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Village of the Giants (1965)
   When we look back at the biggest news stories of 2003 (and who wouldn't enjoy doing that on a Saturday night), one of them would have to be California's recall election in which voters ousted incumbent Governor Gray Davis and turned to action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger. But as big as the story was, I know that years from now I won't remember very much about it. I won't remember the allegations that Arnold fondled women in elevators and I will have forgotten all about California's energy crisis that perpetuated the downfall of Gov. Gray Davis. But there is one piece of mind-boggling trivia I will never forget about that election: Gary Coleman ran for governor. Roll that around in your head for a moment. Gary Coleman ... ran for governor.

For you readers too young to remember, Gary Coleman was the child actor who played Arnold Jackson on the 80's sitcom Different Strokes (You may have heard his trademark catch phrase, "Whuchyoutalkinabout, Willis?"). Like most child actors, Coleman had difficulty finding good roles in Hollywood after the show was cancelled. I toyed with the idea of searching the Internet for later Gary Coleman TV and movie vehicles, but I just couldn't. Being a webmaster of a b-movie web site, I obviously have too much time on my hands. Researching movies like The Manster is one thing, but when I Google the words "Gary Coleman filmography", it's all over for me. The moment I type those words, I may as well give up on life.

Another child actor who struggled throughout his career was Ronny Howard who played the role of Genius in Village of the Giants. Prior to this, Ronny played Opey, the son of sheriff Andy Taylor on the hit TV series The Andy Griffith Show but was never seen again in Hollywood. Rumours suggest that he became Ronny Howard, little boy lost! (See inset at right)

To this day, Hollywood, filled with racial bias, refuses to hire actors who look too "American". In fact, there aren't any good roles if you're a good-looking, male caucasian. By far the biggest celebrity of Village of the Giants is Beau Bridges. The legendary film star would go on to win worldwide acclaim in such films as The Fabulous Baker Boys and Norma Rae. Bridges countered his All-American looks with a bit of German heritage and just a dash of Greater Mekong.

Village of the Giants opens with a car filled with six groovy teenagers going off the road in a mudslide. Dazed, confused and soaked from the hammering rain, they do the only sensible thing: they get out of the car and dance to the tune playing on the radio! Then the dancing turns into a kind of a free-for-all Woodstock mud pit. The leader of the pack, Fred, played by Beau Bridges, (I'm just going to refer to him as Beau), suggests they walk 3 miles to the nearest town called Haynesville.

Meanwhile, in one Haynesvillian living room, teen sweetheart Nancy makes out with her boyfriend Mike. Nancy has a little brother whom they've nicknamed "Genius", played by Ronny Howard (I'm just going to refer to him as Ronny). Calling him "Genius" is a bit of an understatement as, later, he creates life! Ronny conducts experiments in his basement laboratory, often causing accidental explosions. One of the explosions manages to pry Mike and Nancy's lips apart long enough for them to check on Ronny's well-being only to discover that Ronny has accidentally created a pink goo that, when eaten, causes things to grow. A stray cat wanders through the basement window (put a latch on that window, Nancy!), eats the goo, and becomes the size of a Cadillac. Mike exclaims, "We're gonna make us a million bucks!"

Outside, Mike tests the goo on two ducks. The ducks grow to the sound of a sliding steel guitar (An apparent odd goo side effect). Mike says, "With the price of beef what it is, can you imagine how much money we could make with cattle 5 times their size?" I can't imagine what a farmer would do with a cow 5 times its size. The only problem is, Ronny cannot recreate the goo. Mike and Nancy go to a dance club where the kids are twisting to a number by The Beau Brummels. If you don't remember them appearing as cartoon characters on the Flintstones, just imagine the Beatles wearing KFC ties.

Meanwhile, Beau Bridges and the gang break into a theatre that's "closed for the season" (even though it's clearly summertime). They clean up, helping themselves to the wardrobe department's costumes and makeup.

During the Beau Brummels' second number, a pair of gargantuan ducks enter the room and ... (sigh) ... dance to the music. The ducks are hilariously dangled on "invisible" fishing line to make it appear they're dancing. The kids are not even surprised to see giant animals on the dance floor. Mike shows up and proudly announces, "Hey, man... those are my ducks!" Everyone replies, "Cool!" (I wonder how cool they'd think it was if the ducks were picking them off like grubs!). Mike makes the mistake of calling the growth goo his "million dollar secret" and Beau Bridges, who's old man is a "big man in the beef business," ( I had no idea Lloyd Bridges ran a beef business!) hatches a plan to discover his secret. Next, we see the teenagers in a park barbequing a giant duck on a spit. I'd love to see how they killed and plucked it! That must've been a god-awful mess!

