The Amazing Colossal Man

This is, or was another treat for fans of the absurd Horror films of the Fifties – it is possible to reel a few of them off Tarantula, Attack of the 50 ft Woman, and even The Giant Claw featured on here before.

This time, audiences were treated to the science-fiction thriller, The Amazing Colossal Man. The film revolves around a character named Colonel Manning, who strays too close to the test of an atomic device in the Nevada desert and is bombarded with “plutonium rays.”

This was but one of many such films released in the 1950s

Ants exposed to radiation grow to enormous size and threaten humanity in ‘Them’ ; The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), tells the tale of a dinosaur, thawed out by an atomic test in the Arctic, that ravages New York City.

In one of the best of this class of film, a man survives being caught in a nuclear test, only to find himself shrinking away to nothing in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). This was in a different category to the other films mentioned – this was well made and extremely well done with very good special effects.

The Amazing Colossal Man’ was produced and directed By Bert I. Gordon who made a career out of making his own films without the financial clout of the major studios. He was ingenious in the way he went about it too.

Bert Gordon had established a style and mastered a technique, which perfectly suited the production budgets he had – which were at best, meagre.

The following year saw another three films, including a sequel to The Amazing Colossal Man (War of the Colossal Beast ), and another giant monster picture (Attack of the Puppet People) and Earth vs. The Spider, perhaps among the best of the giant tarantula films.

ABOVE – Susan Gordon – Bert’s Daughter in a publicity still for ‘Attack of the Puppet People’

Rarely had Gordon used the rear-projection technique so well or with such frightening results as he did in Spider. What’s more, it remains the only film ever made in which a dead giant tarantula is brought back to life by the music of a high school rock ‘n roll band.

Likely as a reaction to changing audience tastes, in the 1960s and early ‘70s, Gordon made a sharp break from giant monster pictures, trying his hand instead at human-scale adventure films, fantasies, thrillers and sex comedies. For the most part the films weren’t as popular or memorable.

However back to his normal style was 1965’s Village of the Giants (with Beau Bridges and a young Ron Howard, – a group of teenagers try to deal with growing up, adults and unexpected gigantism. Sounds a strange mix

In the mid-70s, perhaps recognising what audiences really wanted from him Bert Gordon returned to the genre that created him with a double bill of giant (or at least big) monsters pitted against all-star casts.

Very, very loosely based on an H. G. Wells story (and returning to a premise Gordon visited in a couple of his earlier films), Food of the Gods was both a technical and commercial success and marked the pinnacle of Gordon’s career.

The film was was an instant classic in schoolyards across the US. Watching it now it still contains a number of surprises, as well as Marjoe Gortner’s finest performance, as a football player who saves the day.

Not a good end for Ida Lupino in this one though – it was one of her very last films and in it she ended up by being eaten by giant mealworms

Also when I look at the picture above, I hadn’t realised that English actress Pamela Franklin was in this – she was a pretty girl. She appears to have one of the two leading roles

Riding on the success of Food of the Gods, Bert Gordon returned to H.G. Wells the following year with Empire of the Ants, in which a colony of giant, super intelligent ants, in search of slave labour, absolutely destroy corrupt real estate developer Joan Collins’ plans to turn a small island into a resort.

BELOW – Joan Collins gives one of the ants a kiss

Bert Gordon’s effects had never been better and the film was another big hit during a summer that found it pitted against the likes of The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Car, Viva Knievel and Star Wars and that’s saying something.

Empire of the Ants marked the end for Bert Gordon and giant monsters but he left a legacy of B Movie classics.

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