October Review – “Them!”

I hope you like bugs.

Cast and Crew Information

James Whitmore as Sgt. Ben Peterson
Edmund Gwenn as Dr. Harold Medford
Joan Weldon as Dr. Patricia Medford
James Arness as Robert Graham
Fess Parker as Alan Crotty

Written by Russell S. Hughes, Ted Sherdeman and George Worthington Yates
Directed by Gordon Douglas

Availability Information

Available on DVD from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

Premise

Nine years after the Los Alamos test bomb, mutated ants over nine feet long start to establish themselves in the New Mexico desert, turning carnivorous when food supplies dwindle.

High Point

Edmund Gwenn’s role as the crotchety old scientist. He did a great job in this.

Low Point

The special effects really didn’t age well.

The Review

As an adaptation, its originality is limited. However, it is one of the earliest of the multitude of “big bug” movies that followed over the next decade. I give it 4 out of 6.

The effects are so bad I wonder if they were even passable in 1954. The ants do not look remotely realistic at any time throughout the film. I give it 2 out of 6.

The story actually works, if you accept the power of the nuclear bugaboo to kick things off in the first place. This is the only thing that must be accepted to enjoy the movie; all other actions, decisions, and consequences follow naturally under these conditions. This is a significant difference between this and most other horror flicks. I give it 5 out of 6.

The acting is actually pretty good, which is also a surprise in this particular genre. The actors, particularly Gwenn and Whitmore, are entirely convincing in their roles. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production is well done. The lighting, editing and camera work create a genuinely creepy atmosphere, right down to an unearthly noise from the creatures themselves. I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response is actually quite good. It really does feel creepy, and rather disturbing. The dry wit of Gwenn provides needed relief with some excellent timing. It only falters when the creatures are actually on screen, which isn’t all that often. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, this is a horror movie that actually survives the decades in most respects. I recommend it. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Them! receives 29 out of 42.

2 replies on “October Review – “Them!””

  1. chad says:

    The laws of physics applied to old scifi movies

    See: Dr. Fun 1998-05-08

    "Hey buddy – around these parts we’ve got a little something called the square cubed law."

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    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: The laws of physics applied to old scifi movies

      "Hey buddy – around these parts we’ve got a little something called the square cubed law."

      This one reminds me of The Thing in some ways. The filmmakers took the material seriously and wrote and directed it as though it were a movie, and not a drive-in Sci-Fi movie. To slightly alter fiz’s review, "if you accept the power of the nuclear bugaboo to kick things off" and the ability of giant insects to continue functioning, the story pretty much follows logically.

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