Food Of The Gods & Frogs and Empire Of The Ants & Jaws Of Satan hit Blu-ray on May 26 from Scream Factory.

Scream Factory is releasing a pair of creature double feature packs, Food Of The Gods & Frogs and Empire Of The Ants & Jaws Of Satan, collecting four cult “nature gone rogue” films from the period spanning 1972 to 1981. Three of the films were originally produced by AIP, and two were directed by giant creatures specialist Bert I. Gordon (though they’re disappointingly not packed together).

Here’s the rundown on the films:

Frogs (1972)

Of the four films, Frogs is probably the best known and enjoys something of a cult status. The lizards, snakes, alligators, and other creepy crawlies of the Florida Everglades collectively rise up against mankind in the ecological horror tale directed by George McCowan. The film stars a young Sam Elliott as a concerned wildlife photographer who gets caught up in the danger, as well as in the squabblings of a rich family and their cantankerous, wildlife-destroying patriarch (Ray Milland). We covered Frogs recently as a Two Cents pick, where you can read all about our team’s thoughts. The film has impressive cinematography and animal stunts, but given the ridiculous script, its entertainment value is derived mainly from its camp.

The Food Of The Gods (1976)

The Food Of The Gods was based on the H.G. Wells novel of the same name and directed by Bert I. Gordon, a prolific science fiction director who fashioned an entire film career around the horrors of scale: films with giant men and creatures (or a variation: miniature people).

In Food Of The Gods, a sparsely-populated island becomes a place of horror when the local wildlife feed on a mysterious substance secreting from the ground. The substance causes creatures who eat it to drastically increase in size. A farmer and his wife discover the amazing goop’s power and hope to secure their financial future by selling it to a greedy investor, but things soon get out of hand as an army of giant rats and insects takes over the island.

Gordon’s many tricks of scale include rear projection, compositing, and good old-fashioned giant puppets. It all works with varying degrees of success; a great deal of the film comes off as hokey and silly but some of the effects work is surprisingly realistic, and moreover shockingly liberal with gore. In the film’s climactic shootout, the gore effects are so convincing that I was taken out of the movie for fear of the safety of the animals involved.

Dull and kitschy, Food Of The Gods was my least favorite of these four films.

Empire Of The Ants (1977)

Released a year later, Empire Of The Ants was Gordon’s follow-up to The Food Of The Gods; another H.G. Wells adaptation involving giant animals. Joan Collins plays a shady real estate developer who takes a group of potential investors out to the remote site of what’s supposedly a future resort (but seems more likely to be a scam). The tour screeches to a halt when the group is attacked by giant ants, mutated by a lost barrel of toxic waste.

At first I was unimpressed by what seemed to be yet another movie about dodging giant monsters, but the story actually takes off in a bold new direction once the survivors are “rescued”. The story understands and utilizes the giant ants as more than just colossal scary monsters, recognizing them as immensely strong and intelligent, but given to a hive dynamic, and smartly uses these elements in the narrative. The film ends with a strong third act which is as much Invasion Of The Body Snatchers as it is The Food Of The Gods.

Jaws Of Satan [aka King Cobra] (1981)

Easily my favorite of the four films and coincidentally the only one not produced by AIP, Jaws Of Satan is about a burnout priest, Father Tom Farrow (Fritz Weaver), who finds himself locked in warfare (both spiritual AND physical) with the devil. Satan’s influence unleashes upon a small town in the form of a plague of serpents under his control, including a giant king cobra possessed by the devil himself. Father Tom, along with a doctor and herpetologist who have become alarmed by the growing body count and bizarre nature of the victims’ deaths, try to warn the populace of the danger, only to discover the crooked municipal government is vigorously covering up the epidemic due to its likelihood to dampen the opening of a lucrative new dog track.

Unlike the other three films which have a more adventurous “rogue animals” tone and brightly lit daytime palette, Jaws of Satan is a more traditional horror film with a supernatural element and a sharper sense of style in the mood and lighting. Its three leads are strong characters that the audience can get behind. I wish the Satanic angle wasn’t quite so underdeveloped, and that the final “big” snake was, well, bigger, but I liked it overall. The film enjoys low scores on sites like Letterboxd and IMDB, and Ed Travis (whose taste usually lies pretty close to mine) apparently hated it, so I’m probably in the minority here, but I really enjoyed this one. Keep an eye out for a very young Christina Applegate.

All four of these films are cult classics which certainly have their fans, but at the same time they probably have fairly limited appeal to the uninitiated. Generally speaking, I think most new viewers would probably find these films pretty dated and mediocre.

In analyzing the picks, I wish they were more appropriately paired. Were the rights available, The Food Of The Gods could be packaged with its sequel. But even just considering the four films in these sets, the two Bert I. Gordon films, both based on H.G. Wells novels, should obviously have been packaged together, and Frogs and Jaws Of Satan could just as well combine for a duo of southern-flavored reptile movies (despite the misnomer of a title, Frogs is teeming with snakes, lizards, gators, toads, and turtles). As is, the pairings just feel random — which is in fact the reason I felt compelled to review both discs together to paint the full picture.

The Packages

The Two Double Features each come with a pretty respectable set of extras, more in fact than what’s actually listed on the packaging. Here’s how it breaks down by film:

Special Features and Extras — FROGS

Interview with Actress Joan Van Ark (10:08)
“Buried In Frogs” — Joan reminisces about the making of the film and says very nice things about her costars. Sounds like this was a fun set despite the setting and creepy-crawlies.
Theatrical Trailer (2:12)
Radio Spot (1:01)
Photo Gallery (2:49)

Special Features and Extras — FOOD OF THE GODS
Commentary With Director Bert I. Gordon
Interview with Actress Belinda Balaski (11:36)
“Rita And The Rats” — If you’re a fan of Joe Dante you probably love her as much as I do. Her role in this particular film isn’t a very good one, but it’s nice to hear her talk about the experience.
Theatrical Trailer (1:00)
Radio Spot (:59)
Photo Gallery (4:21)
Additional Trailers
Trailers for the other double feature disc: Empire Of The Ants (2:19) and Jaws Of Satan (1:51)

Special Features and Extras — EMPIRE OF THE ANTS
Commentary With Director Bert I. Gordon
Theatrical Trailer (2:19)
Radio Spot (1:00)
Photo Gallery (3:12)
Additional Trailers
Trailers for the other double feature disc: Food Of The Gods (1:00) and Frogs (2:12)

Special Features and Extras — JAWS OF SATAN
Theatrical Trailer (1:51)
This trailer is laughably misleading, misrepresenting the relatively big cobra as being absolutely colossal. Without exaggeration, something like 10,000% larger.

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:
Food Of The Gods/Frogs — [Blu-ray]
Empire Of The Ants/Jaws Of Satan — [Blu-ray]

Previous post Pick Of The Week: The Magic of BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA
Next post SAN ANDREAS — Stuck Between The Rock and an Earthquake