Friday, January 4, 2019

Sci-Fi Film Classics: Them!

Mini Review

Joe Bonadonna

I love Big Bug movies. Giant insects . . . yeah! Since I was a kid collecting caterpillars, fireflies, grasshoppers, spiders, ants and so forth I've always imagined what it would be like if some insects were big. Really big. Big big! Wow! Think of it: mosquitoes the size of cats, cockroaches the size of rats, flies the size of bats . . . we wouldn't stand a chance. From The Deadly Mantis to Beginning of the End, from Tarantula to Earth vs the Spider, from The Black Scorpion to 8 Legged Freaks . . . I've always loved the Big Bug movies that the Nuclear Age spawned. 

But 1954's Them! from was the first and still, IMHO, the best of them all. 

Them! still holds up very well. Sure, the giant ants may look a little hokey to modern audiences, but the huge, mechanical/puppet ants were state of the art special FX back in 1954s, but they still work to suspend my disbelief whenever I watch this film. I don't mind, and like stop-motion animation - which might have worked for this film - there's a creepy sort of realism to these Giant Ants that I don't think even the best CGI FX could capture. This film has a great story, solid performances, some intense moments. Tragic but heroic end for one main character near the film's climax. No one better not try to remake this film — or else! "Make me a Sergeant and charge the booze!" (Olin Howlin, from his scene-stealing scene.) The filmed starred James Whitmore, James Arness (fresh from his role as The Thing), Joan Weldon, and Edmund Gwenn, best known for his role as Kris Kringle in the original The Miracle on 34th Street.
Official Theatrical Trailer
Fess (TV's Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone) Parker also has a one-scene role as a pilot in a mental ward because he claimed he saw giant ants. Of special note: Leonard Nimoy has a small, uncredited part as a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant in the film's communications room. Others with tiny roles include Richard Deacon (Mel, from The Dick Van Dyke Show), William Schallert (who appeared in a lot of films and TV shows, and played Patty Duke's father in her television show), and the venerable character actor, Dub Taylor.

Them! Behind The Scenes Archival Footage

    This film was a childhood favorite, and I learned a lot about ants, too!

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