Phase IV (review by Doug Smith)
“Phase IV” is an almost documentary-like movie about ants who become extremely intelligent, due to an astronomical event. Deep in the desert, the ants start terrorizing the locals – there’s even one named Cletus! (a local, not an ant) – and some scientists are brought in to see what they can do about the problem. Little do they know that the ants just may be slightly more intelligent than they are. This movie features some stunning photography, almost comparable to that of National Geographic documentaires. And watch out for those ants with the green asses!
Directed by famous title-maker Saul Bass, this movie stars the overly sweaty Nigel Davenport as Dr. Ernest D. Hobbs. Dr. James R. Lesko is played by Michael Murphy, who just may be related to Ben Murphy, who, as we all know, is very, very mellow. Kendra Eldridge, the farmers’ daughter, is played by the big-eyed Lynne Frederick. The rest of the farming family is portrayed by Alan Gifford, Robert Henderson and Helen Horton. Helen Horton was a regular on The Benny Hill Show, and we can only hope that she wasn’t one of the bikini-clad nymphos that seemed to be a big, if not the only, part of that show.
In the opening scenes of the movie, James Lesko explains what’s happening. To sum it up, a fellow scientist, Dr. Ernest D. Hobbs, noticed some ants acting rather peculiar and called James up to help him investigate. For the next few minutes we watch some little ants running around inside their hill, which has even been interior decorated by some gay ants, apparently. After a little bit, we get to the queen ant, who has obviously been eating a little too much rice. And we see some more ants, and a few more ants, and then a big, hairy, sweaty scientist guy starts talking about how more studies need to be done on some ants in Arizona. Meanwhile, some ants on speed completely devour a wolf spider at mach 4, showing us just how odd they’re behaving.
The scientists arrive on the scene and run into some perfectly geometric anthills. Modern art at its finest. They explore a little bit more and come upon a crop circle and some dead sheep and continue to talk about different species of ants, at which point you have double check to make sure you haven’t flipped on the Discovery Channel by mistake.
Soon enough, they talk to the American Gothic family and tell them they have to evacuate, lest they have ants crawling all over their naughty bits. The farmers ignore them and continue to go about their farming business; slopping the hogs and all of that, I suppose.
The scientists go back to their little dome and start blowing up the aformentioned, geometric anthills, thus pissing the ants off beyond belief. Before long, the ants attack the farmers, who run around in a half-asleep stupor, trying to decide what to do. The head of the family shoots a horse. Whether that helps ’em any, I’m not quite sure. They then hop into the old truck – all famers have an old truck, you know – and cruise on down the road. Alas, it’s too late. The ants have already gotten into the truck.
At the same time, the ants knock the power out at the scientists’ dome. The scientists counter with some powerful, yellow insecticide, kinda like the stuff from “Godzilla Vs. the Sea Monster.” Unfortunately, the farmers have crashed their truck and stumbled into the range of the deadly liquid.
The next morning, the scientists don their protective gear and head out of the dome, finding the yellow bodies of the farmers. The older one doesn’t particularly care, and who can blame him? They were stupid enough to stick around, even though everyone else got the hell away. Morons. Anyhoo, as it turns out, the farmer’s daughter was smart enough to get into the dome’s cellar. They take her in and take a shower with her. Yes, you read that right. Don’t ask me. They give her some food while they go and study some of the ant samples they got. “Here, pee in this tiny cup.” The girl finishes eating and comes to see what the scientists are up to. Seeing one of the live specimens, she goes a little bonkers and breaks a few of the containers and an ant bites the older scientist, who reacts with typical indifference.
The humans think they’re safe for a while, thanks to the inseciticide. Foolish mortals. Soon, the ants take a hardened piece of the liquid and manage to bring it to the queen. When one ant dies, another ant comes and takes the piece a little further, when he dies, another comes and so on. The queen assimilates the piece and starts shooting out yellow rice instead of white rice. Smart things, they.
The movie goes on with the scientists taking one step, the ants blocking it, the scientists taking another step, the ants blocking it. If you don’t mind a little slowness and a really, really, extremely odd musical score, it’s an okay movie. Definitely not one to write home about, but it’s not a total waste. 3 1/2 yaks.