But enough talk, time to dance again! Some guy in a really bad striped sweater sings to the crowd and, unfortunately, to us. Mike takes the necessary precautions to safeguard the goo by locking it in a wood cabinet, adding, "This out to be safe enough!" (Yes, Mike, it shouldn't take more than one whack with a small kitchen hammer to crack that baby open.) Suddenly, a giant tarantula attacks! Mike aggravates it with a pitchfork before coming up with a plan to kill it: He electrocutes the spider by dousing it with water from a broken pipe then breaking a light bulb and throwing the empty electrical socket at the spider while Mike hangs from a second pipe so as not to be grounded. I would've thought of that.

Later that night, as Mike and Nancy leave the house (still wearing swimsuits!), Beau's gang climbs through Nancy's basement window. Will somebody please lock that window! But enough intrigue...it's time for another song! Yet another sappy singer croons to girls. Fortunately, his number only lasts about 10 seconds. Meanwhile, back in the basement (where we were about 10 seconds ago), a member of Beau's gang steps into Ronny's bear trap. This bear trap should have easily severed his foot but instead is rigged to ignite fireworks in the basement which shoot off into the sky. Let me say that again. The fireworks are lit in the basement...but go off...in the sky.

Back in the park, Genius sees the fireworks display and yells "That's my alarm!" Beau's gang is caught red-handed outside Nancy's house with the goo. It's a dramatic standoff (As dramatic as a movie featuring giant ducks can be, anyway). Then Beau's gang pushes Mike way too far, baiting him into a taunting game of "keep-away"! They toss the jar of goo over Mike's head again and again, just out of his reach! Nothing makes a person madder than playing keep-away! OK, one thing does: When you pretend to hand it over, then you pull back just as they go to reach for it! Psych!!! Oh! Mike is really getting steamed now! Finally, Mike and Beau fight to the rhythm of bongo drums! (By the way, Beau would go on to star in The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader Murdering Mom. In your face, Ronny Howard!!!) Soon, the scuffle escalates into a gang fight and Beau walks off with the spoils of war! Which, in this case, is ... um... pink goo.

Beau's gang heads back to the theatre (which is apparently open 24-hours in case anyone has an urgent need to act) and the gang pushes Beau into eating the goo. Remember when I said nothing makes a guy madder than playing keep-away? There is something worse: calling him a chicken! And then clucking in his face! Oh, man! Y'know the problems in the Middle East started this way! Of course, I can't back that up with ... y'know ... facts, but take it from me its true!

They divide the goo evenly and consume it and of course they all begin to grow. The effects used in this scene are hilarious because the teens are wearing shirts already torn which are then pulled down, making it (kind of) look like they're suddenly growing out of their clothes. The girls also outgrow their clothing forcing them to cup their bosoms with their hands. This, also, is a hilarious effect. In fact it's so funny, I watched it again and again (in slow motion).

The colossal kids use brightly-colored stage curtains to make brightly-colored outfits. They decide to go outdoors and enjoy themselves but the movie doesn't explain how 100-ft-tall people get in and out through those tiny theatre doors. Soon they're outside dancing again but this time in slow motion because everyone knows giants move in slow motion. However, giants talk at normal speed. Actually, moving while they talk is fine, they just can't walk around at normal speed (It's all very complicated).

There's another great scene where a giant girl lifts a guy who ends up clinging to her giant man-made cleavage. I'm not talking about Pamela Anderson-type man-made cleavage but actual giant cleavage built like scaffolding by carpenters (OK, just like Pam Anderson's). As the giant girl dances, there's a doll of the guy attached to her chest and they cut back to a real guy clinging to giant fake boobs. It's truly a bizarre piece of cinema.


Beau explains to the normal-size teens he wants to build a "kids vs adults." society. But the little teens are freaked out and will have no part of big Beau's plans. The sheriff arrives to break up the mob and somehow fails to notice six gigantic teenagers standing right beside him. When he finally notices, the sheriff isn't shocked, just slightly annoyed saying, "Why don't you go back to the theatre and wait for me there until we can figure this mess out." Although the giant teens threaten to stomp the law, Beau ultimately agrees to the sheriffs demands, leaving some in the group to wonder if Beau is a chicken! Sorry, this is all the drama you're getting from this movie.

Back at the theatre, the giant teens have kidnapped the sheriff's young daughter without permission from their leader Beau (Who would later reach worldwide stardom for his role in "Elvis & The Colonel: The Untold Story." Oh, yeah! Eat it, Ronny Howard!). Beau is upset about the kidnapping saying, "I don't like this, see, and I am the guy who has the word around here!" Beau knows baseball, but he's losing control of the giant teen brigade. He can feel it. You can cut the tension with a knife (Or maybe just a stick. A stick made of Nerf). The sheriff arrives with Mike who is apparently now his sidekick.

