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Sunday, March 21, 2010

THEM! - 1954

I love a good giant bug movie and this is one of the best. This film did so well for Warner that it was quickly imitated by a slew of others including Tarantula (1955), The Black Scorpion (1959) and The Deadly Mantis (1957).

A lot of the giant bug movies of the fifties have similar themes - the dangers of nuclear weapons, Mother Nature run amok - and this one is no exception. Something strange is happening out in the desert and it's up to James Arness (the Thing from The Thing) to figure it out. What they discover are giant mutated ants, transformed by the radiation from a nearby nuclear test site. These insects are HUGE yet they are attracted by minuscule amounts of sugar, which they never seem to actually consume. Ignore that and the movie is quite enjoyable.

Them! was originally to be filmed in color, so when the model shop built the giant ants they made them quite colorful. Joan Weldon (Dr. Patricia Medford) said that they were actually quite beautiful. In this case, a budget cut actually turned out to be beneficial - in black and white the ants are much more effective. You have to forgive the cheesy appearance of some the bugs but, hey, this was years before computers were common place and CGI, well, forget about it. Still, considering the budget and the technical limits of model building at the time, this move stands out as one of the best bug movies ever made.

The scenes in the L.A. storm tunnels foreshadow scenes to come in movies like Alien, even down to the use of flame throwers to destroy the queen's eggs.

*** Look for Leonard Nimoy as an Air Force sergeant and Fess Parker as the 'deranged' crop duster confined to a mental ward to keep him quiet.

Great line, typical fifties paranoia --
Robert Graham: And I thought today was the end of them.
Dr. Harold Medford: No. We haven't seen the end of them. We've only had a close view of the beginning of what may be the end of us.

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