Director: Gordon Douglas
Writers: Ted Sherdeman and Russell Hughes
Starring: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon and James Arness
The 1950s was a decade full of big monster movies and exploring the possible effects of nuclear weapons on the environment. The Japanese Godzilla is a perfect example and one that has stood the test of time. Them! From the same year as Godzilla almost feels like America’s counterpart to it. The first atomic bomb was detonated in New Mexico at the Trinity site in 1945, before being used against Japan a few weeks later. The power of the bomb and potential disastrous effects is one of the main elements of the Cold War. It led to an era of extreme anxiety that the end could happen at any moment. There was also a fear of what the bombs would do to the environment and creatures. The classic sci-fi film Them! Plays on this fear, with giant ants that had been affected by the first bomb that wreak havoc on the citizens near the Trinity site.
The film is almost 70 years old and if you’re able to get over the dated effects, the black and white picture, and hammy acting then there is a lot to enjoy. Switch off and let the film draw you in with terror and suspense. The film starts with two policemen finding a lone girl wandering through the desert in a state of shock. They find a trailer a little way down the road with one side blown from the inside. A few miles down the road the local shop has been attacked with the owner left dead.
The characters are all wholesome and work together to investigate the problem. They bring in a doctor and his daughter to help discover what has caused the incidents. When they first propose that its giant ants, no one really seems surprised. The whole way through people just go along with it. When the ants move to L.A., it’s broadcast over the TV and radio what’s happening and people on the streets just stand there and absorb the information. It does feel kind of strange, but it’s also gives more time to focus on the monsters. The recent American Godzilla films spend way too much dealing with the people, especially the 2014 one.
The ants, when the do finally appear, look pretty good. It’s primitive by today’s standards and the effects are a little laughable but if you can switch of your mind or have a phobia of ants in the first place, then they get the job done. The acting is the same, it’s passable and gets everything done.
Them! is a classic sci-fi monster film that’s still entertaining and enjoyable today, almost seventy years after its release. It helped build the genre of nuclear monsters and deserves a lot of credit for that. Whether you enjoy this, or find it mind-numbingly boring, purely depends on whether you like monster films. This is a very good one and if you’re a fan of the genre and want to see some of the early greats, then this is a great place to start.