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G Entries
Frederic Gadette
Beverly Garland
Fred Gebhardt
William Gibson
Jeff Goldblum
Jerry Goldsmith
Bernard Gordon
Bert I. Gordon
Peter Graves
Lorne Greene
Sir Alec Guinness
 
GORDON, BERT I.
(1922– ). American director and producer.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Produced and directed: King Dinosaur (co-produced) (1955); The Beginning of the End (and special effects with Flora Gordon) (1957); The Cyclops (and wrote and special effects) (1957); The Amazing Colossal Man (and wrote with Mark Hanna and special effects) (1957); War of the Colossal Beast (and special effects with F. Gordon) (1958); Attack of the Puppet People (and wrote and special effects) (1958); The Spider [Earth versus the Spider] (and story and special effects with F. Gordon) (1958); The Boy and the Pirates (1960); Tormented (produced with Joe Steinberg) (1960); The Magic Sword (and story; Bernard Schoenfeld script) (1962); Village of the Giants (and special effects with F. Gordon) (1965); Picture Mommy Dead (1966); Necromancy (and wrote) (1971); The Food of the Gods (and wrote and special effects with Tom Fisher, John Thomas, and Keith Wardlow) (1976); Empire of the Ants (and story and special effects with Roy Downey) (1977); Burned at the Stake (and wrote) (1981); Satan's Princess (1990).

Produced: Serpent Island (and wrote) (Tom Gries 1954).

 
Accounts of Bert I. Gordon's career usually follow a standard line of invective: he was the infamous "Mr. B.I.G.," a penny-pinching schlockmeister who employed cheap rear projection to churn out inept science fiction and fantasy films, mostly iterative variations on the overused theme of fantastically enlarged beasts and men. These characterizations are not entirely baseless, and there are certainly a number of films in Gordon's filmography that richly deserve nothing but scorn.

Yet Gordon also warrants more sympathetic consideration. The topic of small creatures becoming huge, trite and uninteresting to adults, is more meaningful and evocative for children, a significant portion of his audience, who are tiny people living in a world of large, looming adults. And, regarding his rear-projection techniques, critics forget that the obvious phoniness seen by their adult eyes is undetectable to younger viewers, who might find, for example, his giant grasshoppers in The Beginning of the End to be genuinely frightening (as I know, from personal experience). His use of rear projection can also be justified for reasons other than economy, as it allowed Gordon to display gigantic menaces that were far more numerous, fast-moving, and impressive to undiscriminating observers than anything Ray HARRYHAUSEN could have achieved using the available technology of the times. For filmgoers of a certain age, then, Gordon's films were something to look forward to, and they were rarely disappointing.

Further, while his early films were usually threadbare—classic mom-and-pop operations, with Gordon and wife Flora Gordon chipping in for most of the offscreen labors—they were not slapdash; within the confines of his circumstances, Gordon usually tried to do good work, and if blessed with capable performers and a decent story, he might succeed. Only when Gordon attempted to cater to teenagers—an age group he manifestly did not understand—was an abysmal failure guaranteed.

That is why, out of all the films of his first prolific decade, only The Spider and Village of the Giants should be avoided at all costs; both mingle dubious science fiction with the inane antics of talentless teenage actors, and are as a result the sorts of films that only someone chained to a chair could reasonably be expected to watch in their entirety. Vastly superior is one of my three favorite Gordon films, The Beginning of the End, where a young Peter GRAVES confronts the challenge of protecting Chicago from an invasion of giant grasshoppers with startling conviction. Equally meritorious is The Amazing Colossal Man: even though visibly a hurried effort to exploit the success of Jack ARNOLD's The Incredible Shrinking Man, the film nonetheless managed to convey the genuine anguish of a man being separated from his wife and society by a growing deformity, and if Glenn Langan did not quite possess the acting ability for the task, well, neither did Shrinking Man's Grant Williams. Other commentators might offer kind words for Attack of the Puppet People, with John Hoyt hamming it up as a man deriving perverse pleasure from shrinking people and toying with them, or Tormented, an innovative collaboration with screenwriter George Worthing YATES involving a man haunted by the body parts of his dead wife. The other Gordon films from this era—King Dinosaur, The Cyclops, War of the Colossal Beast, The Boy and the Pirates, and The Magic Sword—will at least keep you entertained, even if they do not inspire tremendous admiration.

The decline of the B-movie in the 1960s left Gordon floundering for a while, and his only contributions were the undistinguished horror film Picture Mommy Dead and the black-magic epic Necromancy, starring an Orson Welles increasingly desperate for sources of income to finance his films. But Gordon did manage to garner the resources for two major films in the 1970s based on the works of H. G. WELLS. The Food of the Gods is generally risible, inadequately anchored by hapless leading man Marjoe Gortner and sabotaged by a senseless story line, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Empire of the Ants, the third film I would submit in any defense of Gordon's talents. Its giant ants represented the pinnacle of Gordon's limited success with special effects, and its moderately involving plot features the two most distinguished performances in Gordon's oeuvre: Joan COLLINS, road-testing the rich-bitch persona that would later serve her well in Dynasty, and a refreshingly surly Robert LANSING.

The money men in Hollywood were evidently unimpressed with Gordon's talents, and his only subsequent contributions to the genre were two rarely-seen horror films, Burned at the Stake and Satan's Princess. Now presumably retired, perhaps he spends his days surfing the Internet to find out how he is being remembered. While he cannot honestly be characterized as a giant of science fiction film, critics at least might stop describing him as a midget.

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