“Here’s one for Sherlock Holmes: there was enough formic acid in him to kill twenty men.”
A policeman (James Whitmore), an FBI agent (James Arness), and a father-daughter scientist team (Edmund Gwenn and Joan Weldon) investigate the sudden appearance of atomically super-sized ants in the New Mexico desert.
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this classic mutant monster B-flick “ranks with The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers as the best of the countless fifties science fiction films”. Tautly directed by Gordon Douglas (Peary calls it the “best” of his “many films”), the “intelligent, entertaining script” by Ted Sherdeman never drags. The narrative neatly shifts from mystery mode in its truly eerie opening sequence (of “a little girl in shock, wandering through the New Mexico desert”), to tense police procedural a la “the classic fifties TV” show “Dragnet” (as a series of “oddball witnesses” are questioned), to full-on war against the ants and then a “thrilling finale” in which “Whitmore and Arness search the sewer system for the ants and attempt to rescue two boys who are trapped inside”.
While fans of ’50s “creature feature” films are a ready-made audience for movies like this, all-purpose film fanatics will likely find much here to enjoy as well. As Peary notes, Them! (great title) possesses “believable characters and a particularly fine performance by Whitmore”, who struggles throughout the film with guilt from “allowing” his partner to be killed in one of the opening sequences. The special effects are noticeably impressive, with the mutant ants — “products of nuclear bomb-testing” who “are ravaging the area” and may bring about the end of mankind on Earth if they’re not stopped in time — coming across as menacing rather than corny. However, if you’re in the mood for laughs, there’s plenty of campy and/or corny dialogue to enjoy — though it’s just as easy to watch and listen with a straight face.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- The incredibly disturbing opening sequence
- Creepy special effects
- Fine performances throughout
Yes, as a classic sci-fi thriller.