B-Movie Review - Them!

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic


Synopsis: Experimental nuclear weapon testing in the south-western US deserts accidentally creates giant ants looking for a place to call home where their freakish nature will blend in; Los Angeles
or bust.

Submitted: September 07, 2018

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Submitted: September 07, 2018

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A A A


Them!
 
Director
Gordon Douglas
The Main Players
 
James Whitmore
Police Sgt. Ben Peterson
Edmund Gwenn
Dr. Harold Medford
Joan Weldon
Dr. Patricia 'Pat' Medford
James Arness
Robert Graham
 
Synopsis: 
Experimental nuclear weapon testing in the south-western US deserts accidentally creates giant ants looking for a place to call home where their freakish nature will blend in; Los Angeles or bust.
 
Review:
This is a good movie with a strong plot based on something that is basically impossible, but Hollywood never lets reality get in the way.  The premise of nuclear radiation making things grow to impossible sizes comes from a time when the science of radiation was tossed around the same table as alchemy.  Crazy bad science aside there are some solid performances by James Whitmore and James Arness.  Arness has been a pivotal character in the first Frozenmukluk review also of a not so bad, bad movie The Thing From Another World. So we know the acting is great.  What’s wrong with the movie?
The only problem is the stars, and the sad truth is that the two James are not the stars; giant ants are.  That’s where the fun comes in.  This movie was way ahead of its time as in long before CGI.  They could have used a little stop motion miniature work on this one, but instead opted for larger than life, less than animatronic puppets of giant ants.  Generally I’m not a big fan of re-makes unless you can bring something new other than an updated look.  This movie is an excellent candidate for just that.  A bit of SFX beyond fire could go a long way to making this one a bit more exciting.
 The only thing the ants do convincingly is burn when confronted with flame throwers.  You can’t really ask for more than that from any insect monster.  Of course we can’t forget the incessant irritating sound they make when nearby.  It’s a cross between a squeaky wheel and the compressor of an AC unit in need of new bearings.  I don’t know if it’s Exorcist scary, but it sure is damned annoying and that has to count for something.  Plus it gives that subtle foreshadowing like a good smack in the back of the head that something is about to happen.
As for the story it’s quite simple.  It starts with the ants stirring up shit in the dessert by attacking people and some livestock going missing.  Eventually scientists are brought in and despite the idea of giant ants being a bit out there, the search is on.  They begin an air search of the area where they think the ants might be and find a giant ant hill full of giant ants.  I was sort of disappointed when they start chucking poison gas canisters into the colony when I was secretly hoping they would have a giant magnifying glass hanging from the helicopter.  The least they could have done was give their group a cool name like Radioactive Ant Interdiction Detachment.
The operation to do in the ants seems like a success until they soon realize a couple of queens got away.  The flying queens took off and made their way to parts unknown for a while.  Ultimately the ants set up shop in Los Angeles using the LA River aqua duct system as a sort of pre made colony.  We can only assume this was a cost cutting measure to bring location shoots closer to the studio.To make things worse throw in a couple of kids lost in the tunnels, and a fretful mother waiting outside for them.  They went in with their dad but hey, two out of three aint bad. Once again it’s up to our heroes to go back in and make the ants do what they do best.  Burn baby burn.
Lessons Learned:
  • Unlike their speedy little buddies, giant ants do just about everything slowly.
  • The Ant Bully was full of crap, those things sound nothing like Julia Roberts.
  • Even giant ants dig sugar, just a hell of a lot more of it.
  • You can get locked up just for seeing a flying giant ant.
  • We've been using radiation to shrink things, but are we using it wrong?
  • This movie makes it more fun to step on them.


© Copyright 2018 Brian P Baldwin. All rights reserved.

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