So how does the sheriff deal with six teenagers that have grown to gigantic proportions? He orders them to leave town and never come back! (So the next town has to deal with them? And what are their parents going to say about their children's banishment?) But the questions are moot since big Beau will have none of that! And with the sheriff's daughter a captive in their giant hands, the sheriff has no choice but to lay down his rifle. Beau takes this moment to read their list of demands which includes a 9 p.m. curfew for all adults.

He assigns his buddy the mission to knock out all communication including radios and tv stations (which, unfortunately, we don't get to see). They also give the sheriff the task of somehow rounding up all the guns in town and bringing them to the theatre. Another sudden segue takes us back to Ronny Howard's lab where he accidentally creates life! From one of his beakers, a giant pink worm emerges and climbs down a sink drain. "Back to the ol' drawing board," states the now god-like Ronny.

In the next scene, everyone in town is lined up outside the theatre placing their guns into a big box later that same day! That was some fast work on the sheriff's part! And I have to ask again: How are these giants getting in and out of the theatre without any signs of damage to the building??? Following Beau's orders, Mike and four others show up with several buckets of fried chicken and a dozen bottles of soda. Mike concludes that in order to beat these guys, they need a hostage of their own.

When Beau goes out for a slow-motion stroll, a bunch of teens in roadsters and motorcycles attempt to hogtie him. They manage to trip him to the ground and tie him up but Beau's gang captures Mike's girlfriend and they have no choice but to release Beau (who played Richard Nixon in the made-for-cable movie Kissinger & Nixon).
 
So, as it stands, the sheriff is helpless while his daughter is in peril, so it's up to Mike to come up with a plan. They decide to distract the giant boys with a beautiful red-headed go-go dancer while sucking down tiny Cokes and drumsticks. Mike shows up outside using a sling to project rocks through the theatre windows. (Theatres have windows?) When the giants hear the ruckus, they suddenly appear outside. (How are they doing this???)

Beau tries repeatedly to spear Mike with telephone polls but he constantly misses. Beau wisely sends someone to check on the hostages. So while Mike's friends are inside trying to overcome the giant guard, Mike is battling giant Beau with a sling like David and Goliath. In the theatre, the kid who played Marcus on the TV series The Rifleman, climbs down a rope wearing a gas mask and carrying an ether-drenched cotton ball the size of a bean bag chair. Once he's back on top of the mammoth mammaries, he holds the cotton under her nose until she passes out. The other teens rescue Nancy and the sheriff's daughter.

Back at the lab, Ronny Howard's still-giant dog sniffs a beaker filled with his latest concoction and poof! The dog is reduced to normal size! The cure is found! Just as Mike is on the ropes (and why wouldn't he be when his opponent is the size of a mountain!), Ronny Howard shows up on his bike trailing an orange cloud of the antidote behind him. He rides in circles around giant Beau and the gang until the orange fumes return him to normal size (Oddly enough, harpsichord music reduces their size). As soon as Beau returns to normal size, Mike decks him. The teens flee before they can be arrested. The sheriff makes no attempt to apprehend them because apparently, kidnapping, destruction of public property and attempted murder are misdemeanors.

So, the world is saved by Ronny Howard. But, just like Gary Coleman, Ronny would never be heard from again in the world of entertainment. Unless...Gary Coleman did make some movies ... No, I cannot Google Gary Coleman movies. I can't! I won't!!

Oh, alright ...

  • Shafted! (2000)
  • Like Father, Like Santa (1998)
  • Gary Coleman for Safety's Sake in the Neighborhood (1986)
  • Playing With Fire (1985)
  • The Fantastic World of D.C. Collins (1983)
  • Jimmy the Kid (1982)
  • The Kid With the 200 I.Q. (1982)
  • The Kid With the Broken Halo (1982)
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century - A Blast for Buck (1980)
  • The Kid From Left Field (1979)

    Are you people happy now??? God ... I've just searched for Gary Coleman movies ... someone hold me.

Comment on this movie or review

I wasn't expecting much when I rented it, but Village of the Giants is non-stop fun!

 

Tommy: What made those ducks so big?
Bobby: A food additive, obviously!
Tommy: Right. It couldn't be anything else.



(The sheriff's reaction when he sees six giant teenagers for the first time:)
Sheriff: What the heck is this all about?

Bobby: We've kidnapped the sheriff's daughter. Got ourselves some insurance.
Fred: What are you talking about? What have you done?!
Merrie: I'm hungry!

Fred: What are you all standing around for? Depart, man!

Merrie: That boyfriend of yours is going to get the daylights beaten out of him and how do you like that?