THEM! (1954) dir. Gordon Douglas
Starring: James Whitmore, James Arness
It’s the height of the cold war, nuclear testing is at its peak, Joseph McCarthy is running wild. Out of this paranoia came one of the great B-sci-fi films - THEM!
A pair of beat cops stumble upon a destroyed house in the desert, there is no evidence of burglary, except for a jar of sugar broken into and devoured. Hmmmm. The only survivor is a young girl, who is so shocked she can’t recall the horrific event. The cops discover it was a large mutated ant, which, due to fall-out of unsafe nuclear testing, has grown to the size of an elephant. The investigation leads the cops underground to discover a whole army of mutated ants ready to strike at civilization. The U.S. military is called in to fend off the ant army, but it’s the two beat cops who fight them off by hand and save the day.
I know this sounds like something like a bad Roger Corman or Ed Wood-type of film, but the production values are surprisingly high, the drama effective and special effects, though tacky now, were top notch in its day. In fact, it was Warner Bros’ highest grossing film of that year. It’s atomic-age filmmaking at its best.
The film is comprised of mostly unknowns, with the only moderately famous faces being a young James Arness and James Whitmore. It’s interesting to see them play their roles so seriously, as, if this film were made today, it would be filled with self-reverential humour and pastiche. A movie like "Snakes on a Plane" wouldn’t be made if it weren’t for the classic sci-fi films of the 50’s. Other films of its era worth viewing include the original "War of the Worlds," "The Blob, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "The Fly." Admittedly, I haven’t seen as many as I should.
Next time "Them!" or any of these films are playing late night on Space, or AMC, set your PVR, it will make good Sunday morning viewing. Enjoy.