Village of the Giants is a 1965 science-fiction/comedy movie with many elements of the beach party film genre. It was produced, directed and written by Bert I. Gordon, and based loosely on H.G. Wells's book The Food of the Gods. The story revolves mostly around a chemical substance called "Goo", which causes giant growth in living things, and what happens after a gang of rebellious youngsters get their hands on it. The cast was mostly teens, or young actors playing teens, and The Beau Brummels and Freddy Cannon make musical guest appearances.
The movie was a low-budget exploitation film and not a huge hit (released mostly to drive-ins as part of a double bill), but had some notable use of special effects and undoubted sex appeal, and went on to become a cult classic. The movie proved far more successful years later, when released on home video.
Village of the Giants takes place in fictional Hainesville, California. After crashing their car into a roadblock during a rainstorm, a group of partying, big-city teenagers (Fred, Pete, Rick, Harry, and their girlfriends Merrie, Elsa, Georgette and Jean) first indulge in a vigorous, playful mud-wrestling fight, then hike their way into town. Fred remembers meeting a girl from Hainesville named Nancy, and they decide to look her up.
Nancy, meanwhile, is with her boyfriend Mike, while her younger brother "Genius" plays with his chemistry set in the basement. When Genius causes an explosion, Nancy and Mike run downstairs to investigate. Genius is unhurt, but Mike notices a leftover substance from Genius's last experiment beginning to ooze from the top of a beaker. They note its composition, nicknaming it "Goo", and think no further of it. When the family cat begins to sample the Goo a few minutes later, he grows larger than a tiger, frightening Wolf, the dog (who eats some himself shortly afterward). Realizing the Goo caused the cat to grow, they next try it out on a pair of ducks, who also become gigantic. Mike speculates that the substance could be used on cattle and other food-bearing animals, and solve problems like world hunger – only to have the ducks escape a moment later. Genius goes to work to make more Goo, while Nancy and Mike pursue the missing ducks.
Unable to locate Nancy, and with no place to stay, the out-of-town teens break into the local theater. Cleaning up from the rain, they hear music coming from a nearby club, where The Beau Brummels are performing. The girls want to go dancing, and the boys come along. Not long after they arrive at the club, the giant ducks turn up, followed by Mike and Nancy. Everyone is astounded by the size of the ducks, wondering how they got so big. Mike explains that it's a secret, but following a suggestion made by their friends Horsey and Red, they host a picnic in the town square the next day, roasting the ducks and feeding everybody. Freddy Cannon is featured singing a song in this scene.
Fred and his friends also see potential in whatever made the ducks grow... but their minds are purely on profit. Fred makes moves on Nancy, while Jean does likewise with Mike, to learn the secret, but are unsuccessful. Their friend Elsa has better luck, in a chance meeting with Genius, and flatters him into explaining the Goo and how it works.
Mike and Nancy compare notes and figure out that the outsiders are interested in the Goo. Mike locks it up, but they then discover an enormous spider, apparently transformed by the Goo, in the basement with them. Mike kills it by first breaking a water pipe and then shattering a light bulb and swinging the fixture into the spider, nearly being electrocuted himself; Nancy turns off the power just before he falls onto the wet basement floor, and they return to the picnic.
While everyone else is still at the picnic, Pete breaks into Genius's basement lab, finding the Goo, but setting off a homemade burglar alarm. Everyone thinks the resulting fireworks display is part of the picnic, but Genius, Nancy and Mike know better, and run back to the house. Finding Fred and his friends with the Goo, Mike and Horsey fight them for it, but lose, and the gang gets away.
Back at the theater, an argument develops over what to do with the Goo, now that they have it. Fred wants to sell it and become rich, but Harry and Rick decide a better idea would be to try it out themselves. Feeling peer pressure, Fred slices up the Goo, giving everyone a piece each, which they consume a moment later. As the Goo takes effect, they each grow to over thirty feet tall, ripping right out of their clothes. At first everyone is shocked and regretful, but realizing their newfound power at their new size, the gang decide to take over the town. They turn the theater's curtains and backdrops into togas and dresses for themselves, and head back to the town square.
Returning to the picnic, the giant teens first bring things to a halt, as everyone stares up at them, but they insist the party go on. Music plays, and the giants dance, reveling in their new status. For a laugh, Merrie plucks up Horsey, dangling him from her top as she dances. Mike tells Fred to make Merrie set Horsey down, but Fred ignores him. Mike finally smashes a chair against Fred's shins to get his attention – and gets the wind knocked out of him in return. Fred announces his intentions to the local teens, who don't readily go along, to his surprise. The local sheriff arrives, ordering the giants back to the theater, and everyone else home.
Overnight, the giants decide to isolate Hainesville from the rest of the world. They rip out the telephone lines, overturn broadcasting antennas, and block the remaining roads out of town. When the sheriff and Mike arrive to deal with them, they discover that the giants have no plans to leave – and are literally holding the sheriff's daughter, as "insurance" that they won't have any trouble. Fred orders all the town's guns to be confiscated, and a curfew imposed on all local adults. Mike is appointed head of a work party, to find food for the giants daily.
