Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ants in the Pants

In my recent listing of appropriate films for Halloween, I realize I didn't include any giant monster films. I will correct that omission now.

One of my favorite giant-monsters-on-the-loose films is the 1954 classic, "THEM!". (Sorry Godzilla.) I haven't seen it in awhile, but I saw it so many times on "Dialing for Dollars" that I have it pretty much memorized.

The film starts with a couple of New Mexico policemen investigating the disappearance of a vacationing FBI agent and his family. They shortly find his daughter wandering the desert, mute and in a state of shock. This leads them to the trailer the family was staying in, which has been ripped apart by "something". Why an FBI agent selected a trailer in New Mexico as an ideal vacation destination is a mystery never addressed in the film.

With the arrival of a hunky FBI agent and a father/hot daughter pair of scientists, the explanation for the missing agent's disappearance is discovered: Nuclear testing in the desert has caused ants to mutate and grow to the size of  tractor trailers. After a lot more investigating and a big flame thrower war with the ants, the conflict is resolved. At least for now, the scientist warns. What about all the other nuclear weapons that have been set off? There could be MORE giant ants in our future!

That comforting thought concludes the film.

While this is a fine film, the plot does raise some questions that the film does not address, like the one about vacationing in a New Mexican trailer. Such as:

• How can ants start growing, and nobody notices until they are giant size?

• In every 50's sci-fi film, there were always a lot of hot female scientists. Were there really, or is this just another Hollywood fantasy, like the one about Bruce Willis having a full head  of hair?

• During the course of the film, the FBI agent and the hot scientist chick fall in love. Is a giant ant invasion really the ideal foundation for a romantic relationship?

• In the film, due to their size, stepping on the ants is not an option. During an encounter with the ants, the dad scientist, supposedly "the world's top myrmecologist" (ant expert guy), says, "Shoot the antennae, HE can't live without them!"

First off, how does he know this? His resume in the film doesn't hint of any previous experience with giant ants. Secondly, why does "the world's leading myrmecologist" say "he" when all worker  ants are female? A glaring error, I know. One that leads the viewer to doubt the scientific accuracy of the movie. On a positive note, most of the characters in the film are pretty good marksmen, and have no trouble shooting wildly moving giant ant antennae.

• In the film the  government wants to avoid alarming the public, so they squelch news of the giant ants to the population to avoid a panic. This leads to a lot of delays in addressing the problem. If I were in this situation, I would rather that they air a series of TV announcements that say: "HEY! THERE ARE GIANT ANTS! RUN LIKE CRAZY! AND IF YOU SEE ANY, GIVE US A CALL!"

These minor quibbles aside, this is a wonderful film, and one well worth viewing. Even if you don't care for giant ants, actor Olin Howlin's performance (as "Jenson, the-drunk-guy-who's-seen-the-giant-ants-but-no-one-believes-him-'cause-he's-drunk-and-talking-about-giant-ants"), is not to be missed.

See you at the video store!

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Blogger Pepper Potts said...

Well, I finally saw this movie, and it was pretty good. I just wish I wasn't so sleepy so I could have enjoyed it more. Amazing super-sized ants!

November 10, 2008 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger David said...

Bill, I have "Them" on DVD and pretty much any monster or Sci-Fi movie you can think of from the 30's to the 60's (I even have one that is over two hours long of just trailers for them). I grew up watching Creature Double Feature on Saturday afternoons and I am still 12 years old at heart. Let me know if you want to borrow any. Just email me with a list of what you want and I will let you know what I have and don't have. Thanks again for sharing your cartooning knowledge last night.

February 25, 2009 at 9:42 PM  

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