Them! (1954)

Day: January 6th, Movie: 6

Today’s Genre-ary Sci-Fi DailyView film is a black and white classic from 1954, a monster movie with giant ants called Them!.

According to IMDB, “In the New Mexico desert, Police Sgt. Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) and his partner find a child wandering in the desert and soon they discover that giant ants are attacking the locals. FBI agent Robert Graham (James Arness) teams up with Ben and with the support of Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn) and his daughter Dr. Patricia ‘Pat’ Medford (Joan Weldon), they destroy the colony of ants in the middle of the desert. Dr. Harold Medford explains that the atomic testing in 1945 developed the dangerous mutant ants. But they also discover that two queen ants have flown away to Los Angeles and they are starting a huge colony in the underground flood control tunnels of that city. When a mother reports that her two children are missing, the team begin searching for them. Will they arrive in time to save the children and destroy the colony?

The film surprised me because it did a really good job of keeping the ants hidden through the film. It was the 1950s and the special effects are spotty, but they do a great job of maintaining the mysteriousness. The moments that they use the ants are kept minimal and it maximizes the opportunity.

Meanwhile, it does a solid job of providing us with a group of characters to root for as they are chasing the monstrous ants. James Arness gives a great performance and is one of the better characters to watch. I also enjoyed the scientist Harold Medford who had so much knowledge of ants (including a film detailing all the facts about ants). Edmund Gwenn went from playing Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street to the world’s most knowledgeable ant guy.

The story was very relevant for the time as it helped kick off the atomic monster films. It had been under a decade since the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan and the idea of what the a-bomb could do was front and center in the minds of the public. Causing a group of ants to mutate seemed very realistic and created an anxiety. The response of the film’s characters made a lot of sense too.

There were a few scenes that I felt that I needed that were not included in the film. The ending needed something for me and there was a reunion scene with the kids and their mother that was missing in my opinion. Still, the film worked well and I really thought it was more than I thought it would be.

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