Landmark science fiction film about giant ants was one of the first of the atomic age monster movies and remains the best to come out of the 1950s. Though THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953) was the first creature feature to explore the possible consequences of mankind entering the atomic age, THEM! was the initial film to fantasize the effects atomic radiation may have on living creatures, in this case common desert ants in New Mexico.
A documentary approach to the material and straightforward story has helped to keep the film fresh in modern years. The film’s pacing is perfect as we think we are watching a standard police mystery until the ants show up and lift the film into science fiction territory. The ants themselves remind me of the shark in JAWS. Both are ‘life-sized”, giant mechanical props that are effective even if they don’t look entirely real; proof that a strong story can trump some not-so special effects and make a film work.
THEM! was Warner Brother’s biggest hit of 1954 and its success spawned a whole slew of giant insect movies that are still being made up to this day. For creature feature fans, it is true monster movie euphoria.
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