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Original film poster Directed by Gordon Douglas Produced by David Weisbart Written by Ted Sherdeman
Russell Hughes
George Worthing Yates (story) Starring James Whitmore
Edmund Gwenn
Joan Weldon
James Arness
Onslow Stevens
Sean McClory
Chris Drake Music by Bronislau Kaper Cinematography Sidney Hickox Editing by Thomas Reilly Distributed by Warner Bros. Release date(s) June 19, 1954 Running time 94 min. Country United States Language English

Them! is a 1954 American black and white science fiction film about man's encounter with a nest of radiation-giganticized ants. It is based on an original story treatment by George Worthing Yates, was developed into a screenplay by Ted Sherdeman and Russell Hughes for Warner Bros. Pictures Inc., which was produced by David Weisbart and directed by Gordon Douglas for the company. It starred James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon and James Arness.

One of the first of the "nuclear monster" movies, and the first "big bug" film, Them! was nominated for an Oscar for Special Effects and won a Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing. It is significant that the film starts off as a simple suspense story and works quite well in this regard, with police investigating mysterious disappearances and deaths, all from no explainable cause. The giant ants are not even seen until almost the halfway point in the film.

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[edit] Plot

The film begins with New Mexico State Police Sergeant Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) discovers a little girl wandering the desert near Alamogordo, New Mexico, mute and in a state of shock. More mysterious deaths and disappearances occur in the area. When a store owner named Gramps Johnson is found dead, his store literally torn apart, his empty rifle bent and twisted beside the body, the cops theorize that there is a maniac killer on the loose. But, as Peterson's boss points out (after Peterson's patrol partner Ed Blackburn, played by Chris Drake, disappears without a trace), Gramps' 30-30 was emptied and "Ed Blackburn was a crack shot. He could hit anything he could see. So unless your killer is armored like a battleship, there's no maniac in this case." It's up to the coroner to deliver the verdict that "Gramps Johnson could have died in any one of five ways: his neck and back were broken, his skull was fractured, his chest was crushed, and here's one for Sherlock Holmes. There was enough formic acid in his body to kill twenty men."

The FBI sends in Ellinson's fellow agent Robert Graham (James Arness) to assist. A single strange track is found in the desert. When the FBI is unable to identify the track, they attract the attention of Doctors Harold (Edmund Gwenn) and Pat Medford (Joan Weldon), a father/daughter team of entomologists from the Department of Agriculture.

The elder Doctor Medford arrives on the scene with a theory, but will not disclose it until he tries an experiment on the Ellinson girl, having her smell the contents of a vial of formic acid, which frees her from her state of near-catatonic withdrawal, screaming "Them! Them!" Returning to the destroyed trailer with Peterson, Graham, and his daughter, Medford has his theory dramatically given its final proof when the group encounters a patrol of foraging ants, mutated by atomic radiation to the size of automobiles. The lawmen kill one of the ants with a Thompson submachine gun after finding that their revolvers have little effect. They aimed for the antennae on Medford's advice that they were helpless without them.

A company of the US Air Force is brought in, led by General O'Brien (Stevens), which locates the ants' nest and exterminates the inhabitants with poison gas. The younger Dr. Medford, who accompanies Peterson and Graham into the nest, finds evidence that two young queens have hatched and flown away to establish new colonies. Trying to avoid a general panic, the government covertly monitors and investigates any reports of unusual activities as sightings of "flying saucers". One of the queens ends up in the hold of an ocean-going freighter loaded with sugar, which is then overrun by the ants and subsequently sunk by a US Navy cruiser. From the rantings of an alcoholic, and an investigation into the death of a father protecting his two young, now missing, sons from an apparent ant attack, the other queen is finally tracked to the Los Angeles storm sewer system, forcing the Army to openly declare martial law and launch a major assault.

During the assault, Peterson finds the two missing boys, named Mike and Jerry, alive, trapped by the ants in a sewer tunnel, which is also the entrance to the nest. Peterson calls in for backup, but instead of waiting for it, he bravely goes in alone, heroically rescuing the two boys and killing numerous ants with his flamethrower. Peterson leads the two boys back to the pipe through which he came, intending for he and they to crawl back through it to safety. After hoisting up the first boy, Jerry, however, another ant appears from behind, and thinking quickly and selflessly, Peterson saves the second boy, Mike, but after lifting the boy into the pipe, Peterson is left without time to save himself. As he tries to climb up into the pipe at the last minute, the ant grabs Peterson in its mandibles and crushes him at the waist, the man crying out in agony all the while.

Graham arrives to the scene quickly with the reinforcments, and kills the ant attacking Peterson, but rushes over to Peterson's side with only enough time to hear Peterson's last words confirming that the boys made it to safety, before Peterson dies in his arms. Graham respectfully orders Peterson's body to remain undisturbed, and then returns to the battle, nearly getting killed himself when a cave-in temporarily seals him off from the rest of the men as they march towards the egg chamber; several ants charge him, but Graham is able to hold them off long enough for the other troops to tunnel through the debris and come to his rescue. The nest's queen and egg chamber are then destroyed with flamethrowers after a short but fierce battle, but the senior Dr. Medford issues a grim warning that the atomic genie has been let out of the bottle, and further horrors may await mankind.
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Movies, Movie, Horror Movie, 1950s Movies, Nuclear Contamination, Leonard Nimoy, Fess Parker, Atomic Fallout, B Films, James Whitmore, James Arness, Giant Ants


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review by . February 05, 2010
A little girl is found wandering in the desert, the sole survivor of her family, and the only word she can say is, "Them!" A local police officer (James Whitmore) and an FBI agent (James Arness) investigate the mystery with the help of a lovely scientist (Joan Weldon).       One of the best of the fifties sci-fi movies, "Them" has a good cast, a serious and at times, even educational tone to the script, and giant ants that are usually half-hidden in the dark. …
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