» » Them! (1954)

Short summary

In the New Mexico desert, Police Sgt. Ben Peterson and his partner find a child wandering in the desert and sooner they discover that giant ants are attacking the locals. FBI agent Robert Graham teams up with Ben and with the support of Dr. Harold Medford and his daughter Dr. Patricia 'Pat' Medford, they destroy the colony of ants in the middle of the desert. Dr. Harold Medford explains that the atomic testing in 1945 developed the dangerous mutant ants. But they also discover that two queen ants have flown away to Los Angeles and they are starting a huge colony in the underground of the city. When a mother reports that her two children are missing, the team and the army have a lead to follow. Will they arrive in time to save the children and destroy the colony?

The flamethrowers used in the movie were standard World War II weapons, and were loaned by the U.S. Army. The actors handling the weapons were World War II combat veterans who had used them in battle.

Walt Disney screened the movie because he was interested in casting James Arness as Davy Crockett. However, he was so impressed by Fess Parker as the "Crazy Texan Pilot", that he chose him for the part.

The viewer never sees more than three giant ants at any one time. That is all that were constructed.

In 1998, Joan Weldon revealed that during shooting, the temperature reached one hundred ten degrees Fahrenheit (forty-three degrees Celsius), and both she and Edmund Gwenn were wearing wool clothing. It was even more insufferable for Gwenn, who struggled with advanced arthritis. Although unnoticeable to audiences, he was in pain and was helped off-set by his valet.

The film was originally to have been filmed in color. Two days before shooting began a nervous studio cut the budget, and the film had to be made in black and white. However, in the opening credits, the title is shown in bright red against a black-and-white background.

The old man singing "Make me a Sergeant" is the same actor that played the old man in The Blob (1958) with the thing on his arm. The actor's name was Olin Howland.

Was originally to have been shot in 3-D. Some elements of the 3-D effects, such as the ants having extreme close-ups and the flame throwers shooting straight into the camera, were used. Although the second eye print was filmed, it was never struck,and likely destroyed later.

The sound that the giant ants make as they approach their prey is a recorded chorus of bird-voiced tree frogs (Hyla avivoca) of the southeastern U.S. Occasionally, a gray tree frog (Hyla chrysoscelis) can be heard on the soundtrack as well, as these species can often be heard together at the same wetland. These distinctive whistling-type sounds were re-used in various other films in the years that followed, particularly in Mohawk (1956) and The Black Scorpion (1957).

Director Gordon Douglas recalled that during editing, "I asked the editor, 'How does it look?' And he said, 'Fine.' I said, 'Does it look honest?' He said, 'As honest as twelve-foot ants can look'."

The B-25H Mitchell bomber transporting the doctors Medford was actually the personal transport for a two-star general. This aircraft was registered as N1203, and was also a camera plane for Catch-22 (1970). The pilot seen taxiing this aircraft in the opening scene appeared to be Paul Mantz, the famous Hollywood movie stunt pilot. He was killed filming the Phoenix P1 airplane seen in The Flight of the Phoenix (1965).

When this movie was first released in Sweden, it was strangely named "Spindlarna", which translates as "The Spiders".

The subterranean chase scenes in He Walked by Night (1948) convinced a Warner Brothers executive to use the storm drain tunnels under Los Angeles, California for the climactic scenes in this film. The original story idea to have the giant ants invade New York City's subway system was scuttled partly due to budget constraints, but mainly because of the horrified reaction of New York City Transportation Secretary William J. Daley to such a suggestion.

No giant ant is seen until twenty-eight minutes in, more than one quarter of the way through the movie.

The camera Dr. Pat Medford (Joan Weldon) was using in the helicopter was a Stereo Realist, which was a 35mm format stereoscopic (3-D) still camera. This is both perfectly natural and ironic, since the film itself was originally planned as a 3-D release.

Inspired a quest in the game Fallout 3 (2008) titled "Those", in which the player must eliminate a colony of giant fire ants.

Shortly after the helicopter reconnaissance, a meeting opens with an Army officer looking through a Stereo Realist red button viewer. He is evidently looking at 3-D slides taken by Dr. Patricia Medford (Joan Weldon). A second viewer is on the table next to Dr. Medford. This was rather clever product placement, considering the film was originally slated to be shot in 3-D format.

In street scene, when martial law is declared, seen on movie marquee is the title 3 Sailors and a Girl. It is also a Warner Brothers film in 1953.

While James Arness starred in this movie, his brother Peter Graves (born Peter Aurness) later starred in one of its many imitators, Beginning of the End (1957).

