Monday, 15 November 2010

Film: Them!, 1954, Gordon Douglas

As part of week 8 in our narrative project, We watched Them!, a 1950's American sci-fi/ horror film directed by Gordon Douglas, although not being considered a B-movie because of the expensive special effects, it is still a retro- film dealing with problems of that time.

Them! commences when a police patrol finds a girl wandering in the deserts of New Mexico, They decide to investigate, this leads them to a trailer van, where the girl's parents  disappeared and the trailer almost destroyed. With many belongings touched, but only sugar being taken the policemen look puzzled. After investigating the area the only clue of the crime they can find is a lone print which is sent to the FBI in Washignton.
The FBi also looking confused only can assign one man for the job , and he is the Dr. Medford (Edmund Gwenn) and his daughter and assistant Dr. Pat Medford (Joan Weldon). The doctor easily identifies the print as belonging to a type of desert ant.
In order to find out more about the case he travels to New Mexico, later he discovers that this same species of ants had been mutated due to being exposed to chemicals from the atomic bombs dropped in New Mexico, 9 years ago in 1945.
Knowing a lot about this species of ants, Dr. Medford with the help of Police Sgt. Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) , FBI Agent Robert Graham (James Arness), they are able to destroy the ants nest, however not in time to destroy two queen ants which are the true menace.
The two Queen Ants escape, one boards a ship and after killing all the crew, the ship is sunk and the ant dies. The other flies all the way to Los Angeles, where a father and his two children face them, the father is killed and the two children disappear.
In order to find if they are still alive Dr. Medford, Police Sgt. Peterson and Agent Robert Graham, with the support of the army, set a searching team to find the two children.
When the two boys are found, also the ants nest is found, and quickly destroyed, annihilating all the ants and saving the world from this menace.

Them! is a Sci-fi monster film, that firstly uses the atomic bomb subject to spread terror among the audience. Being used as the main cause for the mutation of the ants.
In terms of acting, being a 1950's film the acting was really convincing, and not spoiled by any cheesy moments of low-budget acting.
Not being a B-movie, the budget used in the film wasn't as low, so it helped to create astonishing set designs, completely destructible, and featuring outstanding props of the giant ants, which despite being seen as models, created a really convincing approach to the specimen.
The high budgeted special effects were amusing, creating big scale explosions flamethrower scenes, as well as compositing real live footage with the prop acting.

As Dave Kehr from the Chicago Reader wrote in his review, 'Decently budgeted and atmospheric, it's a sober accomplishment in a cycle that would quickly turn to self-parody.', indeed, the convicing acting, the wonderful set design and the high budgeted yet spectacular for that time special effects created a incredible atmosphere in the all film, and distinguishing the film Them!, from the later not so successful genre imitations that were yet to come.
 Them! is a delight of that time,  and as Dennis Schwartz from the Ozus' World Movie Reviews would state in his review 'One of the better sci-fi'ers to emerge from the 1950s', no only because it was decently budgeted, but also because it had a really interesting script, which ignite this type Sci-fi genre, and was target for many imitations.

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