Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Who's In It: James Whitmore (Planet of the Apes, The Shawshank Redemption), Edmund Gwenn (Miracle of 34th Street), Joan Weldon (Them!), and James Arness (The Thing from Another World, Gunsmoke). With Daniel Boone and Mr Spock in bit roles.
What It's About: Nuclear testing creates giant ants that threaten to destroy the world.
How It Is: I love '50s scifi movies, especially when they involve alien invasions and giant, mutated animals. Maybe because they speak so deeply to my Cold War Kid's heart, since I grew up in a time when we were terrified of communist invasion and atomic weapons.
But even with a fairly high baseline to star from, Them! is a step or two above the others in the genre. To start with, the performances are strong, which wasn't always the case with the genre. But what I really like is the way the story unfolds through a serious, procedural style. Whitmore is especially great as Sgt Peterson, the main character for most of the movie. He's one of the police officers who discovers the first of the ants' victims and his obsession with learning the truth and then eliminating the threat is what drives the film for a good long while.
Unfortunately, as more and more people get involved, like the scientists played by Gwenn and Weldon or Arness' FBI agent, the less character work the movie is able to do. In fact, by the time Whitmore's character reaches the conclusion of his story arc, it's barely commented on because so much else is going on.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 enormous arthropods