Regarding the "S.S. Viking" incident, there was no cruiser named "U.S.S. Milwaukee" in commission in the US Navy at the time this film was made. The last ship so named was an Omaha-class light cruiser (CL-5) which was commissioned in 1923 and scrapped in 1949 after service in World War II in both the U.S. and Soviet navies. The next ship named "Milwaukee" would be a Wichita-class replenishment oiler (AOR-2) that would be in service from 1969 until her decommissioning in 1994. Her name was stricken from the Navy's list in 1997, and as of 2007, she is awaiting final disposal at the James River Reserve Fleet, Fort Eustis, VA.

This film is mentioned in Stephen King's famous best-selling novel, "It."

In the movie, James Whitmore and James Arness battle the giant ants with machine guns, flamethrowers, and bazookas, while wearing Army uniforms, although neither of their characters is technically a soldier. (Whitmore is a New Mexico State Trooper, and Arness is an F.B.I. Agent.) However, Whitmore and Arness had previously appeared together as soldiers in combat in Battleground (1949).

Warner Brothers initially passed on this picture and expressed little interest. However, when Paramount offered to pick it up, Warners dropped their objection, although they eventually eliminated the 3-D and color aspects. It's hard to understand their little faith in the picture, since The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Ray Harryhausen's first solo effort, had been one of Warner's biggest hits just the year before (1953).

WILHELM SCREAM: Can be heard four times. When the giant ants attack the crew of the ship at sea, when Police Sgt. Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) was throttled by a giant ant, when a soldier is struck by falling debris in the sewer and when James Arness gets separated from the rest of the Army and ants try to attack him. The ceiling falls in, and while he is reloading his weapon an ant tries to attack him. There's also a scream off-screen from Peterson's partner, Ed Blackburn, when he investigates the sounds made by the ants.

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Hbr
    Them was the best giant bug movie. It was about giant ants and started a horde of pathetic clones that followed it, but none have even come close to matching this movie's effectiveness.

    Atomic testing in New Mexico that went on in 1945 creates a horde of giant ants. It is up to a group of scientists, a police officer, and the military to stop these creatures from spreading throughout the USA and killing off the human race.

    This movie is not only a horror movie, but it also makes a point about the dangers of atomic testing. Much like Japan's Godzilla, Them finds nothing good in radiation testing or atomic bombs. There is even a monologue at the end of the movie which explains that things have changed now that we have entered the Atomic age.

    James Whitmore, James Arness, Joan Weldon, and Edmund Gwenn give good performances as the heroes who are out to save mankind, along with the U.S. military police. The pacing was rather good as well, slowing down when things need to be explained, and then picking up when the giant ants are on screen.

    Though the special effects seem cheesy by todays standards, I thought they were rather effective in this movie and memorable for 1954. This movie definitely looks best in black and white because it adds a haunting feeling to the desolation of the desert where the creatures are first found, and it also makes other scenes in the movie seem darker and sinister. Definitely a thumbs up in my opinion.
  • comment
    • Author: Xig
    The marauding ants in "Naked Jungle," advancing across a desert, are matched by the monsters in "Them!" coming out through mists of the white sands of New Mexico after an atomic blast has increased them to giants…

    Slowly people start to go missing and the news filters though to the nearest towns that the arid plateau can present a real threat as strange creepy whistles are coming out from that deep desert…

    Rather than an atomic movie, the film is about the struggle between humans and species revolt which invade their cities and show their remarkable energy, tenacity and vulnerability…

    Just as the Gill Man can only be driven back when he has isolated far from his natural element, the monster ants are all powerful in their own territory and none too easy to destroy outside it…

    "Them!" is well acted, frightening, and engaging from start to finish… The cast is pretty damn good, especially James Whitmore as the pretty intelligent cop who found a five year old girl, aimlessly walking through the terrain of the desert— miles from her family's wrecked travel trailer—unresponsive by some catastrophe...

