Them! (1954)

A rash of disappearances and bizarre destruction in the New Mexico desert soon prove to have a most unexpected source: a nest of ants the size of dump trucks, mutated and grown large by the radiation from the Trinity A-bomb tests. Though the initial nest is quickly found and destroyed, it is soon discovered that two newly-hatched queens have already flown to establish new nests, and mankind finds itself in a race for survival. Them! is the first of the Atom Bomb Big Bug movies, and is warmly regarded as the best. Small wonder - director Gordon Douglas delivers a solid, engrossing tale that proceeds logically, populated by likable character actors like James Whitmore, James Arness and Edmund Gwenn. Even people who would not dream of watching a mere "monster movie" often find themselves drawn into the story. The giant ants are fearsome in a way that CGI effects could never match, and unlike a lot of their cinematic descendents, are refreshingly mortal.

When Warner Brothers finally allows something to be pried from their vaults, the results are dazzling. If this print has even minor flaws, I never spotted them, and WB even restored the bright red-and-blue title at the beginning!. The audio is similarly strong; I'm glad there was no attempt to remix the sound into an ersatz surround scheme; the sound the ants make is unnerving enough. The interactive menus are amusingly designed to ape newspaper front pages with breathless headlines, and if you leave the menu unattended for too long, it will play that ant noise to wake you up.

The mandatory and appropriately overwrought trailer is under "Captured on Film!" and is in the same spotless condition as the feature. "Who's Who" is a very simple text page with a cast and crew list. "Photo Gallery" is a collection of behind the scenes and publicity shots again, imbedded in fake newspaper pages, as well as a few posters from around the world.

"Behind the Scenes" is outtake footage, some of which allow you to see how the giant ants were manipulated. I wish there was more of this, but I'm satisfied with what we got. And "Bugged At The Movies" is a seven page text feature (with really big writing) that traces the occurrence of giant bugs in the cinema, from Them! through Mothra and right down to Eight Legged Freaks.

And to that last movie we have to pay a special thanks. Warner has been particularly stingy in issuing classic genre films to DVD when they do, it is generally to capitalize on a current theatrical release. Thus Hammer's The Mummy was on the shelves in time for The Mummy Returns, and WB has finally released Them! and The Swarm to milk the anticipated success of Eight Legged Freaks.

It makes you wonder what other questionable theatrical films we should be rooting for, no?

Dr. Freex, 7/25/2002