Greatest Golden Age Sci-Fi Movies - 1954: Them!
Them! was the first, and arguably the best film in a long series based on the dangers posed by animals (especially insects) who due to some reason (mostly radioactivity... this was the Fifties after all) become gigantic rampaging monsters.
The motion picture begins as a mystery novel: a little girl, in a state of shock, wanders into the desert, and two policemen find the girl's parents dead nearby. Who or what was the cause of the death of the parents was not clear, but soon a certain strange "something" that makes a weird noise kills one of the policemen who had remained recklessly alone. Soon many others are dead as the mystery thickens, until a pair of scientists ( Edmund Gwenn and Joan Weldon) finally manage to discover the cause: gigantic ants, whose mutations were caused by atomic radiation (told ya...).
After lots of carnage and the prototypical Fifties science fiction movie scientific "research" and corpse filled struggle, the ants nest is found and they are finally killed, but not before munching on a Peckinpah-ish or even Tarantino-ish number of dead bodies.
This is a difficult movie to watch more than five decades after its release, since this seems to be the zenith of the naivete of the American filmgoing public. There is a fair amount of standing around wondering what type of creature could possibly have caused such widespread mayhem, while modern audiences would immediately jump to the conclusion that it's a giant something or other. But we have to realize that this sort of gigantic monster thing was a novelty in 1954, and it certainly was shocking in that day and age.
Today, the suspense of the first part of the film would possibly hold up to scrutiny but it is very unfortunate that the sudden appearance of the first giant ant would not so much frighten the viewer as create more than a few belly laughs. After all, we're now accustomed to giant creatures, whether they be the Hulk or the weird Cloverfield monster, displayed in all of their advanced state of the art CGI glory. The ants in Them! reflect that motion picture special effects technology has advanced a lot in fifty years.
Regardless of the fact that it is a movie that did not age well, the essence of Them! It was an interesting creative choice to focus the plot on the discovery of the giant ants, and how to find and destroy them, rather than repetitive and unoriginal scenes of massacres with blood and gore spurting as the ants chow down on innocent bystanders, as would be more likely to happen in a modern screenplay.
Ted Sherdeman (for the screenplay)
Russell S. Hughes (adaptation) (as Russell Hughes)
George Worthing Yates (for the story)
Police Sgt. Ben Peterson - James Whitmore
Dr. Harold Medford - Edmund Gwenn
Dr. Patricia 'Pat' Medford - Joan Weldon
Robert Graham - James Arness
Brig. Gen. Robert O'Brien - Onslow Stevens
Maj. Kibbee - Sean McClory
Trooper Ed Blackburn - Chris Drake
The Ellinson Girl - Sandy Descher
Mrs. Lodge (as Mary Ann Hokanson) - Mary Alan Hokanson
Trooper Capt. Fred Edwards - Don Shelton
Alan Crotty - Fess Parker
Jensen (as Olin Howlin) - Olin Howland