Thursday, December 2, 2010

SF meets Police Procedural

You know what I like most about the giant ant movie THEM (1954)? Well, that'd be the giant ants, of course. But what I enjoy the second most is the way the script is structured.

It's an intelligently written story that moves logically from Point A to Point B to Point C, using the structure of a police procedural. Weird stuff happens in a remote New Mexican area. The local sheriff (James Whitmore) looks into things as stuff moves from weird to bizarre and a number of people are killed. Soon, Whitmore is joined by federal agent James Arness and cranky scientist Edmund Gwenn. They soon discover a really, really big ant nest full of really, really big ants--mutated by atomic radiation.

Poison gas takes care of the nest, but a couple of queens have already hatched and flown off. One lands on a ship at sea--another takes refuge in the Los Angeles sewer system. If not found and destroyed before another batch of eggs hatch, the world is pretty much doomed.

The special effects are largely very good (though there are a few instances in which the giant puppets being used aren't quite mobile enough to be convincing) and the excellent cast plays the whole movie straight as they follow up a series of clues to track down the queen ants. It's a great way to structure a film, giving it a semi-documentary feel that adds to the versimilitude and suspense to an enjoyable monster film.

Fun fact about this movie: Fess Parker has a brief role as a pilot who's locked away in a psycho ward after he claims to have seen a giant flying ant. It was seeing Parker in this film that convinced Walt Disney to cast him in his upcoming Davy Crockett episodes on the Wonderful World of Disney. Considering how successful those episodes were (both artistically and commercially), we have all the more reason to be grateful to those giant ants.

More on Davy Crockett, by the way, next week.


  1. Don't forget that Leonard Nimoy also made an appearance as an Army Sergeant in the film.

  2. Wow. I never noticed him!!! Now I'll have to watch it again to see if I can spot him. Mr. Nimoy just becomes cooler all the time, doesn't he?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...