12/26/06

523 Village of the Giants

(1965, Teen Comedy/Musical/Giant Critter, color)

First base is larger than I remember.

Rating: ***1/2


In a nutshell:

Giant juvenile delinquents take over the town!

Summary:

Impromptu muddy groping in progress.A sedan the size of an ocean liner slides into a telephone pole in the rain, while a mudslide blocks the road behind it. Eight bedraggled teens—four boys and four girls—stumble out into the street. Their ringleader (the breezy Fred, played by Beau Bridges) cranks up their ruined ride’s radio and starts to dance in the ankle-deep mud. The rest of his gang follows suit, and eventually the whole affair devolves into a wiggly, mud-drenched grope-fest. Someone rolls over a fallen road sign and they decide to walk to the nearest town.

Cut to the nearest town, where the heroic Mike (Tommy Kirk) makes out with his girlfriend Nancy while her parents are away. An explosion from the next room interrupts them; Nancy’s little brother (Genius, a.k.a. Ronny Howard) has blown something up. The resulting “Goo” is orange foam with the power to make things really big and slow. Mike sees enormous marketing potential, and swears everyone to secrecy while he inconspicuously enlarges the dog, the cat, and a pair of ducks.

The delinquent teen gang arrives in town and breaks into the local theater, which despite being “closed down” is still outfitted with costumes, scenery, and electric lights. They get cleaned up and head to the local discotheque, where they groove to the interminable tunes of The Beau Brummels Band and admire the rapidly shaking assets of the redheaded lady D.J. The whole party is only slightly awed when a pair of enormous waterfowl arrives to shake their tailfeathers with the rest of the crowd. Mike and Nancy show up and admit responsibility.

Fred and his girlfriend try to seduce the secret of the ducks’ really-bigness out from under our heroes, but they don’t fall for it. Next thing we know, the party’s moved outside for an enormous duck barbeque, while Mike and Nancy hide the remaining Goo in the cellar. After a slight mishap with a large growling spider (they escape by ruining the house’s plumbing and electrical systems) they return to festivities.

With Mike and Nancy engaged in festive activities, Fred and his gang sneak into the cellar through the unlocked window, somehow failing to see the electrocuted corpse of the giant spider. They steal the Goo out of the unlocked cabinet and set off Genius’ burglar alarm. Mike soundly beats Fred in the ensuing melee, but his gang gets away with the Goo.

The delinquents sit in the theater, licking their wounds and wondering what to do with their prize. Eventually, they divide the orange foam amongst themselves and immediately grow out of all their clothes. They drape themselves in multicolored muslin and then lumber out to rejoin the party. No one’s impressed until one of the scantily clad girl giants decides to dance with the jiggly D.J.’s cowboy boyfriend. He clings to her enormous cleavage for dear life while she shimmies in slow motion, until Mike breaks a chair against Fred’s shin.

The cops show up and demand that everyone go home. After some big talk (Get it? Get it?) Fred and his gang lumber back to the theater to wait. Mike shows up with the sheriff to demand that they leave town. Fred’s gang shows the sheriff his kidnapped daughter and demand that the adults in town disarm, go indoors by nine p.m., and provide them with coke and fried chicken.

With the adults out of the picture, Mike organizes the town’s teens into action by attempting to lasso Fred while he’s out for a lumbering morning stroll. Fred’s gang saves him by taking Nancy hostage as well. In their next attempt, Mike leads Fred and most of his gang across town by slinging rocks at them David-style, while the cowboy teen drugs the lovely guard by hanging from her cleavage with a gas mask and a giant ether-soaked cotton ball. They rescue the hostages and take back the town’s guns, but can’t make it back in time to save Mike from Fred’s clumsy attempts to skewer him. This task falls to Genius, who has discovered the gaseous antidote to Goo just in time to fumigate all the giants back down to normal size.

Humiliated, Fred and his gang pick up their oversized muslin skirts and flee the town. On their way out they pass a group of short people, who are braving the mudslides on foot in search of the marvelous Goo.

Introduction:

What color is your parachute, Frank?Mike and the ‘Bots do their quarterly workout. Mike is most aggressive, piling too much weight onto Crow and beaning Tom with a medicine ball. Quoth he, “If you can’t take thirty minutes out of each year, you don’t deserve a hot date.”

