Them! (1954)

Science fiction film, Them! (1954), was one of the first 'nuclear' monster movies featuring giant irradiated ants where it was also nominated for an Oscar in Special Effects.

The plot involves man's encounter with gigantic man-eating ants, having been mutated from the radiation of early atomic tests. As two winged ant Queens escape, it becomes a race against time to save mankind's place in the world, by finding and destroying the ants with their colonies before they can reproduce on a global scale.

The pacing of the film was surprisingly refreshing as the mystery begins right away with a mysterious lone wandering girl in a desert, with the investigation of peculiar 'crime' scenes. Even when the ants are finally revealed and our heroes destroy the nest, we soon find that it is only the beginning of the things to come in a desperate search to find the other remaining ants. Even the authorities and military convincingly appear to be doing their job rather than aimlessly running around in great displays as in previous films such as Invasion from Mars (1953).

From the wide array of environments, the film is certainly atmospheric with the harsh sandstorms of the desert to dense underground catacombs of the ant's nest. It soon becomes evident that the production values and special effects were impressive for the time period, with the huge lumbering ants being unforgettable with their slow deliberate movements and ominous clicking sounds of their mandibles, as well as plenty of ants even being set on fire.

Perhaps what makes Them! most intriguing is in the credibility of its fiction, as a world where atomic radiation has blighted the landscape and mutated its inhabitants doesn't seem too far off, particularly in the wake of the Atomic bomb and the constant fear of nuclear annihilation. Additionally, the dangers of the gigantic ants seem plausible when given scientific understanding of the common ant, in that they breed at an alarmingly rate, while possessing the physical strength to lift 20 times their own body weight and the mental capacity to unite and work together as colonies [1]. Scale the size of the ant up and one can truly start to see the terrifying potential of gigantic ants if such a thing would ever to occur.

Overall, Them! is thoroughly enjoyable and engaging as a sci-fi shocker, being described as an essential classic of Cold War radiation scare films to being by far the best of the '50s cycle of creature features' when compared to similar releases such as The Quatermass Xperiment (1955). It undoubtedly held much influence over the genre with the ant's nest being reminiscent to Alien (1979) with the hive queen mentality and nest, as well as games such as Fallout 3 (2008) with a particular quest titled 'Those!' involving giant mutated ants, albeit, fire-breathing giant ants.


Alan Postings said...

Nice review Leo.

Leo said...

Thanks Alan :)

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