Another film watched under the last big vhs tapes found at goodwill. I watched Maximum Overdrive, followed by The Blob and now, finally, we get to an early sci-fi/horror film called Them!
I haven’t seen a black/white film in quite a long time now so I was very excited to see this film for the first time.
Now, let’s talk about Them!
I just realized that this film came before The Blob and this was the era of creature features. Creature from the Black Lagoon, Godzilla, The Thing From Another World, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Fly, these films where science fiction mixes with the unknown or an outsider invading. This is also around the time when space fascination was becoming big, I know the space race was starting to happen around the 1950s so I see a lot of the correlations.
Them! is about giant, mutated ants that have been invading small pockets around the country (and the world) with formic acid to kill 20 men. We start the film in New Mexico with a small girl who is picked up by two police officers but she’s in shock, not responding as if she had seen something horrific. The film immediately progresses with finding businesses and homes destroyed, and the big reveal of the power and mass of these large insects.
What I liked about this movie was we immediately are thrown into what is realistically an ongoing event. We’re not introduced to the atom bomb explosion or how the ants grew, no big origin story. We don’t really need it but the facts. We also have different characters who we empathize with, we want to see them survive and use their heads (and science) to conquer. My personal favorite character was Pat or Dr. Pat Medford (Joan Weldon) who was very calm, cool, collected, smart, didn’t really take a lot of people’s crap but she was still classy about her demeanor and how she approached things more logically than with her heart.
A big surprise was the special effects. It really surprised me at how good the ants looked. For this time period, I’m very impressed with the technical achievement to operate and build these creatures.
I also took note of this certain scream effect that I hear a lot (in this film but also others) and google told me it’s called the Wilhelm scream. Very cool that it has a name and an origin attached.
The sound design was very cool as well. Cos I worked in a zoo for about 3 years, I know how that zoo sounds when it’s not opened and the animals are just interacting with each other and it reminded me so much of pulling into the parking lot in the morning and you just hear animal noises. I figured birds would be a huge part of how the sound would portray the “call” the ants did to communicate and again google confirmed it for me as well frogs. Very interesting. I was also thinking about crickets as well.
In conclusion, Them! is a fun monster/nuclear based film. It’s a classic, there’s a reason why it is a classic. I would highly recommend this film and it’s only 93 minutes but honestly, I could watch another 10 thrown in there. It goes really fast because the narrative does pick up speed.
Them! stars James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness, with Onlsow Stevens, Sean McClory and Chris Drake. It was directed by Gordon Douglas and is a Warner Bros feature. I give Them! a 4.5 out of 5.