Host Segment One:

After their workout, Mike makes fresh fruit juice with a grinder, including such ingredients as raw eggs and sausage. Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester has to cut costs by firing someone. Quoth he, “What color is your parachute, Frank?” He rips off Frank’s badge and spitcurl.

Host Segment Two:

Frank watches TV and lounges in his own snack food filth while Dr. Forrester interviews applicants to replace him. First up is Torgo, who awkwardly walks and talks to his own repetitive theme music. He’s not all that qualified, but since he’ll work cheap (i.e. free) Dr. Forrester hires him anyway.

Host Segment Three:

Mike and the ‘Bots are signing a goodbye card for Frank. He calls up from the supply closet; he needs them to sign a paper saying they’ve interviewed him so that he can continue to collect unemployment. They ask interview questions like, “What were the greatest challenges of your last job?” (Answer: “Dr. Forrester would kill me a lot.”) and “What are some of your weaknesses?” (Answer: “I tend to settle conflicts with violence.”)

Host Segment Four:

Mike and the ‘Bots say goodbye to Frank with a video montage that plays while they sing the tender ballad, “Let Me Be Frank About Frank.” Quoth they, “Endless Frank will always flow / As far as we know.” Frank is touched. He vows to fight and get his old job back.

Host Segment Five:

Mike and the ‘Bots read a complimentary letter addressed to Frank. Frank dons his spitcurl and tells Torgo that Dr. Forrester will really like it if he…whisper, whisper, whisper… Whatever it is takes place offscreen, but Dr. Forrester is so appalled that he throws Torgo out instantly. He gives Frank back his job, and then kills him for old times sake.

Stinger:

In lieu of showing us a ridiculous moment from the film, the song, “Let Me Be Frank About Frank,” plays over the closing credits. A picture with the caption, “Frank Zappa: December 21, 1940 to December 4, 1993,” appears at the end.

Thoughts:

First base is larger than he remembers.The roads may be blocked, the phone lines may be out, and the federal authorities may be blissfully aware of the situation, but the little people know! The short-person network knows everything, mixing unnoticed into normal-sized society, keeping their tiny ears close to the ground for news, walking miles and miles through the mud when they finally hear of something that will help them achieve every diminutive person’s secret desire—to be tall! Could Mr. Bert I. Gordon have been any more insulting?

Well, I suppose he could, but that would require effort and ingenuity. This is a standard giant critter film, where the good teens take control of the resistance effort instead of the good scientists. Judging by the kids’ goofy behavior, I think it’s supposed to be a comedy, but it doesn’t bother with jokes and punchlines, so the only laughs it gets are unintentional. My favorite scene is the one in the theater where the delinquents talk themselves into eating the Goo. Their eventual decision is based on a series of dares that would only be remotely plausible if the participants were drunk, high, or nine years old.

The special effects are slightly above average for a Bert I. Gordon feature. The giant cleavage and the large hairy legs are obviously immobile and fake, but his crew probably had to spend time building them, unlike the cricket-infested postcards from Beginning of the End.

The stinger seems to make the “Let Me Be Frank About Frank” song more about Frank Zappa than TV’s Frank, which makes the whole firing-of-Frank scenario seem to be largely an excuse to work a tribute to a great and recently deceased musician into the show. Since it’s a great song and a funny scenario, I didn’t mind at all. Torgo’s brief stint as TV’s Torgo is funny, especially since Mike Nelson has the quavery voice and the wobbling walk down to an art. Frank is convincing as an unemployed slob, and the song itself is a hilarious blend of musical tribute clich├ęs. Rest in peace, Mr. Zappa.

There are a lot of opportunities for mockery in the film, starting with the muddy rain dance when Crow says, “All right, who gave sugar to the kids?” When the cowboy teen rides the giant cleavage, Mike says, “First base is larger than I remember,” while Crow calls him an “Urban Cowboob.” Whenever Ronny Howard is in the scene, Tom or Mike says something disparaging about the movie Willow, to which Crow indignantly replies, “I liked Willow.” When the camera pans past a gumball machine in Genius’ laboratory, Tom cries out “Mom!” and then gets really upset when a snooping delinquent buys a gumball from it. It’s already goofy, and the satellite crew adds jokes in all the right places. I’d watch this one again.

Oh, and I liked Willow too.