Them! (1954)

them poster 1954 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Classic Sci-Fi, fun cast, decent special effects for the time


Movie Info

Movie Name:  Them!

Studio:  Warner Bros.

Genre(s):  Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/B-Movie

Release Date(s):  June 15, 1954 (Premiere)/June 19, 1954 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

them little girl sandy descher

It was…THEM!

When a little girl is found wandering the desert alone with her family dead, a new mystery begins.  Sergeant Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) teams with FBI agent Robert Graham (James Arness), scientist Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn), and his daughter Dr. Pat Medford (Joan Weldon) to stop a new threat that could destroy humanity.  Atomic weaponry has unleashed monsters on the world in the form of giant ants that are now roaming the Southwest.  The ants could spread if uncontrolled, and a race against time is on to find the ants’ nests before it is too late.  The ants are coming…and humans cannot stop THEM!

Directed by Gordon Douglas, Them! is a science-fiction horror movie.  The film was released to positive reviews and was a box office success.  The movie received an Academy Award nomination for Best Special Effects.

Them! is a film that felt like it was always there growing up.  The popularity of the film and the success of the film lead to other attempts to capitalize on the themes, parodies, and homages.  The movie was omnipresent and even though I probably did not see it in its entirely until I was in high school, it felt like I had seen the movie in pieces over the years.

them giant ant joan weldon

Good to see that a giant ant that releases a screechy sound can still sneak up on someone (I don’t care if it is a storm)

Them! was one of the first movies to deal with radiation and the effects of the atomic bomb.  With Godzilla (which also came out in 1954), the fear of nuclear war and the cost of that war were heavy on the minds, and the giant mutation movies capitalized on this fear.  In many ways, Them! feels like the closest comparison to an American version of a kaiju film…both in storytelling and pacing.  It does not always fly and some of the “science” telling feels like it creeps by today’s standard…but it feels classic and classy.

The film has a decent cast (probably more in context of today’s standards.  The heroic leads are shared by James Whitmore and James Arness (who got Gunsmoke as a result).  Fred Gwenn provides the science of the film but also provides the romantic interest by bringing his daughter played by Joan Weldon.  Weldon’s Pat is also a bit of a change-up for sci-fi pictures since she’s not a damsel in distress (except maybe at the big ant reveal) and also is a scientist on an equal level with her father.  The film also features roles from speaking to cameos by Fess Parker (who got his famed Davy Crockett role over Arness), Dub Taylor, Dick York, William Schallert, Richard Deacon, Ann Doran, and an early role by Leonard Nimoy.

them queen nest ants ending

Foolish humans…we too only wish to survive? Who are you to judge us!?!

The stars of Them! are of course the ants themselves.  They are big and goofy, and they don’t entirely work the best, but they are iconic.  The film was originally planned to be shot in color (the title screen still is), and there was also a plan to make the film 3D (which leads to some “at the camera” moments in the story).  Despite the nature of the movie, it is taken dead serious, and that helps the movie succeed.

Them! is a classic.  It is full of what you’d expect from 1950s sci-fi and that is why it is so engrained in popular culture.  From the screaming “THEM!” girl to the battle in the tunnels off the L.A. River, the movie manages to live up to its reputation as a model for science-fiction.  If you have never seen the film, it is worth seeking out and not much of a commitment.  If you have seen it, it is always worthwhile to visit Them! again…and enjoy.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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