Insects At The Movies: THEM!

In honor of my favorite month, it’s time to go through my favorite insect movies. Gleefully, most of these contain Insects and Inverts Of Unusual Size.

Let’s start with the best, shall we? No matter if your list is Giant Bugs In Movies, Insect Horror Films, 50’s Drive-In Flicks, or even Golden Age Hollywood Science Fiction, one film in particular will always float to the top faster than a swarm of fire ants, and that’s a fact…

Them! 1954

This happy little tyke is from the opening scene of Them! (1954), one of the first and unarguably the best of the American atomic-age giant monster movies, a grim noir horror mystery that never devolved into camp or silliness. It treated its monsters seriously, and the scoring remains suspenseful throughout. But the real win is the ants themselves. They’re not stop-motion, rear-projection, forced-perspective, or any trick like that. They’re freaky-huge physical in-camera monsters, and that plus their bird-loop twitter cries give me the chills to this day.

Them!, 1954 billboard

I would love to post this on a billboard somewhere.. UNNATURAL THINGS ALIVE OR DEAD.

Incidentally, I just learned that the fellow in the above scene is none other than a very young Leonard Nimoy!

Ant Larvae

"Burn it! Burn Everything!"

“The antennae! Shoot the antennae!”

"Shoot the Antennae!" by Scott C.

Halfway through the film, the older entomologist Dr. Medford gives a short lecture on ant biology to the assembled military brass, as well as the audience. Along with snappy charts, everybody takes time to watch a wonderful educational mini-filmstrip, with Medford narrating. The footage is quite good, and I would love to know where the shots came from.  Them Is otherwise wonderfully short on stock footage, something that plagues many other science fiction films at the time. One of my favorite ento-touches is that the giant ants are instantly identified by Drs. Medford as being none other than Camponotus vicinus, a carpenter ant found in the American Southwest.

Camponotus vicinus and its natural prey, a policeman.

I hope to post some more good scary bug-movies this month!

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