    "Them!" is a well-made monster movie, an instant classic nominated for an Oscar for its effects…
  • comment
    • Author: Delirium
    This is the kind of stuff I grew up on as a kid, watching science fiction and horror movies on TV which had been originally released in the 1940s and 50s. The 1950s was a golden age of science fiction movies, and THEM! was one of the very best. Good casting, dialog, and storyline, and commendable special effects for the time. Although the "atomic-radiation-causing-terrible-mutations" was a standard device in 50s sci fi (THE DEADLY MANTIS, IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA, and others), it was a workable one, and given that the ants were from the same area of desert where the first atomic blast occurred, it had just enough plausibility. I also like the little touches of humor and banter between characters. There was even a little bit of cheesecake when the young Dr. Medford (Joan Weldon) gets her skirt caught when descended from the plane, revealing a pair of shapely legs. This is one I keep going back to on rainy Saturday afternoons! A gem of its kind.
  • comment
    • Author: Thetalune
    This is the granddaddy of 'em all, the film that pretty much started giant bug genre of sci-fi films and spawned countless imitators, none of which are remotely as good as this one. This movie has pretty much everything going for it: a literate, atmospheric, extremely well-written script for what is essentially a B picture (although Warner Brothers put a substantial amount of cash into it)l outstanding acting jobs by everyone from the leads on down to the extras; razor-sharp direction by an old pro, Gordon Douglas (by far his best film; nothing he did before or since was anywhere near as good); a combination of visual and sound effects guaranteed to creep you out (the scene where James Whitmore's partner goes outside the wrecked store to investigate the strange noises he hears is among the scariest things you'll ever see). Also, the characters are believable; they act like you know people would act in the same situation. Edmund Gwenn isn't the typical befuddled scientist you see in these films; he may be a tad distracted at times, but he gets down to business when the situation calls for it. Joan Weldon, his daughter, isn't just just a pretty face for the leads to fight over; she's every bit as much a scientist as her father, and she lets that fact be known right away. There's another level of this film that works well, too; comedy. Not the slapstick kind, or the stereotypical dumb cop or cook or crew member (usually from Brooklyn) that pops up in these films, but there are several lighter moments in the film that really work. Everyone remembers the wonderful Olin Howlin, the guy in the drunk tank who sings "Make me a sergeant in charge of the booze!", but there are several other segements that are equally as lighthearted; the great Dub Taylor playing a railroad detective suspected of stealing a load of sugar from a railroad car that the ants have actually done ("You think I stole that sugar? When was the last time you busted a ring of sugar thieves? You ever heard of a market for hot sugar?") and another scene in the drunk ward where a patient looks at the army major accompanying Arness and Whitmore and says, "I wanna get out of here, general, but I ain't gonna join the army to do it!" The special effects are first-rate but do not overwhelm the story, as is all too common in many of today's action films (that is, when there actually IS a story). There are some truly terrifying scenes (the one where the ants, who have hidden in the hold of a cargo ship at sea, attack and slaughter the crew), and I liked the fact that the ants aren't invulnerable--they CAN be killed (it just takes a lot more effort)--and also that they actually act like ants. All they're doing is just what real ants would actually do--which makes things even scarier, given that we know how single-minded and vicious real ants can actually be.

    All in all, this is a trailblazing film that attempts to work on several levels--as a sci-fi film, as a mystery, as an action film--and succeeds admirably in every one.
  • comment
    • Author: Cordantrius
    Them stars James Whitmore as New Mexico Police Sgt. Ben Peterson who discovers a little girl wandering in the desert. He finds her trailer ripped apart and her parents missing. Casts of the strange footprints found at the crime scene are sent to a lab where they catch the attention of father/daughter doctors Medford (Edmund Gwenn and Joan Weldon) who come to New Mexico along with FBI agent Robert Graham (James Arness) to investigate. Dr. Medford has a theory but won't tell Peterson or Graham until he has more proof.

    If you are a fan of sci-fi films, Them is one of the four essential sci-fi films of the 1950s along with The Thing, Day the Earth Stood Still, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It's part crime story, part sci-fi, part horror with crisp dialog and it moves along at a brisk pace. Veteran director Gordon Douglas put together a solid cast of actors and the characters are totally believable. The story is interesting and the sets are outstanding.

    Them was a box office hit in 1954 and it still holds up today if you can forgive the special effects. Them is a movie where any remake would always pale with the original. Highly recommended.
  • comment
    • Author: Tholmeena
    Weird deaths are occurring in the New Mexico desert, it is revealed to be the work of giant mutated ants born out of the A Bomb tests that took place there. Trouble escalates to the big city of Los Angeles when one of the giant queen ants escapes to L.A. and starts laying eggs that could lead to the end of mankind as we know it.

    This is a cautionary tale about scientific tampering fused with a Cold War theme of destroying a threat to the country. Boasting some wonderful scenes such as the first desert encounter (cloaked in a sandstorm) and the final underground battle, Them! is a truly enjoyable viewing experience that oozes the right amount of paranoia that became ever more prominent as the nuclear age grew. The puppetry and special effects on show is of a very high standard for the time (well done Academy Award Nominee Ralph Ayres), and the direction from Gordon Douglas is one of the better efforts in the genre. The tight story vanquishes any gripes about the plausibility factor, while the acting is, perhaps given the type of piece it is, of a surprisingly good standard. With James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, and Joan Weldon giving it a bit of oopmh. Them! went on to become Warner Brothers highest grossing film in 1954, it's really not hard to see why. Because Them! firmly stands up as one of the best films of a sadly much maligned genre. 8/10
  • comment
    • Author: Vikus
    If I were to write a review something along the lines of: "Them! is awesome because it depicts giant irradiated ants, and giant irradiated ants are cool", I'd probably be shot. Either way, 'Them!' is a great movie.

    'Them!, to my knowledge, would be one of the earliest sci-fi movies to look at the consequences of nuclear technology. 'The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms' was released a year earlier in 1953, and 'Gojira' was released months after 'Them!', and arguably became the most successful of the three, but don't discount the impact 'Them!' had.

    The film opens in New Mexico. Several people seem to bitten the desert dust when some police officers find the prototype for Newt from 'Aliens'. After an investigation, a nest of giant ants is discovered. The ants were mutated by atomic testing, and are responsible for the local deaths.

    Like the 'Beast From 20,000 Fathoms' and 'Gojira', 'Them!' played on Cold War fears of the consequences of using nuclear weapons. The story may not be as relevant today as it was during the 50s, but as a student of history I find it rather interesting. And as a fan of action and sci-fi, 'Them!' has obviously had influences on 'Aliens', 'Starship Troopers', 'Terminator 2', and other movies.

    'Them!' is a great sci-fi movie. It is a shame that many people my age would avoid it due to its age, it being in black and white, and not having special-effects on the level of the 'Matrix' - 9/10
  • comment
    • Author: Wel
    I was about 6 years old when i first saw this movie in 1962 or 63. My neighbor, Bill, and my brother watched it with me. I lived in Montrose MI at the time and when it was over my mother told us to go out and play. We resisted her and almost got in trouble for arguing but hey, how can you send three young boys out to face the world after they just watched how giant ants almost took it over? We were scared to death, and hid behind the trees and bushes just watching for them.

    Where have I lived for most part since 1984? Good old Alamogordo NM, home of the giant ants! How destiny does intrude on life. I love the desert and mountains out here (retired from USAF in 1999) and I am very happy to say that there have been no reports of giant ants since I have been here. People always call this the home of Atomic bomb (though they are off by some distance)and I always look them straight in the face and say "What? You mean you never heard of our giant ant problem?"
  • comment
    • Author: BeatHoWin
    As has been my habit of late, I'm catching-up on old movies I remember from my youth seen on the screen at the time of release or remembered from '60s-'80s replays on late-night television. Watching them on a widescreen TV in DVD format with surround sound and, of course, with the benefit of hindsight, it becomes a whole new experience.

    THEM! is a wonderful Cold-War era movie which manages, without trying, to prove that modern SF blockbusters owe much to their (especially) '50s progenitors. Given the limited budget of B-Grade movies they manage to thrill across the generations - even while remakes and plagiaristic sequences abound and dazzle contemporary audiences.

    The 'storm-drain' sequence in T2 is a prime example, as is the 'egg burning' scenario in ALIEN, complete with flamethrowers. You saw them first in THEM!, folks. The 'isolated and mysteriously-wrecked gas station/general store' is another stolen moment from THEM! and has appeared in many movies - even the X-FILES. Wearing the flame-retardant suits and the breathing-apparatuses to attack 'the nest' pops up in EVOLUTION. And so it goes.

    There are some excellent actors in this film - most of whom are B-Grade stalwarts (James Whitmore and James Arness for example) - and they play it straight. No 'camping-it-up' for these heroes! I even spotted a young Leonard Nimoy as an Airforce sergeant. Fess Parker as the confused witness of the 'ant-shaped UFOs' offers both light-hearted humour and the prototype for the innocent caught in a cover-up: he's left in the mental hospital as a deranged psychotic as per the suggestion put to his doctor. How many times have we seen this since? Even the little girl, a traumatised survivor of the attack on her parents' trailer-home, has resonances in the character of a similar survivor in ALIENS.

    OK, the irradiated monsters/ants are pretty hokey, but see my remark re small budgets. CGI didn't exist then.

    I'd place this production alongside such classics as INVADERS FROM MARS and the British QUATERMASS (trilogy?) which also terrorised my generation. We were children in a time when the world seemed doomed to nuclear destruction and our homes ripe for invasion by THEM!, regardless of who (yes, I know, the Communists) or what (monsters created by our cavalier use of technology) would be invading. And, strangely, nothing has changed, except that postmodern children seem to have lost their innocence in a demonstrably violent and insane milieu. As I stated before, these movies, in hindsight have lost none of their power. The themes remain the same.
  • comment
    • Author: Dammy
    "Them" is simply one of the most influential films of all time. This was the first film to deal with our fears of the atomic age and the what if scenario of what our continued testing and use of nuclear arms and how they would affect mother nature. Within the next few years we were bombarded with giant locusts, lizards and mutated humans of all sorts. In fact, this film was the inspiration for "Godzlla" (or "Gojira" as he is known in Japan). In fact, the giant insects in "Rodan" were a directly inspired by "Them". This film also works as a murder mystery as well. In the first half hour, the viewer thinks that he is looking at a whodunnit until the appearance of the giant ants. This film works on so many different levels that it still holds up well nearly fifty years after it was first released.
  • comment
    • Author: Onath
    I'm glad to read so many intelligent, positive reviews of a 1950s sci-fi giant monster-type flick, most of which are so bad they are laughable. Not this one: this one earns all the praise.

    Why does this film in the midst of so many bad efforts of the genre and time period get rated so highly?

    1 - A good cast: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn and James Arness are all pretty famous actors who do a fine job here,; 2 - Good special effects, meaning they still look pretty real over 50 years later; 3 - A pretty intelligent script, certainly far better than its competitors; 4 - None of the standard stupid love interest to take away from the storyline; 5 - Just the right amount of action, and finally, 6 - It keeps your interest all the way through. No lulls and genuinely suspenseful.
  • comment
    • Author: Steelcaster
    It "annoys me that some people call the special effects in this film "bad" or "good for its time". For its time, they were state of the art and personally I can't imagine any better ants on the screen. They look and act real. and they're pretty creepy, enough to keep you looking over your shouldar But what I really love about this movie is the script, which is unusually good for a sci fi of this period and the fact that it all sounds so scientifically possible. I have since learned that it's impossible for insects to grow to a large size even with radiation because they lack lungs to support their bodies, but who knew back then? We didn't know what atomic energy could do and this movie expresses our fears in such a homey way.

    And it may just be the only sci fi where the woman does more than scream and get rescued. She is a scientist and she's no one's fool and she manages to put James Arness in his place when he tells her the ant hill is "no place for a woman". I love it! And every time I watch it, I just feel so bad when James Whitmore dies saving those two kids. He's been with us since the beginning of the movie and he gives his life to rescue them, finally able to right the scales a little over the death of his partner. I just hate that he dies. It's horrifying.

    A great flick.
  • comment
    • Author: Zulkigis
    Until I watched ,Them!, I thought all 50's giant monster/bug films were hilariously bad horror attempts consisting of bad acting, bad monsters, and bad everything really! This film is entirely different. It starts off really eerily with a wandering child in shock in the desert and from there on , it builds up into a masterpiece of good acting, and amazing special effects! Yes! The special effects WERE good! Well, for the fifties! They weren't like other pathetic paper mache model films like: The Giant Claw, or, The attack of the Crab Monsters. These monsters actually looked like an effort had been made on them. I have to say I was taken aback by this suspenseful fifties success and was pleased in every way. Enjoy!
  • comment
    • Author: felt boot
    Probably the best of the 50's mutated insects/animals/humans films. One of the reasons is that the acting is superb. In this film, the entire cast is absolutely top notch, led by James Whitmore as the policeman with a BIG problem. Of course, Edmund Gwenn is terrific as the lead scientist......always delightful in any part, he handles his role with a bit of humor in the midst of death and destruction. Even the smaller parts are handled well. Sandy Descher as the traumatized child is very affecting and is the first to say "Them" in reference to the giant ants. The special effects are not bad for a 50's film....... in fact pretty good for a 50's film. The script is literate and you can almost believe the premise of radiated mutated ants. Regardless of whether you believe it or not, this is a film that everybody who loves 50's sci fi movies should see. You might develop a fear of ants after this one!!!
  • comment
    • Author: Goldenfang
    clearly one the best sci" fi" of the nineteen fiftys, it stands the test of time with truth , justice, and the american way. and best of all the guy gets the girl at the end.the ploit is straight forward , and with acting that is of high quality for a sci" fi" film . hollywood should make " them " like this once again.
  • comment
    • Author: Daron
    Two scenes from "Them" have remained with me for many years since I first saw it. When the younger policeman remains at the wrecked store (I knew, even then--BAD IDEA!) and the squeaky noises are heard and he fires his revolver at "whatever it is," and then he is seen no more--his disappearance is left to the imagination. Later on, when the helicopter flies over a huge anthill opening in the desert, one of the giants comes up to challenge it. The human rib basket it is carrying is dropped and rolls down the hill, coming to rest beside a human skull and a pistol belt. Now we know!

    The second scene has given me nightmares for years. When James Whitmore is boosting the lost boys up into the drainage pipe, the camera switches behind him and the shadow of a huge ant's head is seen ominously approaching. I cannot remember how many times this shadow has invaded my nightmares over the years and awakened me in gasping gratitude when I realize that it was just a nightmare!

    One of my colleagues once told me that she didn't like early sci-fi movies because they are "sexist." Puzzled and amused, I used "Them" as a very good example of how wrong she was. After the first nest is cleaned out, James Arness tells "Pat" that she cannot go down into the burned-out nest to examine the remains. "That's no place for you or any other woman!" he bosses her. To which she replies that her father is not in the best of health, so someone (meaning she) who knows what to look for will have to look over the nest. She gets her way, and rather neatly puts him in his place at the same time! (Okay, so she screams when she sees one of the ants for the first time--wouldn't you?)

    Primitive special effects aside, this is a cracking good film, a classic, with plenty of chills and a good lesson, besides.

    Fess Parker nearly steals the whole film!
  • comment
    • Author: Light out of Fildon
    This movie builds your anxiety to a minor frenzy. I think the old black and white did not hinder this sci-fi drama that still holds up well today. The creepy sound of the desert wind really sets the mood. The other effects seemed pretty darn good to be in a mid 50s movie. Of course the giant mutant ants don't look as scary as they did when I was a kid; but they still provide something to cause a squirm or two.

    Mutant ants crawl up from their burrows in the desert of New Mexico. Another product of nuclear testing. They are hungry and are attacking humans as they search out food. Sounds like a movie that would be full of stupid dialog and over acting. Guess again. Understandable, but predictable script with some decent acting. Great example of early sci-fi and can be enjoyed by young and old alike.

    The cast includes James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, James Arness, Joan Weldon and a smaller part for Fess Parker.
  • comment
    • Author: Gamba
    No science-fiction library is complete without this 1954 classic, probably the best of the mutant creature craze. Sure, the special effects have long been eclipsed by digital, but the suspense holds up as LA mobilizes to defeat the giant killer ants in a battle of the sewers. The opening scenes are among the best of any era. I don't know how director Douglas got little Sandy Descher to emulate wide-eyed speechless shock, but from that moment on the tension rarely lets up. Then too, her single word eruption in the van may be the single scariest moment and a genuine inspiration on somebody's part. I guess it takes a big man to defeat big ants and thank goodness James Arness has switched to our side since menacing the North Pole in The Thing (1951). He, Whitmore, and Gwenn prove to be great pest exterminators though their methods are a little unorthodox, while poor pretty Joan Weldon sort of tags along after the guys in typical 50's style. Note the many nice touches from both the producer and director-- the well-stocked press conference, the army units deploying in the background, the humorous aside from the ugly guy in the hospital. These are the kind of additions that turn a good movie into a memorable one. It's certainly one I've remembered fondly since its enthusiastic 1954 reception, and so will you if you haven't seen it.
  • comment
    • Author: Bukus
    To say this is the best giant bug movie from the 1950's might sound like a backhanded compliment but it's not intended that way. The genre was full of creative and fun popcorn movies during that era. But Them! is something special. It's an intelligent, suspenseful, exciting film. The direction and script are superb. The actors are all great, even those in supporting roles. Edmund Gwenn is the standout. Possibly the most impressive thing about the movie is that the characters are written and acted so well they don't descend into archetypes as often happens in sci-fi and horror films, then and now. Speaking of impressive, how about those special effects? Extraordinary for the time and hold up well today.

    In my opinion it's one of the top ten movies of the 1950's. But then again my top ten would include movies like this, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Thing From Another World, and The Day the Earth Stood Still over the likes of Marty and Streetcar. I would recommend Them! to anyone, not just genre fans.
  • comment
    • Author: Anayajurus
    This film had a common theme for 50's sci-fi - that of man playing around with atomic power causing extreme adverse impacts on the global environment. Here James Arness plays an FBI agent and Edmund Gwenn is a Ph.D. from the Department of Agriculture, both of whom are sent out to help solve the cases of a group of small town New Mexico murders and disappearances that don't make sense to local law enforcement. This film is overtly judgmental of man's recklessness with nuclear technology and discusses the possibility that there is more to the after effect of the atomic testing that went on there in 1945 than just the immediate destruction of the blast. In this case, mutations in the form of giant ants are linked to those first atomic experiments.

    Although the public probably wasn't afraid of actual giant insects in the 1950's, as a result of the cold war and nuclear technology, the atomic age certainly made the stars of past horror films - vampires and werewolves - look tame in comparison by opening up a whole new horizon of horrific possibilities. Highly recommended.
  • comment
    • Author: Narim
    I first saw THEM! when it came out in 1954. I was ten years old. Several weeks later, I woke up shaking and sweating because I heard the sound of the giant ants outside. As it got closer I peeked out my bedroom window in time to see a car drive by, accompanied by the sound. It was a squeaking fan belt! That sound still scares me to this day, although not nearly as severely.

    Whenever I see the movie listed on a cable channel, I find myself watching it. There are several movies I cannot pass up when they appear on cable, but this is the only horror (monster, scary, etc.) movie that affects me this way.

    Truly a masterpiece of this genre!
  • comment
    • Author: Gralsa
    Them! is a grand movie with a growing threat that is set in the here and now of the nineteen-fifties age of nuclear science reality and science-fiction. Combing the two, we have a wonderful fable of just how this new dawn of the Atomic age can go awry. The interesting point here is this film takes and uses actual events, such as the atomic weapon testing at New Mexico's military base, the White Sands Missile Range, and references the first nuclear bomb test: Trinity, during 1945. Later that same year the US proceeded to use this new age weaponry to end World War II by atomising both Japans Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Adding fact's aftermath of nuclear fallout in the New Mexico desert and fictions theories of the possibilities of its consequence, this George Worthing Yates (1901 - 1975) story, who too penned It Came from Beneath the Sea, and the directional skills of Gordon Douglas (1907 - 1993) has given a sizable account of a vision of man's need to advance and conquer. Ironically, this may not be the case, for what crawls out of the ashes of progress is a far greater danger than man's own destructive minds. Nature has claimed her right to survive and with it, a man-made travesty of epic proportions.

    Ants, victim of the Trinity bomb test nine years previously, have grown to a gigantic size and are now roaming the desert of New Mexico. Rummaging for food and killing innocent locals in their path, it is up to the local police force, an FBI agent and two entomologists to take control and save man from his own fate.

    While this genre can be seen, at worst, to be clichéd and predictable, Them! is the poplar-opposite, and in particular Edmund Gwenn's (1877 - 1956) role as Dr. Harold Medford; the anchor that holds down an intelligent script with strong characters delivering. Its plot is, via its vigour of seriousness, most tense and believable because of the strength of the narrative and cast, in this, it becomes more than an episode of fantasy but an exercise in education, again, fact over fiction.

    However, the mainstay of this feature is, without doubt, the ants themselves, with a menace and structure to pride this genre, and with their own unique eerie soundtrack, they more than deliver the inevitable flair of terror across the screen. They are the newcomers in the world of analogical radiation defects and indifferent, ignorant human altered beasts that would soon burst onto the big screen, such as Ishirô Honda's 1954 analogical antiwar masterpiece Godzilla to the 2006 South Korean creature feature Gwoemul.

    The town's folk of Los Angeles are warned of the threat and a curfew is announced, in reflection, would the baying public have ever known of this predicament if the queen had not escaped in this marvellous film of post-war technological advancement and the reality of Government repression in the form of keeping witnesses "contained"? Mental wards and hospitalisation is the remedy here, in the name of national security "…is the Cold War getting hot?…" asks one needy reporter; the pace quickens with the delivery of martial law and the atmosphere then driven onto the street of Los Angeles and within her sewers and waterways. The ants have taken over the asylum and it is here the film turns into paranoia and cold war rhetoric; these are no Reds-under-the-bed but an alternative invading army.

    Science fiction films such as Them! and its companions' as The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) for example, are all high-end entertainment and well structured in the art metaphorical rhetoric. This was an era that was rich in ideas and new territories, albeit nuclear at least, plucking into the psyche of a new world order of conformity and control and the East - West relations race was on, to propagate belief that one side knew better than the other. With this new age cinema came new age scenarios in the shape and form of the science fiction, nuclear, film.

    Them! comes across more of a warning, a caution, and the friendly optimist of this new age thinking, it's all here for the taking, but just how will the future unfold and to what extent will the human race develop this new technology? Them! may have been the forefather, but with films as the graphic, and banned then not shown on British television until 1985, The War Game (1965 BBC documentary), Planet of the Apes (1968) to Mad Max (1979) and The Omega Man (1971), the future has never looked so pessimistic.
  • comment
    • Author: Munigrinn
    Boy, if this doesn't creep you out, then you just don't live in the South or Southwest, where you are constantly battling the monsters in this film.

    The special effects were superb considering the limitations in 1954.

    James Whitmore (Oscar nominations for Give 'em Hell, Harry! and Battleground) and James Arness, who played Marshal Matt Dillon in over 600 episodes of "Gunsmoke" in my formative years, were compelling as they chased the monsters.

    They were ably assisted by Edmund Gwenn, who won ans Oscar for playing Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street, and has a nomination for Mister 880. He won Golden Globes for both roles. He really was great here as "The Professor." Great Southwest locations and chilling excitement for a Sci Fi classic.
  • comment
    • Author: Kann
    Whenever one thinks about the many horror movies of the 50s, it's nearly impossible to not think about the multitude of creature features that had in common a basis on science-fiction that reflected the newly discovered fears of uncontrolled science and the cold war paranoia; and when one thinks about this 50s creature features, the ideas of cheesy story lines and laughably awful special effects quickly come to mind as those were two elements typical in many low-budget productions. However, it would be a big mistake to think that every 50s horror movie was a bad display of special effects, as the classic Warner Brothers film titled "Them!", one of the first of those nuclear monster films, proves clearly. Made a year after the success of "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms", this movie followed similar themes, but gave them a more horror oriented spin and single-handed became the source of countless imitators.

    Sgt. Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) investigates a strange series of disappearances and murders happening in New Mexico's desert, and since one of the missing persons was an FBI agent, agent Robert Graham (James Arness) is sent to collaborate with Peterson in the investigation, however, the only clue they have is the strange prints found at the crime scenes. As the death toll increases, they send the print to be analyzed in the FBI headquarters, but in return the FBI sends Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn) from the Department of Agriculture and his daughter, Dr. Patricia Medford (Joan Weldon), in order to aid them in their work. While the two law enforcers are confused at first by this decision, soon they discover that the Medfords were sent because the responsible of the killings is not human.