While the town's adults seem paralyzed, the teens decide to fight back, beginning with taking a hostage of their own. Getting Fred away from the rest, they try to capture him, but are thwarted when Pete captures Nancy instead, first setting her on a church steeple, then taking her back to the theater to join their first hostage.
Genius continues to work, trying to produce more Goo, but meets with failure after failure, as everyone in town ends up serving the giants. Noticing that they only leave one guard for the hostages, Mike and Horsey plot to subdue that guard, recover the guns, and free Nancy and the sheriff's daughter. Mike asks Genius to forget the Goo for awhile, and make them a supply of ether they can use to knock out the guard.
With the ether ready, Genius resumes work on the Goo, as Red and Mike prepare a diversion for the giants, and the other teens (led by Horsey) get ready to break into the theater. Red dances for the male giants, as everyone takes their places, and Mike begins to toss stones at the theater windows with a sling. The giants one by one go outside to see what the noise is. Fred sends Merrie back inside to watch the hostages, and begins to play David and Goliath with Mike, using a light pole as a spear to match Mike's sling, as Mike draws the giants farther and farther away. Back inside the theater, Horsey doses Merrie with the ether, putting her to sleep, and the teens recover the guns and hostages.
While Genius continues to work on the Goo, the giant Wolf begins to sniff at a fuming beaker Genius laid aside – and a moment later shrinks back to his regular size. Genius sees an alternative answer to the giant problem, and makes a larger batch of the same substance.
Merrie wakes up, finds the hostages gone, and rejoins the other giants outside, as Fred and Mike continue to take shots and taunts at one another. Genius appears a moment later, riding a bicycle around the giants with a pail full of the fuming antidote. As the giants breathe in the fumes, they all return to normal. Mike cold-cocks the surprised Fred, and promptly runs him and his friends, looking silly in their now-oversized clothes, out of town.
As they return to their wrecked car, Fred and the gang realize they've got "a very, very long walk" ahead of them. A moment later, a voice asks them if they're coming out of Hainesville, "the place where they have the Goo?" Answering yes, the gang meets a group of midgets, who want to try the Goo out for themselves.
The Beau Brummels, singers Freddy Cannon and Mike Clifford all make appearances. Cannon enjoyed a string of hits during the Sixties (including "Palisades Park" and "Tallahassee Lassie"), and performs "Little Bitty Corrine" in his signature style (wearing a cardigan sweater in the summertime!), while Mike Clifford (veteran of The Ed Sullivan Show, and later an actor) croons the movie's obligatory slow song, "Marianne". (Clifford is also credited with another song, "Nothing can Stand in my Way", but this does not appear in the film). There was no official soundtrack release for this movie.
The film's director, Bert I. Gordon, was involved with many size-themed movies in his career. (Perhaps ironically, his initials are "BIG".) Besides Village, these include: King Dinosaur (1955), Beginning of the End (1957), The Cyclops (1957), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), War of the Colossal Beast (1958), Earth vs. the Spider (1958), and The Food of the Gods (1976).
Debi Storm completed her role as the Sheriff's daughter in just three days. Vicki London, who played Georgette, is absent from the screen for most of the giant scenes in the movie. Robert Random and Joy Harmon each also appeared in episodes of Gidget, which debuted in the fall of 1965. (Their height remained normal.)
The cat appearing in this film was named Orangey (later renamed Minerva), and Village of the Giants was the second time he played the role of a cat larger than a human, the first being Scott Carey's (actor Grant Williams) pet in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). His most famous roles were as "Rhubarb" in the film Rhubarb (1951) and the cat in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961).
Alan Caillou's original script called for the Sheriff's deputy (played by Rance Howard) to be stepped on by the giants. If the scene was ever filmed, it did not make the final edit, and no known footage of it exists.
Locations and props
Most of the outdoor scenes were filmed on the Columbia Pictures backlot, where portions of I Dream of Jeannie and The Partridge Family were also made. The lot is now owned by Warner Brothers. The scene where the giants convene outside the Hainesville theater was shot at the Courthouse Square lot at Universal Studios, where Back to the Future and Gremlins were later made. The film's goo was a simple mixture of angel food cake with pink-colored dye. The beer the "teenagers" are drinking at the beginning of the film is Blatz, and the 'Teen magazine Joy Harmon reads during one part of the film is an actual issue, from the summer of 1965. The tiny yellow custom hotrod (with the surfboard) that is used in the street scene to tie up Beau Bridges' feet, is The Surfite, designed by Ed "Big Daddy" Roth.
|Genius||Ron Howard (billed as "Ronny Howard")|
|Rick||Robert Random (billed as "Bob Random")|
|The Sheriff||Joe Turkel (billed as "Joseph Turkell")|
|The Sheriff's Daughter, Cora||Debi Storm|
|As himself||Freddy Cannon|
|As himself||Mike Clifford|
|The Beau Brummels||Ron Elliott|
- Village of the Giants at the Internet Movie Database
- Rottentomatoes.com Review of VotG
- The Unofficial Village of the Giants Website