In Memorium: Bert I. Gordon (1922-2023)
Mr. B.I.G. passed away today, March 8, 2023, in Los Angeles at 100. His daughter Patricia Gordon has confirmed.
What can we possibly say about the film legacy Bert Gordon has left us? There isn’t a single person reading this post that hasn’t watched at least one of Gordon’s iconic films, either in a movie theater or on television, and among those of us that adore his films (and the man himself) his body of work can be described as nothing short of fantastic.
Looking back on the fabulous 1950s and the massive output of sci-fi and horror pictures, it is hard to put together a top five or ten list without including at least two or three of Gordon’s classic movies.
His directorial efforts during that decade could be a primer for someone unfamiliar with monster movies because Bert I. Gordon MADE the best monster movies.
From the unforgettable giant grasshopper attack on Chicago in Beginning of the End (1957) to his dual Glenn Manning tales of terror, The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) and War of the Colossal Beast (1958), Bert Gordon struck fear in the hearts of kids everywhere when he showed us that normal sized beings, be they insect or human, could grow to outstanding heights and wreak havoc on our planet.
This was a theme with Gordon during the mid to late 50s, which he revisited frequently. The Cyclops (1957) and The Spider (1958) offer more of the same, but Mr. B.I.G. also showed us the other side of the coin when he told the tale of diabolical doctor Mr. Franz and his machine that can shrink people down to doll size in Attack of the Puppet People (1958). The atomic age was exploited no better than by Bert’s movies backed by American International Pictures money.
In the 1960s, Gordon branched out with pure fantasy films like The Boy and the Pirates & The Magic Sword, released in 1960, and revisited giant behemoths in Village of the Giants (1965). If you think watching Beau Bridges gyrate to the music of The Beau Brummels isn’t scary, watch it again. There is nothing more shocking! Gordon also gave us some underrated gems like Tormented (1960) and Picture Mommy Dead (1966), proving he had other fantastically weird ideas.
Bert Gordon’s 70s filmography provided the movie-goer with a cornucopia of genre staples like The Food of the Gods (1976) and Empire of the Ants (1977), both featuring little things growing big and devouring humans. There was never a director who reaped more out of H.G. Wells's book The Food of the Gods and How it Came to Earth (1904), but there is no complaining here. Bert Gordon mastered the very genre he created.
Mr. B.I.G. continued to entertain us with his takes on the detective genre, The Mad Bomber (1973), and the red-hot topic of the occult in 1972’s Necromancy, and who among us could forget Bert’s foray into the sex comedy genre with How to Succeed with Sex (1970).
Sex and witches would dominate Gordon’s 80s offerings in the form of Burned at the Stake and Let’s Do It, both 1982 and The Big Bet (1987) and Satan’s Princess (1989). But his legacy would be built on his work from the late 50s to the mid-1970s. These are the films guys and gals like us watched on our local TV stations. Sometimes hosted by our local horror hosts, but often broadcast in the afternoons on every UHF channel nationwide back when there was such a thing.
The passing of Bert I. Gordon reminds us, once again, that our heroes from another cinematic era are only human. They, like us, have an ending. It is what they leave us that genuinely turns them into legends, and Bert I. Gordon, Mr. B.I.G., is undoubtedly a legend.
“Now suddenly I know for the first time that men bear a dream within them, a dream that lifts them above their dust... and their little days.”
-Fredric March as Prince Sirki in Death Takes a Holiday (1934)
Bert Gordon's 2010 autobiography, The Amazing Colossal Worlds Of Mr. B.I.G.: An Autobiographical Journey, is still available via Amazon. Click the title above to order.