them

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them

THEM (1954)

When several people go dead or missing, agents are surprised to discover the culprit isn't human: the after affects of nuclear tests nine years earlier prove dangerous as a colony of mutant ants leave their home to torture Southwest desert cities. While scientists and the army team up to fight the pesky nuisance, the ants enjoy reigning supreme in this Cold-War horror flick. 

This film brings to mind, "Tarantula". James Arness (Gunsmoke) is solid as an FBI agent, investigating strange deaths in the desert. The crisp black and white photography, by Sid Hickox, helps sell the credibility of the far fetched story premise.

The cast includes: Edmund Gwenn, James Arness, James Whitmore, Joan Weldon, Onslow Stevens, and Fess Parker.

Directed by Gordon Douglas.

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SYNOPSIS...

When a little girl is found in the desert, the cops determine that her parents are missing, their trailer wrecked. Soon, an old man and a cop are killed mysteriously.

When an FBI agent investigates, a Washington bug expert, arrives. He determines that the prints left behind are that of a giant ant, apparently enlarged by nuclear radiation. Soon, the authorities discover large colonies of gigantic mutant ants who begin to prey upon the cities in the American south-west, and must come up with a way to control these scary beasties.

Soon, queen ants fly off and make a nest in Los Angeles' sewer system. Arness and military men fight the giant ants with flame throwers and machine guns, eliminating the huge pests.

Review:

Promotional Lines: "A horror horde of crawl-and-crush giants clawing out of the earth from mile-deep catacombs! Kill one and two take its place! An Endless Terror! A Nameless Horror!"

Quote from Dr. Harold Medford: " We may be witnessing a Biblical prophecy come true--the beasts will reign over the earth."

Director Gordon Douglas' THEM, is definitely one of the better giant insect movies of the fifties. The Screenplay, by Ted Sherdeman, is lean and tight, even keeping the obligatory 1950's romantic subplot to a minimum.

When a little girl (Sandy Descher) is found wandering alone in the New Mexico desert, local cop, Sgt. Ben Paterson (James Whitmore -"Shawshank Redemption") investigates. The parent's trailer is found destroyed, her parents missing.

Soon, an old man, as well as Whitmore's partner, are killed by a mysterious assailant. When the autopsy is done on "Gramps," the local doctor announces that he had "...enough formic acid in him to kill twenty men." FBI agent, Rober Graham (James Arness), is called in. Considering he was playing the title role in "The Thing", only three years before, Jim "Gunsmoke" Arness was definitely moving up in the world with this role.

When Arness sends a strange footprint back to Washington, insect expert, dr. Harold Medford, (Edmund Gwenn -"Miracle on 34th Street") shows up by return mail. Before long, Gwenn declares that the killings have been done by giant ants, mutated as the result of atomic testing. The fact that a scene like this is credible is much to the credit of actor Gwenn and Director Douglas.

My favorite scenes in the film are set in the Los Angeles river channel. Although much used by TV and film over the years, it's rarely been turned into such a fascinating environment, with many military vehicles and soldiers bustling about.

TV fans will get a kick out of seeing Fess Parker in a brief scene as a pilot who mistook flying ants for UFO's. Little did Parker realize that "Davy Crockett" TV fame loomed on the horizon.
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The crisp black and white Photography, and clever camera angles are by Sid Hickox. The choice of black and white, frequently used in the fifties, helps heighten the drama and credibility of the story. The Music, by Bronislau Kaper, effectively underscores the tense action.

The giant ants are kept away from full view for sometime, which is fortunate. When you do seem them clearly, they're not that great by today's standards, but were probably state-of-the-art for the time.

THEM should be watchable for most Sci-Fi fans, except for those driven buggie by giant bug movies. If you have a taste for giant insects, THEM should make a satisfying film feast indeed. 

BEST BETS: FOOD OF THE GODS, TARANTUL, and STARSHIP TROOPERS.