Celebrating B Movies, Cult Films, and Indie Classics.

Them! (1954)

by  |  April 27th, 2011  |  Sci Fi

World War 2, a time that tested men’s souls, a conflict that stemmed from the greed and corruption of the last gasp of dictatorial imperialism.  Also truly the last most bloodiest conflict to have engulfed this entire planet!  A true example of Good Vs. Evil…

Unfortunately though, one of the side effects of this battle of wills, this fight against Good Vs. Evil is a problem that still effects mankind today, the advent of Nuclear Weaponry!

With that said, one of the theories that has circulated amongst people all over the world, an idea that has been popularized in Hollywood’s atomic monster movies, is the idea that in the after math of an atomic war, insects would rule the earth (When I originally heard it, they mentioned it in the form of cockroaches, but for the sake of this recommendation…) In this case switch Cockroaches for Ants and switch the aftermath of the Atomic War for during the Cold War…

With that in mind, before Ants were terrorizing Joan Collins (Rules Of Engagement) and Robert Lansing (Kung Fu: The Legend Continues) in the Florida Everglades in Empire Of The Ants (1977), Ants were terrorizing the country in a great little gem, an influential piece known as… Them!

Written by: Ted Sherdeman (Latitude Zero), Russell S. Hughes (Flight), George Worthing Yates (King Kong Vs. Godzilla) and Directed by: Gordon Douglas (Viva Knievel).   Starring: James Whitmore (CSI: Crime Scene Investigations), Edmund Gwenn (Alfred Hitchcock Presents), Joan Weldon (Home Before Dark), James Arness (Gunsmoke: One Man’s Justice) and Onslow Stevens (The Couch) Sean McClory (Body Bags)

Them! tells the story of what could happen as the side effect of the use of atomic weaponry…

What do I mean by this? Simply put, in 1945 during the time period in which the Manhattan Project is busy discovering what they need to complete the atomic bomb, so that history can take its already known course towards ending the second world war, test detonations are being done in deserts in the United States on Atomic Weaponry!

An Atomic Blast.

The story in regards to the movie though has to do with the fact that about 8 or 9 years after these tests, remaining errant radiation from the tests of these nuclear weapons seeps in to a colony of Ants, that ultimately ends up mutating these creatures in to a species that is not only larger then man, but could in reality give humanity a run for it’s money!

The story begins to take shape you see, when a the State Police one day are out combing the New Mexican desert in search of a reportedly lost little girl.  When the State Police finally catch up to the girl, State Police Officer Sgt. Ben Peterson (Whitmore) runs up to the girl (Played by: Sandy Descher) and after discovering that it is actually futile to talk to her, guides her over to the cruiser where Trooper Ed Blackburn is taking a call from their headquarters about a camper and a car that has been discovered in the desert that appears to have been wrecked…

Fearing that this might be the little girl’s family camper, the 3 of them hop in to the Police cruiser and take off toward the Camper. When they arrive there, and with the girl fast asleep against Sgt. Peterson’s side, Trooper Blackburn goes ahead and investigates the scene… Of course that is until he makes the discovery of… Well his life time anyway! Blackburn calls Sgt. Peterson over to the scene…

State Police Sgt. Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) and Trooper Ed Blackburn who are investigating the mangled RV...

After Peterson gets the little girl settled comfortably, Peterson heads over to where Blackburn is and both are dumbfounded at the scene in front of them but they begin to investigate anyway. You see not only is the camper wrecked, but it looks like at least one side of it is thoroughly demolished!  As a matter of fact, it looks like that same side had literally been ripped out so that something could get in!

Confused at the scene, and not really certain what to do, Sgt. Peterson decides to call in a regular CSI unit to do what they do, and he also calls for an ambulance to pick up the little girl. During this time Sgt. Peterson and Trooper Blackburn decide to head off to talk to the man who owns the local general store, to see if he might know anything…

Of course when they get their, the same type of carnage that happened at the site of that camper happened at the general store… They investigate the scene, and notice that the same type of thing seems to have happened at the general store, that happened at the camper, in that a side of the general store had (like the camper) also been ripped off its side! Another fact is that both the camper site and the general store had sugar spread all over the place, also that at both crime scenes, no money had been taken!

