scifi
Them!
.
Dir: Gordon Douglas
Star: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness
Cert / Year: Unrated / 1954
Format: DVD R2
'

A small girl is found wandering alone in the desert. She is so terrified that she can't speak. The local police force investigates but the trail leads to a number of bizarre disappearances and deaths. Baffled they send for the FBI who discovers the terrifying truth. Radiation from the first atom bomb has caused the local ant population to grow to a gigantic size. The army is bought in to destroy the colony, but it is too late they have begun to spread. Is this the end of humanity, have we finally met or match in Them?

In my Fiend without a Face review I mentioned that the fifties were the time for the atomic creature movie. The paranoia regarding the awesome new energy source of nuclear power mixed with general ignorance of the science behind it meant that where atomic power was concerned people would believe that anything was possible. This ignorance was exploited by any number of monster films, Them! was one of the first and possible the best.

The stars of the show are the giant ants, and in this day and age they look like exactly what they are, giant ant puppets. This almighty problem is negated in some way by direction and plotting, but at the end of the day things do look rather pants. It's not as though the puppets are bad in fact they are pretty good, it's more that they are largely immobile and poorly animated. Luckily the camera is never allowed to stay on them for very long and the use of framed distance shots is quite effective.

Where the film really works is the cleaver script. The story is what would become the standard for giant monster fare. The way in which the plot slowly reveals the monster ants is to be admired. What also works is the way story unfolds and expands, for example we start off with a one man and a gun vs single ant and end up with the US army fighting a massive nest of ants that is threatening Los Angeles. This increase in scale continually expands the spectacle on show and ups the tension so that by the end of the movie you believe that the next step is the end of humanity.

Matched to this is Gordon Douglas's direction. Douglas was a veteran director and with Them! began a golden period in his career (unfortunately it ended with the disastrous Viva Knievel). His direction here is slick and pacey. Nice use is made of framed shots, like the helicopter investigating the ant's nest, or the ant rearing up from the crest of a hill. In fact is a real testament to his skill that the limitations of the effects can be overlooked and almost forgotten about.

In many ways Them! is a classic. It marks the birth of the giant monster movie, and leaves a legacy that Eight legged freaks is continuing today. In avoids ridicule due to slick direction and a good story, Ok so the acting is not much more than solid, and the ants can and do look silly, but this never ruins the film. The fact that the film is still watchable today is a compliment indeed. This film is worth tracking down to find out where this sort of film had its beginning, however if you do you may be pleasantly surprised.

Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD
Picture 4:3 It is a great picture, free of grain and print damage, but why is it only full screen?
Audio Stereo Well it may be Stereo or dual mono difficult to tell.
Features Text based look at monster movies
Trailer
Archive footage of the ant effects
Some fun static menus
Verdict Not a bad disc for such and old movie. It's a shame that the picture is only full screen but a couple of interesting extras offset the disapointment.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home