Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Them! (1954)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, rented from the Tisch Library at Tufts.
90/100 on the Sci-Fi List.

GIANT KILLER ANTS OH MY GOOOOOOOD. Thus, a problem surfaces in Them! after nuclear testing mutates an ant colony in the New Mexico desert. The military does its best to hide them from the public while they work on a way to poison their nest, but when two queens escape and fly towards Lost Angeles they need to enforce martial law. There's also a lady insect specialist (A LADY SCIENTIST?) and some kidnapped kids.

With so-so special effects and an overt anti-bomb (and anti-ants) message, Them! is certainly a product of its time. Not that I mind, of course. The hokey acting and extremely poor pacing were expected, and I must say that high-pitched screeching noise that accompanied the ants' movements was legitimately creepy. Giant bugs are a terrifying thought no matter what, and the reality of nuclear testing creating scary monsters and super creeps is easily felt in 1954.

My biggest issue with Them! is the narrative structure. The film has a decent premise, but can't seem to maintain focus, introducing new characters and subplots and locations every 20 minutes. Almost no one in the cast stood out to me and I found myself unable to really care about what was happening. The climax with the kidnapped children didn't mean all that much since I had never even seen these kids before, and had only just met their mother five minutes ago. The best part was Fess Parker as a pilot with an awesome robe, a 5-minute role that managed to be more dynamic than most of the entire film. (He went on to be Davy Crockett, so his charisma obviously paid off.)


Pair This Movie With: Another big bug movie, perhaps! Yeah! I recommend the MST3K version of "The Deadly Mantis". I've got a mantis in my pantis...


  1. Wow. I really loved this movie and reckon Cameron must have watched and rewatched it to death before making ALIENS.

    Catch the giant ant SOUND again during the alien fest in Looney Toons: Back In Action!


  2. i loved this movie as a kid. lol.

  3. THEM also has one of my favorite opening sequences. All tension, and the pacing is powerful at this point. And then... yes, ker-flop. It's too much of a favorite, however, to let all of its myriad problems get in the way, and it's a focal point for my dissecting of What Makes Favorites vs Non-Favorites. This film has so many bad points - but do I just like James Whitmore, Edmund Gwynn and James Arness too much to worry about the flaws? Perhaps. I find myself donating a lot of "LIKES" to this film just because of them.

    Unlike you, I prefer Olin Howland's "Make Me Sergeant" song and bounce routine over Fess Parker's PJ-malfunction. And I'll never understand how IMDB still doesn't list Harry Wilson as Olin's ward-mate complaining about the noise - "Mah noives!"

    I know, I know - he was actually with Spats "at Rigoletto's - honest!"