With no clue of what to do, Sgt. Peterson decides to leave Trooper Blackburn to wait their, while he heads back to headquarters, and to wait for the crime scene team that he is going to be sending their way!

Trooper Blackburn heading out to investigate a weird noise...

After Sgt. Peterson gets back to his office, he discovers the news that his partner was also killed (This of course upsets Peterson, who sets his mind to the task at hand.) He also comes to discover from the officer that is briefing him about the situation, that the family from the destroyed camper was in fact an FBI Agent and his family who had been on vacation, and that the girl they had discovered was a member of that family.

Now that the FBI is involved, they send Agent Robert Graham to investigate the matter… Of course Graham is useless because the crime turns out to not have been committed by a human being!  This prompts the government to send a couple of scientists by the name of Dr. Harold Medford (Gwenn) and his daughter Dr. Patricia ‘Pat’ Medford, who specialize most directly in the study of bugs.

During this time the Doctors, Sgt. Peterson and Agent Graham go out and investigate the desert, looking for clues to prove Harold Medford’s theory that the attacks have been committed by mutated Ants… This investigation comes to its conclusion when the group is attacked by one of the mutated Ants!

This is when the Military is called in to begin the process of exterminating this threat…

Dr. Harold Medford as he is coordinating the destruction of the mutant Ants!

Now the group which is ultimately being lead by Dr. Harold Medford, but also comprises at this point Sgt. Peterson, Agent Graham, Brigadier General Robert O’Brien (Stevens) and Major Kibbee (McClory) come to discover  the tunnel entrance that leads to the cavernous recesses that make up the Ant’s usually tiny kingdom (Of course in this case the kingdom has caverns that can fit a large human really comfortably.)

After some discussion, they decide to exterminate the lot of them, and set out to the Ants hole to do just that.  After Sgt. Peterson, Agent Graham, and Patrica Medford end their reign of destruction in the Ant’s caves, they come to a couple of egg sacks that at one point had held Queen Ants in them (The newborn Queen Ants having grabbed some males to mate with, and taken off before the damage that Peterson and his crew had done to the society.)

After the Ants settle in the Los Angeles sewer system, it is now up to Sgt. Peterson, Agent Graham, the Medford family, and the U.S. Military to stop this threat, and to stop it quietly, before it gets out of control, and eventually leads to the Ants being the dominant species on Earth…

The city of Los Angeles in 1954 as it is being infested by Giant mutated Ants...

What I do strongly like about this movie and what I also do think makes this movie a truly awesome B movie is as follows:

1. Of course the acting in this movie is superb I mean everyone from James Arness to Sandy Descher played their parts so well, that I am now looking forward to trying out Empire Of The Ants (1977)!  Also look for Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek) in a small uncredited role as well!

2. Another thing that I liked about this film is the fact that I am fairly certain that this movie helped to directly inspire the people who created Alien (1979)  and parts of Aliens (1986), in that I think certain scenes from both Alien movies were inspired from the time that Peterson and his crew spends fighting the mutated Ants.

3.  The last thing that I really like is that being a history fan, and being more so a Military history fan, it was great to see the film version of the U.S. Military that would have fought in World War 2, with their antiquated weaponry, and vehicles being brought to bear on these Ants and kicking their asses!

The last thought that I had that I thought that I would mention here is that if you are looking for a totally kick ass black and white science fiction movie, that I am certain helped to inspire one of the most prolific sci fi/horror films of all times (The Alien series). Then I highly recommend checking this one out! I doubt you will regret it!

Nathan Strack


Nathan Strack is a Writer/Director/Filmmaker & Owner/Founder of: Hell In Space, Strack Web Design Service & Strack Store.

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