“ Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Science Fiction / Theatrical Release: 1954 / Parental Guidance / Director: Gordon Douglas / Actors: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness, Onslow Stevens ... / DVD released 2003-02-17 at Warner Home Video / Features of the DVD: Black & White, PAL „
My dad has encouraged my love of of science fiction movies, and has been my main educator in the process. I first watched this film a couple of years ago at his recommendation. I think it's a great example of film-making from that era, and have since watched it several times more. It's currently available from www.amazon.co.uk for the cost of £2.99 which I think is a bargain and well worth buying if you like this type of film.
Region 2 1-disc DVD
Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes
Directed by: Gordon Douglas
Starring: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness
Tagline: A horror horde of crawl-and-crush giants clawing out of the earth from mile-deep catacombs!
Certificate rating: PG
~~~THE BACK OF THE BOX BLURB~~~
Man has split the atom and ushered in a new era. But how could he know he would also create "Them"!?
"Them!" (1954) is a landmark movie about giant radiation-mutated ants that gets better with age and boasts remarkable, Academy Award nominated special effects. Starring James Whitmore, James Arness and Edward Gwenn, "Them!" begins in New Mexico with a child wandering in shock, a ransacked general store - and a battered corpse full of enough formic acid to kill 20 men. It ends with an epic struggle in the 700 miles of storm drains under Los Angeles, where the insect hordes are beaten. But they're not conquered, because the spawned a generation of films about radioactive creatures. Some approximate the terror but few have equalled the artistry of "Them!".
The story begins in the desert of New Mexico, where local law enforcers discover the scene of several horrific crimes. The lone surivior is a young girl who is left in a state of severe shock, and unable to explain what has happened to her. It is soon discovered that they are dealing with a situation that has never been seen before. Specialist doctors are flown in to assist in the investigations and we catch out first glimpse of the creatures while they are doing some field work research. From then on we humans must pit our wits against the atomically activated ants!
This movie speaks for the time and back in the 50's the threat of consequences from using atomic weapons was becoming a world-wide issue. There were many supposed outcomes, each of which more horrific than the next. It spurred on the science fiction genre to become something that was bringing attention to events that seemed improbable but could have been believed to turn into actual real possibilities. It played upon peoples' fears and gave a few good shocks along the way. "Them!" transforms the humble little ant into a monstrous creature that is capable of murdering human beings and leaving a wake of destruction in its path.
It is interesting that they picked ants to be the bad guys in this film, as they are fascinating creatures in their own right. Ants are extremely intelligent and resourceful, creating super-organised hives that run to a strict order with specific roles that are filled. They can dig their nests up to 30 feet underground and these chambers are connected by a complex web of tunnels. If the possibility of super-sized atomic ants ever did become a reality, we certainly would be facing a formidable foe.
The special effects are impressive for the time, although now they appear laughably un-realistic. The giant ants are puppet models that have big hairy antennae and some nasty looking pincers. It helps if you are open-minded and try to use your patience and imagination to fill in where the pre-CGI effects leave it a little lacking. I must say that I adore the cover art on the front of the DVD, it is so exaggerated it builds up your expectations straight away. It's very dramatic and fits in with the stylings of the 50's, I'm glad they haven't updated the art work for the DVD release. The film runs for only 89 minutes, but I do get the feeling that it is just a little bit too long, and it seems like they stretch the story a little too far. Even so, the climax is exciting and satisfying, and it reaches a good conclusion.
+ Behind the Scenes! An exclusive video expose. Features some clips of the film being shot, including footage of the models and a giant ant running smack bang into a wall. It is very short totalling around 2-3 minutes long, and seems a little pointless.
+ Photo Gallery! The fabulous story in pictures. A slideshow of numerous black and white photographs taking during the production of the film. There are some beautiful images and I found this more interesting that the previous feature showing film clips. This also includes images of the original movie posters which is fascinating and they're gorgeous in their brash-ness!
+ Captured on Film! A sneak peek. This is the trailer for the movie. It's actually quite long and gives a thorough overview of the story, although it is spectacularly over the top. The footage is played alongside a thundering and dramatic soundtrack, and it promises to shock and thrill you like never before. I love the wild claims that were made about movies in old trailers and promotional material, I wish they still made them like this! It's good to watch before the main feature to kick start your viewing experience.
This is a great 50's film with a theme that captures the feeling of the time. It does feel ever so dated, and it's interesting to compare how far things have moved on now, in terms of lifestyle as well as moive making. If you like science fiction or old 'B' movies, then you I would definitely recommend giving this a watch.
