James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, James Arness, Joan Weldon, Onslow Stevens,
Don Shelton, Fess Parker
1954, 93 Minutes, Directed by: Gordon Douglas
this is where director James Cameron got many ideas for his seminal 1986
sci-fi actioner Aliens from. Not the original
Alien movie, but this 1954 B-movie about humanity
being threatened by mutated gigantic ants. Does any of this sound familiar:
(a) a small girl traumatized after her parents were killed by vicious
monsters? (b) a queen monster laying eggs in a secret chamber (c) marines
with flamethrowers and guns battling it out in dark corridors with monsters?
(d) did I mention those flamethrowers they use?
However, that’s about where any similarities with Aliens end. For
modern audiences weaned on the likes of The Thing,
Them! seems particularly outdated and quaint. Actually, it isn’t all
that bad, except when the ants themselves show up. The giant
awkwardly moving ants just look ridiculous and as threatening as . . . well,
the Care Bears.
Not that today’s CGI special effects attain a greater level of realism
(often they end up looking computer game-ish a lot of the time – see
Sabretooth for instance), but the
mutant ants in Them! just look plain silly. It would probably have been
difficult to keep the ants off-screen completely – but still! Their actual
presence undermines whatever has gone before.
the movie was initially supposed to have been shot in colour, but then the
studio drastically slashed the budget and the producers could only afford
Black & White film stock. It actually works to the movie's benefit as it works better in Black & White. (The image on the DVD is particularly
crisp and doesn’t look at all like a movie that’s almost fifty years old!)
With the ants off-stage most of the time, Them! isn’t as campy or bad as to warrant a
MST3K session. Told in a straightforward manner,
the acting isn’t too bad and the movie moves along briskly. The location
photography (particular the scenes set in the desert) is effective. However,
the experience is rather academic and uninvolving. Watching it, one makes a
long list of contemporary B-movies that borrowed from Them! -
starting with last year’s underappreciated Eight Legged Freaks movie
about giant spiders threatening a small community.
Still, Them! remains worth checking out by 1950s sci-fi movie
aficionados and ideal for late night TV screenings. Ideal also for a double
bill with the original Invasion of the Body
Snatchers or The Thing from Another World.
Top 100 Sci-Fi
of all time