STARRING: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, James Arness, Joan Weldon, Onslow Stevens, Don Shelton, Fess Parker

1954, 93 Minutes, Directed by: Gordon Douglas

So 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 seems particularly outdated and quaint.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.

Incidentally, 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.


# 60
of the
Top 100 Sci-Fi Movies
of all time




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