80's I'd be very happy. I'd finally get to see his adaptation H. G. Wells' FOOD OF THE GODS. I guess after years of mining Wells' book he deceided to tackle it head on for a change. I've heard mixed things from others but I have to see it for myself. After all- anyone that has managed to give me as much fun as Bert I. Gordon can do what he wants and I'll come back for more. Even if there are dancing ducks!

1 comment:

Mr. Ghoul said...

Looking forward to heading up to Pittsburgh with ya this weekend, to pay homage to the Blind Idiot God himself, Rod. Tormented is one that I really enjoy. Years ago, channel 2 would occasionally show Empire of the Ants and Food of the Gods back-to-back, and my friend Danny Mayo and I would always arrange to spend the night and have a blast watching this double-bill. Hey, anything with the all-powerful Marjoe Gortner is fair game!