Woot! In light of a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift (in reality an early birthday/Father’s day gift), this is Size Matters week. I’m going to feature movies about things that are Giant! First up – Giant Ants! Them! is currently available on instant Netflix.
WATCH: Them! (1954) – NR – Not rated.
“The inhabitants of a small Southwestern town feel the fallout when radiation from bomb tests creates giant, mutant ants that descend on their community. Facing human extermination, a team of scientists scrambles to figure out how to stop “them.” Filled with creepy creatures large and small, this 1954 sci-fi spectacular is one of the most influential horror films of all time — and also captures America’s mood at the dawn of the Atomic Age.”
“It’s getting pretty late Doctor.” – “Later than you think”
“We may be witnesses to a biblical prophecy come true.”
Okay I have to admit that even now, more than 3 decades after I’d first watched this, the ant sounds are still creepy. Yes the giant ant models are completely goofy but the rest of the film is very well done.
The film begins wonderfully with the discovery of a young traumatized girl wandering the desert. After rescuing our mute survivor, the police discover a few structures completely destroyed with no other survivors.
Them! makes great use of wind-swept desert terrain. Obscured terrain only heightens the suspense. This suspense is wonderfully generated until almost the half hour mark.
Unfortunately for you people spoiled by special effects (i.e. young whippersnappers) that is the point at which the first of the giant ants is shown. The ant models are elaborate but they look completely wacky.
James (Gunsmoke) Arness and James (The Shawshank Redemption) Whitmore are our stalwart heroes. While there is a height difference, the tough guy acting styles and stern faces are so similar that they look very striking together, particularly a scene where they are both shown in profile.
Edmond Gwenn is our resident scientist. He’s not mad because it was ATOMIC TESTING that caused our mutant ants. Joan Weldon plays his daughter and is also a scientist. Those are actually wool suits that they are wearing in the desert. According to Joan, the temperature got up to 110 degrees and it was practically unbearable.
If you don’t mind the cheesy looking ants then I highly recommend this classic science fiction movie. What really makes this film work is that it is filmed as a mystery movie and the parts without the ants work very well. The picture quality from Netflix is quite good.
People Watch: There are two great TV cameos here. First, there’s a blink and you’ll miss him Leonard (Spock) Nimoy appearing as an Air Force Sergeant. Second, a pre-Daniel Boone/Davy Crockett Fess Parker plays Alan Crotty.
Walt Disney watched the film to assess James Arness for the part of Davy Crockett. He ended up choosing Fess Parker after seeing Them!
While James Arness didn’t end up playing Davy Crockett, he later played James Bowie (opposite Brian Keith as Davy Crockett) in The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory.