53 Years Ago…
Village of the Giants opened in 1965 starring Tommy Kirk, Johnny Crawford, Beau Bridges, Ronny Howard, Tim Rooney, Bob Random and 60s starlets Tisha Sterling and Joy Harmon (Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Hollywood), Gail Gilmore aka Gail Gerber (Trippin), Vicki London (Glamour Girls of Sixties Hollywood) plus Charla Doherty and Toni Basil
Village of the Giants was loosely based on H.G. Wells’ story Food of the Gods and was produced and directed by Bert I. Gordon. Here science fiction meets teen exploitation head on with an excellent array of scantily-clad starlets, exciting musical performers, and a classic background score by composer Jack Nitzshe. As for the story, boy genius Ronny Howard develops a magic goop, which is eaten by a cat and two ducks that grow giant-size. When a group of troublemaking teenagers (including Beau Bridges, busty Joy Harmon, beautiful Tisha Sterling, Tim Rooney, perky Gail Gilmore, sultry Vicki London, and Bob Random), who look as tough as Archie, Betty and Jughead, hear of this at the local discotheque, they steal the goop and sprout to mammoth proportions. They pop out of their now too small clothes and begin terrorizing the small town in the process while draped in togas made from old theatre curtains. The local teens (led by Tommy Kirk, Johnny Crawford. Charla Doherty, red-haired Toni Basil years before Mickey was oh so fine) join forces with the police to thwart the marauding giant teens who have an axe to grind with the adult establishment. When the good teens fail in stopping the overgrown delinquents, Howard develops a smoke gas that counteracts the growth formula. The “giant” teens shrink to normal size and are then chastised and run out of town.
The opening scene of Village of the Giants features the group of delinquents piling out of their wrecked auto after crashing on a mountain road during a rainstorm. They then begin dancing in the mud to the film’s rockin’ music score, which is heard throughout the movie. “This scene was awful,” exclaimed Joy Harmon. “I had mud in my eyes and face—I was covered in mud all over my body! That scene was so true and authentic. They really made us got down in the mud. We just went for it and did the scene. The mud wasn’t thick but slimy—very slippery. We couldn’t stand up and were falling all the time. It was cold and I only had a little crop top on. The guys had a ball with it but the girls were freezing and dirty. I felt so ugly—there was nothing glamorous about it!”
Vicki London recalled that muddy scene as well and remarked, “[It] didn’t bother me as much as it did the other girls. It was messy and hard to move around. I found it to be kind of stupid but the movie was stupid—yet it is so popular.” Tisha Sterling too felt the same way and remarked, “I felt exploited throughout the whole movie. It was all tits and ass. But that’s part of Bert Gordon’s thing when making a movie. I thought Bert was very good at making these kinds of films.”
Producer Bert I.Gordon was known for his previous gimmick films involving giants or huge animals including King Dinosaur (1955), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), and The Spider (1958). He not only produced and directed Village of the Giants but was responsible for the special effects as well. Though the effects are cheesy and amateurish, they do have an endearing quality about them—none more so when giant-size ducks are seen doing the Jerk and the Watusi at the Whiskey a-Go-Go.
Another interesting effects scene is when the giant teenagers are sitting on the stage of the town’s movie theater and Tommy Kirk brings them food, which is supposed to be chicken. Gordon filmed the teens separately from Kirk and used rear projection to edit the scene together. According to Joy Harmon, “The prop guys gave us some really small bird that they fried to make it look like a tiny chicken. It came from a famous chicken place and it was horrible. I hated eating whatever it was and had to keep eating it over and over. They even duplicated the chicken box and the coke bottles as small props. I thought Bert did a good job and was a super nice man. I could talk to him very easily. He wasn’t a typical director who told you to stand here or there but more of a creative person. And I think the cast responded to that.”
Though Joy respected Gordon, she did have a bit of a problem with Bert regarding one of her scenes and that was because of her amble bosom keeping with the giant theme. Harmon opined, “The only thing that irritated me while doing this film was the scene when my sweater pops open as I grow to a giant—you didn’t see anything—but I hated that scene. I objected to wearing that sweater and asked Bert Gordon if I could wear something else to pop out of. Nobody else had that problem. They wore clothes that got smaller but mine had to open. I also felt very uncomfortable because I couldn’t wear a bra and I don’t like going without one.”
Vicki London felt the same way as well and let her discomfort be known to her detriment. She recalled, “During the wardrobe fittings, they wanted us [Joy Harmon, Tisha Sterling, Gail Gerber] to remove our blouses because they wanted the girl with the biggest breasts to play the part Joy Harmon wound up with. I refused and Tisha did too. They still gave Tisha a very nice part. It was down hill after this for me though. Now that I am older and think back on it, I understand that Bert just wanted to see who would fit that part since her chest was used in the ad posters with Johnny Crawford hanging off her bra straps. But at the time it just didn’t feel right to me. They made an issue out of me not willing to show my breasts, so they threatened that if I didn’t do it they were going to cut me out of everything and they did.”
Gail Gerber (aka Gilmore) remembered this incident and said, “They wanted us to show us popping out of our clothes and asked if we minded being nude for it though we would cover our breasts with our arms. I never had any qualms with nudity so I readily said yes. Joy did too, but Vicki refused. She was a sweet girl and this was 1964 so her reluctance was understandable to me but unfortunately for her not the producer. I guess to punish Vicki they didn’t use her at all in those scenes and at one point shot her in silhouette from behind a screen.”
The cast seemed to gel on-and-off-screen and nobody had a bad word about anyone with Beau Bridges being all the gals favorite. “Everybody was just so nice to work with—we were just a bunch of kids having a really good time,” Joy Harmon says. “Tisha is so beautiful in this film. I remember that she has such a gorgeous face. And Beau Bridges is a nice very guy and liked to joke around. He got married just before filming began.”
Tisha Sterling said, “I really did have a good time making this film. Beau Bridges is great! He is a friend and I like him a lot. He is a very bright, funny, and talented man. I became friendly with his first wife Julie and I think they were adopting children at the time. Joy Harmon is a very sweet girl. We really didn’t do too much together after the film was over but we always kept in touch via other people. I would really love to find out what happened to Bob Random. His wife Ida became a costume or set designer. They were both fascinating people.”
Vicki London concurs about Beau Bridges, “Beau Bridges was wonderful. I also met his brother Jeff and his father Lloyd and they were all so down-to-Earth. That is a really nice family and really great people. Beau I think was the nicest of them all. Tisha Sterling was fabulous. She should have become a major star because she was absolutely gorgeous. Joy Harmon had a bubbly personality and was very sweet, but she didn’t have that movie star look. Gail Gerber was nice also.”
Gail Gerber remembered, “Terry Southern came to the set of Village of the Giants one day and hit it off with big-eyed blonde Joy Harmon. He had met her previously on The Loved One where she had a tiny role as an aspiring starlet. Joy was a sweet girl but she was so formidable and so big in so many ways I was a bit put off by her. But Terry was just drawn to larger-than-life people and thought she was wonderful. Joy was so full of energy. Tisha Sterling was the prettiest thing I ever saw. Beau Bridges was just a kid then but so charming. If I ever meet him again, I would hate to say—because he has done some wonderful, fine work—that not only did we work together on Village of the Giants but I was the blonde who licked his face during the dance scene in the mud. He’d probably take out a gun and shoot me!”
For everything you ever wanted to know about Village of the Giants, but were afraid to ask, visit Michael Howe’s fantastic tribute web site accessible from the link below: