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As has been my habit of late, I'm catching-up on old movies I remember
from my youth seen on the screen at the time of release or remembered
from '60s-'80s replays on late-night television. Watching them on a
widescreen TV in DVD format with surround sound and, of course, with
the benefit of hindsight, it becomes a whole new experience.
THEM! is a wonderful Cold-War era movie which manages, without trying, to prove that modern SF blockbusters owe much to their (especially) '50s progenitors. Given the limited budget of B-Grade movies they manage to thrill across the generations - even while remakes and plagiaristic sequences abound and dazzle contemporary audiences.
The 'storm-drain' sequence in T2 is a prime example, as is the 'egg burning' scenario in ALIEN, complete with flamethrowers. You saw them first in THEM!, folks. The 'isolated and mysteriously-wrecked gas station/general store' is another stolen moment from THEM! and has appeared in many movies - even the X-FILES. Wearing the flame-retardant suits and the breathing-apparatuses to attack 'the nest' pops up in EVOLUTION. And so it goes.
There are some excellent actors in this film - most of whom are B-Grade stalwarts (James Whitmore and James Arness for example) - and they play it straight. No 'camping-it-up' for these heroes! I even spotted a young Leonard Nimoy as an Airforce sergeant. Fess Parker as the confused witness of the 'ant-shaped UFOs' offers both light-hearted humour and the prototype for the innocent caught in a cover-up: he's left in the mental hospital as a deranged psychotic as per the suggestion put to his doctor. How many times have we seen this since? Even the little girl, a traumatised survivor of the attack on her parents' trailer-home, has resonances in the character of a similar survivor in ALIENS.
OK, the irradiated monsters/ants are pretty hokey, but see my remark re small budgets. CGI didn't exist then.
I'd place this production alongside such classics as INVADERS FROM MARS and the British QUATERMASS (trilogy?) which also terrorised my generation. We were children in a time when the world seemed doomed to nuclear destruction and our homes ripe for invasion by THEM!, regardless of who (yes, I know, the Communists) or what (monsters created by our cavalier use of technology) would be invading. And, strangely, nothing has changed, except that postmodern children seem to have lost their innocence in a demonstrably violent and insane milieu. As I stated before, these movies, in hindsight have lost none of their power. The themes remain the same.
"Them" is simply one of the most influential films of all time. This was the first film to deal with our fears of the atomic age and the what if scenario of what our continued testing and use of nuclear arms and how they would affect mother nature. Within the next few years we were bombarded with giant locusts, lizards and mutated humans of all sorts. In fact, this film was the inspiration for "Godzlla" (or "Gojira" as he is known in Japan). In fact, the giant insects in "Rodan" were a directly inspired by "Them". This film also works as a murder mystery as well. In the first half hour, the viewer thinks that he is looking at a whodunnit until the appearance of the giant ants. This film works on so many different levels that it still holds up well nearly fifty years after it was first released.
I'm glad to read so many intelligent, positive reviews of a 1950s
sci-fi giant monster-type flick, most of which are so bad they are
laughable. Not this one: this one earns all the praise.
Why does this film in the midst of so many bad efforts of the genre and time period get rated so highly?
1 - A good cast: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn and James Arness are all pretty famous actors who do a fine job here,; 2 - Good special effects, meaning they still look pretty real over 50 years later; 3 - A pretty intelligent script, certainly far better than its competitors; 4 - None of the standard stupid love interest to take away from the storyline; 5 - Just the right amount of action, and finally, 6 - It keeps your interest all the way through. No lulls and genuinely suspenseful.
If I were to write a review something along the lines of: "Them! is
awesome because it depicts giant irradiated ants, and giant irradiated
ants are cool", I'd probably be shot. Either way, 'Them!' is a great
'Them!, to my knowledge, would be one of the earliest sci-fi movies to look at the consequences of nuclear technology. 'The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms' was released a year earlier in 1953, and 'Gojira' was released months after 'Them!', and arguably became the most successful of the three, but don't discount the impact 'Them!' had.
The film opens in New Mexico. Several people seem to bitten the desert dust when some police officers find the prototype for Newt from 'Aliens'. After an investigation, a nest of giant ants is discovered. The ants were mutated by atomic testing, and are responsible for the local deaths.
Like the 'Beast From 20,000 Fathoms' and 'Gojira', 'Them!' played on Cold War fears of the consequences of using nuclear weapons. The story may not be as relevant today as it was during the 50s, but as a student of history I find it rather interesting. And as a fan of action and sci-fi, 'Them!' has obviously had influences on 'Aliens', 'Starship Troopers', 'Terminator 2', and other movies.
'Them!' is a great sci-fi movie. It is a shame that many people my age would avoid it due to its age, it being in black and white, and not having special-effects on the level of the 'Matrix' - 9/10
Until I watched ,Them!, I thought all 50's giant monster/bug films were hilariously bad horror attempts consisting of bad acting, bad monsters, and bad everything really! This film is entirely different. It starts off really eerily with a wandering child in shock in the desert and from there on , it builds up into a masterpiece of good acting, and amazing special effects! Yes! The special effects WERE good! Well, for the fifties! They weren't like other pathetic paper mache model films like: The Giant Claw, or, The attack of the Crab Monsters. These monsters actually looked like an effort had been made on them. I have to say I was taken aback by this suspenseful fifties success and was pleased in every way. Enjoy!
The marauding ants in "Naked Jungle," advancing across a desert, are
matched by the monsters in "Them!" coming out through mists of the
white sands of New Mexico after an atomic blast has increased them to
Slowly people start to go missing and the news filters though to the nearest towns that the arid plateau can present a real threat as strange creepy whistles are coming out from that deep desert
Rather than an atomic movie, the film is about the struggle between humans and species revolt which invade their cities and show their remarkable energy, tenacity and vulnerability
Just as the Gill Man can only be driven back when he has isolated far from his natural element, the monster ants are all powerful in their own territory and none too easy to destroy outside it
"Them!" is well acted, frightening, and engaging from start to finish The cast is pretty damn good, especially James Whitmore as the pretty intelligent cop who found a five year old girl, aimlessly walking through the terrain of the desert miles from her family's wrecked travel trailerunresponsive by some catastrophe...
"Them!" is a well-made monster movie, an instant classic nominated for an Oscar for its effects
Probably the best of the 50's mutated insects/animals/humans films. One of the reasons is that the acting is superb. In this film, the entire cast is absolutely top notch, led by James Whitmore as the policeman with a BIG problem. Of course, Edmund Gwenn is terrific as the lead scientist......always delightful in any part, he handles his role with a bit of humor in the midst of death and destruction. Even the smaller parts are handled well. Sandy Descher as the traumatized child is very affecting and is the first to say "Them" in reference to the giant ants. The special effects are not bad for a 50's film....... in fact pretty good for a 50's film. The script is literate and you can almost believe the premise of radiated mutated ants. Regardless of whether you believe it or not, this is a film that everybody who loves 50's sci fi movies should see. You might develop a fear of ants after this one!!!
Of all the films of this genre (1950's cold war paranoia, aliens, monsters
and atomic mutations) that I have seen, THEM! is by far the best. Yes, it
certainly has the 'plot' of countless other films (Big _________s caused
radiation) and the square-jawed heroes, but THEM! goes beyond
Despite the fact that it was intended to be shot in color, this film seems more natural in b&w. The lighting holds THEM! together. Particularly in the desert 'tension' scenes and the finale in the flood drains of LA. The acting is fine, definetly not wooden-a trait which plagues this genre. Thankfully, other than the something-exposed-to-radiation-must-become-a-larger-something thing, the film doesn't get muddled in pseudo-science and gibberish thus killing any anxiety with un-intended laughs. Some people might even learn something about ants (and giant ants).
This movie builds your anxiety to a minor frenzy. I think the old black and
white did not hinder this sci-fi drama that still holds up well today. The
creepy sound of the desert wind really sets the mood. The other effects
seemed pretty darn good to be in a mid 50s movie. Of course the giant mutant
ants don't look as scary as they did when I was a kid; but they still
provide something to cause a squirm or two.
Mutant ants crawl up from their burrows in the desert of New Mexico. Another product of nuclear testing. They are hungry and are attacking humans as they search out food. Sounds like a movie that would be full of stupid dialog and over acting. Guess again. Understandable, but predictable script with some decent acting. Great example of early sci-fi and can be enjoyed by young and old alike.
The cast includes James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, James Arness, Joan Weldon and a smaller part for Fess Parker.
This is the granddaddy of 'em all, the film that pretty much started giant
bug genre of sci-fi films and spawned countless imitators, none of which are
remotely as good as this one. This movie has pretty much everything going
for it: a literate, atmospheric, extremely well-written script for what is
essentially a B picture (although Warner Brothers put a substantial amount
of cash into it)l outstanding acting jobs by everyone from the leads on down
to the extras; razor-sharp direction by an old pro, Gordon Douglas (by far
his best film; nothing he did before or since was anywhere near as good); a
combination of visual and sound effects guaranteed to creep you out (the
scene where James Whitmore's partner goes outside the wrecked store to
investigate the strange noises he hears is among the scariest things you'll
ever see). Also, the characters are believable; they act like you know
people would act in the same situation. Edmund Gwenn isn't the typical
befuddled scientist you see in these films; he may be a tad distracted at
times, but he gets down to business when the situation calls for it. Joan
Weldon, his daughter, isn't just just a pretty face for the leads to fight
over; she's every bit as much a scientist as her father, and she lets that
fact be known right away. There's another level of this film that works
well, too; comedy. Not the slapstick kind, or the stereotypical dumb cop or
cook or crew member (usually from Brooklyn) that pops up in these films, but
there are several lighter moments in the film that really work. Everyone
remembers the wonderful Olin Howlin, the guy in the drunk tank who sings
"Make me a sergeant in charge of the booze!", but there are several other
segements that are equally as lighthearted; the great Dub Taylor playing a
railroad detective suspected of stealing a load of sugar from a railroad car
that the ants have actually done ("You think I stole that sugar? When was
the last time you busted a ring of sugar thieves? You ever heard of a market
for hot sugar?") and another scene in the drunk ward where a patient looks
at the army major accompanying Arness and Whitmore and says, "I wanna get
out of here, general, but I ain't gonna join the army to do it!" The special
effects are first-rate but do not overwhelm the story, as is all too common
in many of today's action films (that is, when there actually IS a story).
There are some truly terrifying scenes (the one where the ants, who have
hidden in the hold of a cargo ship at sea, attack and slaughter the crew),
and I liked the fact that the ants aren't invulnerable--they CAN be killed
(it just takes a lot more effort)--and also that they actually act like
ants. All they're doing is just what real ants would actually do--which
makes things even scarier, given that we know how single-minded and vicious
real ants can actually be.
All in all, this is a trailblazing film that attempts to work on several levels--as a sci-fi film, as a mystery, as an action film--and succeeds admirably in every one.
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