Them! is a classic 1954 black and white monster film about giant radiated, mutated ants running amok in the New Mexico desert and was directed by Gordon Douglas. 'A horror horde of crawl-and-crush giants clawing out of the earth from mile-deep catacombs!' went the blurb on the theatrical poster. The film won an Oscar for its special effects and is regarded to be one of the more successful examples of the sci-fi atomic age paranoia genre. In the New Mexico desert, near the small town of Alamogordo, a five year old girl (Sandy Descher) is found wandering alone and traumatised by Police Sergeant Ben Peterson (James Whitmore), her family caravan having been destroyed by a great force and a local store in similar ruins. The puzzling thing about the wrecked store is that no cash was taken, only all the sugar, and the owner was found dead with massive injuries and vast quantities of formic acid injected into his body. Some very strange (and very large) footprints lead FBI agent Robert Graham (James Arness), now working with Sergeant Peterson, to signal Washington who send Doctors Harold (Edmund Gwenn) and Pat Medford (Joan Weldon), a father/daughter team of entomologists from the Department of Agriculture. The elder Medford is tight-lipped about their theories on events but places a flask of formic acid under the nose of the still catatonic little girl who wakes immediately screaming "Them! Them!"
One of the great atomic scare pictures of the fifties, Them! is surprisingly well crafted and acted and the central mystery is very engaging and moves in an intriguing and unhurried way. The film is about halfway through before we finally get some giant ant capers but works much better for this sense of restraint. I particularly love the scenes where Dr Medford amps up the ant themed tension by showing documentary films about them and droning on about their extraordinary abilities to worried audiences of government and military types. And these are ordinary sized ants he's talking about, not the ones the size of a small bus which are now mooching about in the desert thanks to nuclear testing. "None of the ants previously seen by man were more than an inch in length - most considerably under that size. But even the most minute of them have an instinct and talent for industry, social organization, and savagery that makes man look feeble by comparison."
Medford soon drops another bombshell. Unless the ant colonies are found and controlled, man will soon be an endangered species! "That, gentlemen, is why you are here - to consider this problem and, I hope, solve it. Because unless you solve it, unless these queens are located and destroyed before they've established thriving colonies and can produce, heaven alone knows, how many more queen ants, man, as the dominant species of life on earth, will probably be extinct..." When they finally enter the story, the ants (which are full-scale-mock-up models) are good fun with weird sounds and big lumbering antennae signaling their imminent arrival. There are never many of them onscreen and they of course appear rather mechanical but they are pretty scary all the same and have an old-fashioned charm that takes us back into another era of filmmaking. One very creepy thing about the ants is that they call out to one another in eerie fashion and are also impervious to revolvers. Their desert nest is located and the US Army is brought in with poisonous gas to despatch them but two queens manage to escape (!) putting our heroes back to square one.
The ant's underground nests are great fun too with skulls and bones lying around, their claustrophobic confines a little reminiscent of the strange alien tunnels in James Cameron's Aliens. "Look! Held together with saliva!" cries Dr Medford's boffin daughter. The ants could be the Russkies I suppose but they are also the unknown. A new era for mankind has begun - the atomic era - and at the time no one was quite sure what it all meant or where it could lead. I don't think anyone in the fifties actually believed giant insects would emerge from atomic tests but you sometimes get the impression watching films from the decade that they hadn't completely ruled it out, sort of like a British tennis player winning Wimbledon one day. Unlikely, but you never know. "When Man entered the atomic age, he opened a door into a new world," opines that eternal optimist Medford. "What we'll eventually find in that new world, nobody can predict." Edmund Gwenn is good fun as Medford as he dispenses ant lore to all around him and battles with this new fangled thing called radio communication.
The film has a documentary style at times and is far superior to more campy and overtly tongue-in-cheek sci-fi/monster pictures of the era with more of a sly sense of humour on show. This is good stuff on the whole, sort of like the Jurrassic Park or Jaws of the fifties. The unsettling atmosphere is developed right from the start with the little girl wandering the desert alone in a dressing gown clutching a small doll and we briskly become wrapped up in the mystery. "Gramps Johnson," says the coroner, of the unfortunate shopkeeper. "Could have died in any one of five ways. His neck and back were broken. His skull was fractured. His chest was crushed. And here's one for Sherlock Holmes. There was enough formic acid in his body to kill twenty men." Them! has an exciting climax too in the sewers of Los Angeles that owes quite a bit to The Third Man.
Them! is great fun for all giant atomic insect fans and one of the best examples of these types of vintage monster films. The ants themselves are nicely done and the cast is good value for money. Extras include behind-the-scenes archive footage, montage on the design and operation of giant ants, interactive menus, cast film highlights, theatrical trailer, and scene access.