HOME |  JOIN |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Last Warrior, The
Artemis 81
Rampage
Quiet Place, A
Braven
Changeover, The
Isle of Dogs
Funny Cow
Maze Runner: The Death Cure
Mad to Be Normal
Beast of Burden
Dead Men Walk
Game Night
Under the Tree
L'Amant Double
Gonin
Coco
Producers, The
Molly's Game
Forest of the Lost Souls, The
Hatchet III
Birdman of Alcatraz
Pacific Rim: Uprising
Wonderstruck
If It Ain't Stiff, It Ain't Worth a Fuck
Nun, The
Red Sparrow
My Friend Dahmer
Journeyman
Heat, The
   
 
Newest Articles
The Ultimate Trip: The Original Psychedelic Movies
Players of Games: Willy Wonka, Tron and Ready Player One
What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round? The Ends of The Monkees
Flings and Arrows: Conquest vs Flesh + Blood
Orson Around: F for Fake and The Late Great Planet Earth
ITC What You Did There: Retro-Action on Blu-ray
And It Was the Dirtiest Harry We Have Seen in a Very Long Time: The Dirty Harry Series
Manor On Movies: The Astounding She Monster
Manor On Movies: Don't be a dolt. That's not a cult (movie)
Wes Anderson's Big Daddies: Steve Zissou and Others
Bad Taste from Outer Space: Galaxy of Terror and Xtro
A Yen for the 1990s: Iron Monkey and Satan Returns
Hey, Punk: Jubilee and Rock 'n' Roll High School
Help! with The Knack: Richard Lester in 1965
Roll Up, Get Yer Free Cinema: The Shorts on the BFI Woodfall Blu-rays
   
 
  Them! Ant attackBuy this film here.
Year: 1954
Director: Gordon Douglas
Stars: Edmund Gwenn, James Whitmore, James Arness, Joan Weldon, Sandy Descher, Onslow Stevens, Sean McClory, Fess Parker, Chris Drake, Leonard Nimoy
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Arguably the greatest giant bug movie of all time, Them! opens with a traumatized little girl (Sandy Descher) found wandering the desert. Investigating the ghost town from whence she came, compassionate cop Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) loses his partner (Chris Drake) to a mystery monster. Stoic F.B.I. guy Robert Graham (James Arness) latches onto the case because the kid’s slain father was a fellow agent, while a plaster cast of a peculiar imprint draws father-and-daughter science boffins, Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn, a.k.a. Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and Dr. Pat Medford (Joan Weldon), from the Department of Agriculture.

Gutsy Pat is first to stumble onto the desert-dwelling giant ants, mutated by atomic bomb tests. The army scrambles quickly to flush out the nest, but a group of flying ants escape to found a fresh colony somewhere beneath Los Angeles - waiting to take over the entire city.

Although The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) kicked off the Fifties’ cycle of atomic monster movies, Them! stands as the genre’s first true classic. Warner Bros. originally intended to film in 3-D (hence the absence of optical effects in favour of surprisingly scary large-size puppets) and Technicolor, but studio head Jack Warner loathed the script and quashed that idea. The film subsequently became the studio’s biggest hit of 1954, proving Warner didn’t know jack.

Gordon Douglas was a capable, if workmanlike filmmaker as evidenced by his run of Frank Sinatra vehicles during the 1960s, although he could surprise with an occasional oddity like The Detective (1968) or Skullduggery (1970) and is at his most inspired with this brisk, exciting chiller. The build-up is eerily sustained as Whitmore’s dogged cop prowls the empty shacks amidst howling winds and scary noises twittering across the desert. The fog-filled tunnels where monsters lunge out of the shadows or are blasted with bazookas remain thrilling to this day and surely influenced James Cameron on Aliens (1986).

Aside from a sly and subtle reoccurring gag about the ants raiding sugar stores, the film admirably avoids camp. Instead, doddery Dr. Medford adds warm humour and humanity, while everyone else is a model of Fifties efficiency. The script walks a tightrope between ominous warnings about what further mutations could arise and celebrating square-jawed American heroism. Everybody agrees keeping quiet about the mutant menace is the best way to avoid widespread panic, as frazzled pilot Alan Crotty (Fess Parker - future star of Disney’s Davy Crockett) is temporarily confined to an insane asylum after sighting the ants. A few decades later such government action would be seen as deeply suspect.

While the script never explicitly questions the necessity of atomic testing, Them! remains a progressive film in other areas. Though Ben and Robert clock Pat’s legs as she steps out of an aeroplane, this ranks among the least sexist Fifties’ sci-fi and gives her a chance to display heroism. Just one year away from his five decade stint in TV’s Gunsmoke, James Arness is a towering, all-action hero while Whitmore musters grace notes of compassion, before the justly celebrated climax in the storm drains beneath Los Angeles, where flaming ants look spectacular and one hero makes a valiant sacrifice. Lookout for a young Leonard Nimoy as one of the soldiers.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 2798 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which film has the best theme song?
Spectre
The Ups and Downs of a Handyman
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
  Robert Segedy
Darren Jones
  Asma Amal
  Chris Lawrence
Enoch Sneed
George White
Stately Wayne Manor
   

 

Last Updated: