Them! (review by Doug Smith)
Released in June of 1954, “Them!” basically epitomizes America’s fear of, and lack of knowledge about, nuclear weapons. Anyone who considers themself a fan of science fiction should certainly know what this film is about. For those who don’t, all you have to do is think four words: big ass, mutant ants.
James Arness, who, unlike his brother, has never seen a grown man naked, plays FBI agent, Robert Graham. Edmund Gwenn and Joan Weldon play the father and daughter scientists, Dr. Harold Medford and Dr. Patricia Medford. James Whitmore, who has the lumpiest face I have ever been witness to, rounds out the cast as Sergeant Ben Peterson, the person who first gets involved with the giant ants. Also look for Leonard Nimoy as a Telex operator and Fess Parker as a pilot who nearly gets sideswiped by some flyin’ critters.
The film starts out with Sergeant Peterson (whose face is quite lumpy) and his partner investigating a report of a little girl seen aimlessly walking through the desert. Well, they find the little girl, and it turns out she’s in shock. Either that, or a reject from “Village of the Damned.” They pick the little girl up and drive a ways down the road and come across a trailer which appears to have been caved in. This confuses the Sarge, and, in his expressions of confusion, his face becomes even lumpier than before. After going through the proper measures and getting the little girl on an ambulance, Lumpy and his partner continue to investigate the area. They then find the fifties equivalent of a Quik Trip, which also looks like it went through an implosion. This time, though, they also find a body, to which they say, “How gruesome! Icky! Lookit how dead he is!” Well, no, maybe they didn’t say that, but I bet they were thinking it. Sergeant Lumpy proceeds to go and notify the coroner, leaving his partner at the scene, in case the killer/critter should return. Unfortunately for the partner, it does.
This looks like a job for Scully and Mulder! Unfortunately, this is the fifties, so we’ll have to settle for the obligatory white, male agent, Robert Graham. Graham is just as confused as the lumpy faced sarge, so they call in more help, in the form of father and daughter scientist tag team, Harold Medford and Patricia Medford. Now we’re getting somewhere. They discover that the opponents they’re up against are, in fact, giant ants, who were mutated thanks to…*drumroll*…NUCLEAR RADIATION! Let’s see you a duck and cover from a giant ant.
Once I was able to get past how lumpy James Whitmore’s face was, I enjoyed this film. It blends just enough action and just enough fifties cheesiness to be enjoyable, but still laughable. James Whitmore, who has a face that’s really rather lumpy, gives a fairly good performance, as does James Arness and Joan Weldon. I think the best performance, however, is given by Edmund Gwenn. His portrayal of the doughy, but loveable, absent minded scientist is quite priceless. And, Fess Parker, even though his role is a small one, is very good. In fact, Walt Disney himself saw this film, and knew immediately he wanted Parker to play Davy Crockett.
So, in conclusion, I think this movie is definitely worth a rent. Maybe even a buy. I give it 3 1/2 yaks. And, until I find a spiffy little yak image, that’ll have to suffice.