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  Empire of the Ants Phase V: Capture Joan Collins
Year: 1977
Director: Bert I. Gordon
Stars: Joan Collins, Robert Lansing, John David Carson, Albert Salmi, Jacqueline Scott, Pamela Susan Shoop, Robert Pine, Edward Power, Brooke Palance, Tom Fadden, Irene Tedrow, Harry Holcombe, Jack Kosslyn, Ise Earl, Janie Gavin, Norman Franklin, Florance McGee
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: Marilyn Fryser (Joan Collins) is an estate agent who has arranged a get-together for a group of people interested in taking her offer of beach front property on this Florida island, although what they don't know is that the swampy location is nowhere near as valuable as she makes out. She assembles the prospective buyers at the harbour and they all board the boat which will take them to their destination, but there will be some friction between them as they arrive for drinks and nibbles by the shore. Not half as much friction as there will be when a colony of giant radioactive ants crash the party, of course...

That said, you have to wait half an hour for the massive insects to show up, by which point you may well have lost interest entirely. Yes, in amongst all those seventies exploitation filmmakers trying to bring back the fifties heyday of monster movies, was a man who had been around since then and was pretty much ploughing the same furrow of enormous menaces causing havoc. Bert I. Gordon, for it was he, had already tried this trick earlier in the decade with Food of the Gods, and also slapped the H.G. Wells name onto his similar follow-up, Empire of the Ants, just to lend it that air of sophistication which was notably lacking when you sat down to watch it. No harm in trying, eh?

Sadly, the amount of time given over to Mr B.I.G.'s special effects sequences, which as always he handled himself using much the same techniques from twenty years before, was not as great as the amount of time given over to the characters standing around talking and (more likely) complaining, with a cast of T.V. faces filling out the cast of potential victims. Leading them was Joan Collins in reduced circumstances, stuck with a wavering American accent and well into her seventies dip of movie quality; basically the only reason she showed up for this was that she needed the money, and the pained expression that Marilyn often pulls was presumably not so much acting as the way Joan was feeling at the time.

That initial third is packed full of uninteresting chatter, plus one attempted rape to wake you up a bit thanks to the sleaziest character, Larry (Robert Pine), forgetting he is there with is wife and deciding to try it on with the only single woman there, Coreen (Pamela Susan Shoop). She lets him know in no uncertain terms that she doesn't appreciate being manhandled - a knee to the groin will do that - but we can see from this type of scene who is potential monster fodder and who will survive. Hint: Larry wouldn't be getting any Christmas cards that year. But enough of this yakking, when do we get to see what is spying on them with multifaceted eyes, accompanied by appropriate lens effects?

The reason that these insects have grown so large is because of our old friend, the recklessly discarded nuclear waste drums. The normal sized ants have fed on the waste and have developed their usual society to spectacular proportions, which in the case of this film means magnified versions of the little creatures in shots where the actors have to look alarmed and scream (though oddly the ants do most of the screaming themselves). To add to the mayhem, Gordon created ant puppets to fling at his plucky cast, whereupon they would roll about on the ground and emote accordingly, but he had a trick up is sleeve to lift this to new realms of ludicrousness. Seems the giants have the power of mind control, and to keep themselves in sugar for the rest of their days have set the locals to work at the refinery. Can our heroes escape? If you've stopped yawning, you might be inclined to find out. Music by Dana Kaproff.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Bert I. Gordon  (1922 - )

Known as Mister B.I.G., this American writer, director and producer came from advertising to make a host of giant monster movies in the 1950s - King Dinosaur, Beginning of the End, The Cyclops, The Amazing Colossal Man, Earth vs the Spider and War of the Colossal Beast. Attack of the Puppet People featured minituarisation, as a variation.

The 60s saw him make various fantasy and horror movies, such as Tormented, The Magic Sword, Village of the Giants and Picture Mommy Dead. The 1970s only offered two giant monster movies, Food of the Gods and Empire of the Ants, plus horror Necromancy and thriller The Mad Bomber. Subsequent films in the eighties were made with the video market in mind, and he made a comeback in 2015 at the age of 93 (!) with psycho-horror Secrets of a Psychopath.

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