Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures 1954
Sergeant Ben Peterson: James Whitmore! He’s our hero and one of the first people to discover the abandon trailer ravaged by the giant ants at the start of the movie. He gets killed near the end of the film by the ants while saving two boys.
Dr. Harold Medford: Edmund Gwenn! He works with his daughter in the Department of Agriculture. He seems a bit dim witted with certain objects, though surprisingly smart. He was able, from just a small amount of evidence, to conclude the existence of giant ants.
Dr. Pat Medford: She works with her father in the Department of Agriculture. She acts mostly as his assistant and seems to have the hots for Robert near the end of the film.
FBI Agent Robert Graham: James Arness! An FBI agent called in to investigate the death of one of FBI’s agents and his family caused by the giant ants. He seems to like Pat a lot.
General Robert O’Brien: He is brought in to help attack the ants’ nest in desert. He also leads an army against the ants in the Los Angeles sewer system. He's apparently not familiar with rocket launchers or whatever they use to bomb the nest in the desert.
Them: Ants that have grown to gigantic sizes by the radiation from the first atomic bomb testing in the desert. They like sugar a lot. A bunch of them are shot to death, the main colony was killed by cyanide gas, another group was blown up by Navy ship, and the rest were incinerated by flames in the Los Angeles sewer system.
+ Giant ants love sugar.
+ Giant ants can make noises that sound like high pitch screeching and chirping.
+ Giant ants can sense sugar within buildings.
+ It’s perfectly reasonable to let a girl smell acid to get her out of her catatonic withdrawal.
+ In a sandstorm, some footprints are not covered up by the wind and shifting sands.
+ The government has a close eye on unsolved murders, alleged suicides, flying saucers, high pitch noises, and thefts involving sugar products.
STUFF TO WATCH FOR
6 min – Wait a minute, you handled the gun carefully without getting your fingerprints on it, but why are you being so careless now?
24 min – Hello! Why do you think that guy gave you those goggles in the first place?
28 min – That’s a pretty good shot for being in a middle of a sandstorm.
34 min – If they eat people, judging from those skeletons, why didn’t they eat the store owner?
52 min – I feel like I’m in grade school again.
62 min – RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST A TRAIN CAR!
68 min – Hey! It’s the old man from The Blob!
The Ellinson Girl: THEM! THEM! THEM!
Dr. Harold Medford: The antennae! Shoot the antennae!
Robert Graham: And I thought today was the end of them.
Dr. Harold Medford: No. We haven't seen the end of them. We've only had a close view of the beginning of what may be the end of us.
Ah yes, one of the best monster or in this case, giant insect movies to ever come out of the 50s. With a great cast, a plot that is actually good, and some nice special effects for the time, this movie is what you call… a classic. It makes me happy to love watching movies like this.
The film opens up with the title of the film in actual color, while the rest the film is only in black and white. Somewhere out in the desert, two police officers in their car and pilot in his plane are on the look out for something when they come across a girl walking alone by herself. Down the road, they also discover a trailer that has one of its sides ripped out and some very unusual tracks around it.
The two polices officers, Sergeant Ben Peterson and Ed Blackburn, head to a general store, not far from the scene, to talk the owner if he has seen anything. Once they have arrived, they discover the store torn up and the owner dead. Like the previous crime scene, one of the walls has been pulled open as well and a strange amount of sugar stolen. Ben decides to head back to headquarters to fill them on about this new discovery, leaving Ed behind to wait for backup. While he is waiting, he hears a strange noise outside of the store. He decides to investigate it off screen, where we hear gunshots and him scream in horror. Pretty creepy.
Back at the station, Ben is pretty broke up at the discovery of Ed’s death, but refuses to take a break off the case in order to find the killer. There are no clues that can help them figure out who the killer is, besides the strange tracks they found around the scene. Also, they find out that the trailer’s owners are identified as the Ellisons and that one of them was an FBI agent. This brings in Agent Robert Graham from the FBI to help investigate. Upon seeing the tracks that Ben found at the first crime scene, Robert sends them to the FBI to see if they can figure out what it is. This brings Doctors Harold and Pat Medford (A father and daughter team) from Department of Agriculture to help out after they have some clue about what the tracks may be.
Harold and Pat talk to the girl at the hospital. She finally speaks, after smelling some of the strange acid that Harold, and begins to shout and scream constantly, “Them!” The doctors, Graham, and Ben then head out into the desert to check out the crime scenes next, where they discover the real murderer behind all of these deaths, giant ants! According to Harold, the ants were mutated by the radiation from the first atomic bomb testing that took place in the area and grew into a gigantic size!
The appearance of the first ant is quite good. First, we all hear the chirping (That’s pretty much the only way I can describe it) sound in the distance. The characters glance around the desert, but only see sand and brush in all directions as the sandstorm around them rages on. Slowly, the ant appears over a dune behind Pat. Then it unleashes it own scary chirping noise and it scares her. It is a very nice build up of suspense.
After killing a giant ant, the team then decides to scope out where the nest might be. While combing the desert with helicopters provided by General Robert O'Brien, they discovers the ants’ nest and decides to kill them using some cyanide gas bombs. After dropping the bombs into the nest and waiting a couple of hours, Graham, Pat, and Ben decide to head down into the nest to check for any survivors from the ant colony. Unfortunately, when they reach the queen’s chamber, they discover that two queen eggs have hatched and the babies have taken off before the gas bombs were tossed into the nest.
They go to Washington D.C. for help and start a search for the remaining queen ants. To help the generals and figures of the government understand the situation, Harold show them an educational film that he narrators while it plays. This reminds me of school a lot and when I watch films, I do not need a reminder of stuff like that.
With help from the government, they start a hot line to search for clues that may lead them to the ants, such as sightings of weird shape UFOs, unusual murders, and thefts of sugar. They receive a message from a cargo ship, that just so happens to be carrying suga,r that one of the queens has boarded, laid eggs, and they all have hatched. With no choice, they sink the ship and the ants while still managing to rescue 2 crewmen.
They then learn of a new lead that takes them to Los Angeles were 40 tons of sugar was stolen from train car and that a man has been found torn apart. The bad news continues when it is discovered that the man had his two kids with him and they are missing. Following another lead from a drunk, they discover that the giant ants have gone underground in sewer system and that is where the kids maybe at.
After declaring martial law for the city, the army heads into the sewer system in search of the ants. During the search, Ben discovers the missing kids and manages to save them, sacrificing himself in the process. The army then discovers the nest and remaining ants. After getting a conformation from Harold and Pat, the army burns the ants and baby queens, hopefully ending this chaos.
This is one of best B movies of all time and maybe even the best insect movie as well! This film doesn't lack on the suspense and mystery that the story provides. This is a classic and is certainly something you should not miss, though it is kind of tricky to find a copy from personal experience.