    Based on a story by George Worthing Yates (actually his first foray into science fiction), "Them!" presents a story that still feels fresh in this its original form (despite having been copied countless times). Playing on the Cold War fears of Nuclear technology, "Them!" starts as a murder mystery that grows bigger and suddenly becomes a matter of global security. What truly makes "Them!" to stand out among the rest of the movies of its time, it's the way it takes its plot (as silly as it may sound to today's audiences) with a respect that few works of science fiction (not only films) do. Another of the elements that makes "Them!" a very special movie, is the way the characters are fleshed out in a very realistic and human form. While basically stereotypes (scientist, cop, government agent, etc...), every one is given enough depth to stand out and become really multi dimensional characters.

    Experienced b-movie director Gordon Douglas brings the story to life in a sober yet very effective style that at times echoes his work in Westerns and Film Noirs. Just like the script does, Douglas takes the plot of his movie seriously and with a strong basis on reality; creating an atmosphere of dread and a slight dose of pessimism that adds a lot of feeling to the movie. Unlike his imitators, Douglas favors suspense over visual shock, and by hiding the monster during most of the time and giving a really brilliant use to the score and sound effects, he transforms it into a terrifying and very real threat despite his low-budget effects. Combined with the serious take on the plot, this really makes the whole movie be more believable and adds an powerful feeling of impending doom that makes it haunting and truly terrifying.

    The four actors that give life to the key roles in the film really make the most of the characters they play, starting with James Whitmore, as the county cop whose simple and quiet life gets changed after his discovery in the desert. James Arness is excellent as agent Graham, and shows off the natural talent and charm that would make him a star in "Gunsmoke". Joan Weldon is also very good in an atypical (for the 50s) role very ahead of its time. She plays Dr. Pat Medford with a confidence that shows that women can be both beautiful and intelligent. However, the true highlight of the film is the performance done by Edmund Gwenn as Dr. Harold Medford. It is he who gives the film the heart and becomes the basis for the "old scientist" role of future creature features.

    Like many movies of its time, "Them!" has earned a reputation as outdated, silly or worse, badly done movies of a bygone era; however, "Them!" is a film that offers not only a glimpse of the 50s attitudes, but also an example of a movie that twisted the conventions of its time. While James Arness and Whitmore play the typical archetypes of the "hero" in this kind of films, they are shown as confused at first, and later afraid of the nature of the beasts they must fight. They are not know-it-all macho men ready to save the world, but everyday people who must learn to overcome their own fears. As written above, Joan Weldon's role was also ahead of its time, and certainly, Edmund Gwenn's role represented the fears of a society afraid of the results of Nuclear testings.

    I was not expecting a lot of "Them!", I mean, the overall concept is really simple, yet the way the movie is crafted makes it one of the most haunting movies of its type ever done. This is a movie that proves that the 50s creature features could really be worthy pieces of horror and science fiction that were more than a bunch of cheap special effects and Cold War paranoia. 8/10
  • comment
    • Author: Black_Hawk_Down.
    Originally intended as a "3D color sensation" from Warner Brothers, this last-minute slashed budget sci-fi film about giant ants proves to be ahead of its time with an excellent script and inspired acting. Ironically, the cheaper b/w print serves to enhance the mood and fear surrounding unusual deaths in the Mohave Desert. The script and character portrayal make a strong social comment on the folly of nuclear weapons. Camera angles and ant robotics (intended to enhance a 3D effect) also serve the director skillfully, in spite of visual restraints. This film is unforgettable and stands up today as a chilling morality play about the fruits of man's darker side. The movie is also a comment on how artistic vision should most often overrule the business office. A must-see for any fan of movie magic!
  • Complete credited cast:
    James Whitmore James Whitmore - Police Sgt. Ben Peterson
    Edmund Gwenn Edmund Gwenn - Dr. Harold Medford
    Joan Weldon Joan Weldon - Dr. Patricia Medford
    James Arness James Arness - Robert Graham
    Onslow Stevens Onslow Stevens - Brig. Gen. Robert O'Brien
    Sean McClory Sean McClory - Maj. Kibbee
    Chris Drake Chris Drake - Trooper Ed Blackburn
    Sandy Descher Sandy Descher - The Ellinson Girl
    Mary Alan Hokanson Mary Alan Hokanson - Mrs. Lodge (as Mary Ann Hokanson)
    Don Shelton Don Shelton - Trooper Capt. Fred Edwards
    Fess Parker Fess Parker - Alan Crotty
    Olin Howland Olin Howland - Jensen (as Olin Howlin)
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