Mind Blowing Movies: Village of the Giants (1965), by Peter Bebergal

Mm200This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark

Village of the Giants (1965), by Peter Bebergal

[Video Link] My parents were pretty good about indulging my obsession with monster movies. My father would pick me up Famous Monsters Of Filmland when he saw it at the drugstore. Across the street from his clothing shop in Waltham was Mr. Big's, a toy store that stocked all the Aurora models. Being a business neighbor my father got to know "Mr. Big" pretty well, and a few times he sold us the window display version of one of the models, a perfectly painted and glued version given to him by the distributor. Monsters movies were my life. Every Sunday morning I woke early, got the newspaper from the front stoop, opened it up to the middle and dug through the flyers and other loose inserts to where the television guide was nestled. Then I flipped to end to see what the following Saturday's Creature Feature would run. The mid to late 70s was a golden age when the rights to old monster movies must have been dirt-cheap. In the span of a year or so I saw every great Universal, Toho, and Hammer film. But every so often there was a movie that didn't appear in the index of my movie books, whose stills never showed up in the pages of Famous Monsters.

One of these was Village of the Giants, released in 1965 from the weird imagination of director/producer Bert I. Gordon, and starring a very young Beau Bridges. Gordon had an obsession with normal sized things becoming unnaturally large: The Amazing Colossal Man, War of the Colossal Beast, Earth vs. the Spider, and the weird and creepy Food of the Gods. (To be fair, he did have one movie about normal sized things becoming unnaturally small, Attack of the Puppet People.)

I had become used to monster movies pretty quickly. I was rarely spooked, and often rooted for the shambling undead creation or the giant radioactive lizard. The only storylines that got under my skin were those that involved pre-adolescents or teenagers where the kids were the threat, controlled in some way, or kidnapped. The Star Trek episode "Miri" has the crew beam down to an alternate Earth where the children rule and where a terrible disease strikes the moment you hit puberty would fill me with pre-sexual dread. Even in Gamera vs. Viras, where two boys are kidnapped and their heads are shaved by nefarious female aliens, made me feel anxious, no matter that the cosmic spinning turtle was on his way to save them.

In Village of the Giants, a gaggle of rebellious teenagers eat a strange substance that causes them to grow to a great height. I watched in terrible wonder as their clothes tear, the buttons of sweaters pop, and their arms cover their exposed "parts." They set about tormenting the town, and a group of unaffected teens fight back. There's even a scene where hot rods are used to pull one of the giants down like in a rodeo.

I never picked up that vampires were about sex, but I got right away that when the teenagers tormented the smaller residents of the town, they were lustfully sadistic. And the scene that blew my mind is the giant dance party shot in slow motion to psychedelic surf music. I was completely hypnotized. Everything that moved, even when not shown next to a normal sized person, just seemed bigger. The camera shoots them close up, taking time to focus in on bare bellies, swaying hips, and a tiny resident clings helplessly to the bikini top of one of the giant girls. I felt pity and envy, my poor pre-pubescent mind exploding. The teenagers have a look of ecstasy about them, as if the slime they ate also did something to their minds as well as their bodies.

I was about to become one of those teens bursting out of their childhood but I would never feel quite as empowered as the giants. I was afraid of them, and was pleased when the one kid with glasses is the only smart enough to come up the formula for the antidote to their largeness. But part of me, the part that always rooted for the monster, wanted them to crush that silly little town and walk on towards their next conquest, never afraid.

Peter Bebergal is the author of Too Much to Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood (Soft Skull Press). He blogs at mysterytheater.blogspot.com and tweets @peterbebergal.



  1. I stumbled across this on some deep cable channel a few months ago and was riveted.  Young Ron Howard as the annoying little brother.  And O Mickey!  Toni Basil as one of the teen girls!  (Admittedly, I ran to IMDB while watching it because I kept going, “that girl looks SOOOO familiar!” but could never place her).

    It was a swinging good time, and just beats you over the head with a “power corrupts” cautionary tale.  It is certainly time better spent than watching/reading “Twilight”

  2.  This is the same music Quenten Tarantino used for the opening credits of Death Proof which seems fitting to me. I always watch it as the kind of movie you see on a Saturday afternoon where the film just becomes your reality and time stretches forever. It makes me feel like a kid again.

    I’m glad to see what might have influenced him to use it.

  3. Village of the Giants followed by Mr. B.I.G’s Attack of the Puppet People makes for an awesome double feature… Both are wonderfully nuts.

  4. That movie also featured a VERY young Ron Howard as the boy genius whose discovery made the giants possible.  You have to wonder if he and Beau Bridges ever talk about this one any time they get together…

  5. “It’s not Lysistrata. I like it, but it’s not Lysistrata.”
    -Tom Servo, Mannos Hands Of Fate

  6. The sexy blonde giant is Joy Harmon, best known as Lucille the buxom car washing girl from “Cool Hand Luke.”

  7. I loved loved LOVED this movie when I was a kid. The local indie TV station would run the same movie 5 nights in a row and I could not get enough of it!

  8. I think I’ve seen this a dozen times.  It was a staple on late night television in the 70s.  Beau Bridges is hot.

  9. Kids these days, with their rock-n-roll music and their gigantism!  Get off my lawn!

  10. One of the best MST3K riffs ever… local hanging from the bodice of one of the young rebel girls (now 50ish feet tall) and crow says “Careful what you wish for!!”

  11. another mst riff — utility pole with cross bar leans at an angle after their car plows into it: “So, Jesus was run down by a Tbird …?”

  12. That fantastic music is by Jack Nitzsche, who, among other pieces, also did the arrangement of the chorus in “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. He’s someone who shaped the musical world we live in, but never made it to mass awareness. Look him up.

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