Hommage to Bert I. Gordon

Born September 24 1922 in Kenosha (Wisconsin), Bert Ira Gordon is fascinated at a young age by science fiction and special effects. A graduate of Wisconsin University, he begins by directing adverts for TV before co-directing Serpent Island in 1954 with Tom Grier. Then alone on King Dinosaur (1955), he sets the tone with this first incursion into gigantism, with an iguana playing the title’s dinosaur. He faithfully pursued in this vein, devoting half his filmography to this passion, starting with The Amazing Colossal Man (1955), his first collaboration with American International Pictures, that was so successful he directed a sequel. Giant creatures? Individuals reduced to the size of a doll? With his abnormally enlarged beings terrifying the heroes, or miniature humans confronted to the immensity of their environment, Gordon reinvents mirages using retro-projections, models and puppets.  He doesn’t mind imposing suspension of disbelief on viewers: as long as he believes it, so should they. In reference to his initials and his obsessions, he was nicknamed Mr B.I.G.by Forrest James Ackerman. Gordon, like Jack Arnold (Tarentula, The Incredible Shrinking Man), is a pioneer of giant animal/monster movies from the mid 50s, a prolific period that Joe Dante so aptly paid tribute to in Matinee.

Gordon sometimes was unfaithful to his favorite theme, with trivial erotic comedies, some better incursions into witchcraft (Necromancy, The Coming) or with a remarkable noir film (The Mad Bomber).. And let’s not forget his superb Picture Mommy Dead (1966), a fascinating gothic reverie) filled with implicit perversity. Even after the era faded, he remained irresistibly attracted to his old passions and twice readapted (freely) his idol H.G.Wells, after Village of the Giants, with The Food of the Gods (1976) and Empire of the Ants (1977). Filming Gigantism with miniature budgets, he is a complete craftsman, writing, producing and directing his films and especially taking care of the special effects himself. His artistic longevity is even more spectacular than Roger Corman’s (who stopped directing in 1990), as in 2015 at the age of 93, he delivered the classic but convincing Secrets of a psychopath. It isn’t ironic that he was born in the same city as Orson Welles. Remember the magnificent fictive encounter between Welles and Ed Wood in Tim Burton’s movie, as a metaphor of the reconciliation of two totally opposed cinemas. The same infinite love of filming pervades from Bert I. Gordon’s films : with admirable aplomb, he followed his candid approach to the end, as if the elation of a child receiving his first camera at age 9 had remained with him until his death in March 2023. He was 100 years old.