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Them!
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Them!

4.3 12
Director: Gordon M. Douglas, James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon

Cast: Gordon M. Douglas, James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon

 

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Them (1954) was one of a handful of science-fiction films that helped define the genre, as well as creating a distinct sub-genre that remains enduringly popular today, to judge by the success of Eight-Legged Freaks. The movie's success is anchored in its uniformly excellent and earnest performances, from the top to bottom of the cast list -- with

Overview

Them (1954) was one of a handful of science-fiction films that helped define the genre, as well as creating a distinct sub-genre that remains enduringly popular today, to judge by the success of Eight-Legged Freaks. The movie's success is anchored in its uniformly excellent and earnest performances, from the top to bottom of the cast list -- with especially good contributions by Dub Taylor, Fess Parker, and Olin Howlin -- and director Gordon Douglas's sure hand in pacing the action. It starts off as a straight police proceedural, gradually opening out into a tale of radiation-spawned horror. The movie -- despite the fact that it was one of Warner Bros.' top money-earners of the 1950's -- has had a spotty history on high-end home video. Warner Home Video issued it on laserdisc around 1991, but many copies of the original pressings (done at Warner's own plant) were poorly manufactured and went bad very quickly. Since the demise of the laser format, the title has languished on people's wish-lists, until now. Warner Bros. has done right by Them, with a beautiful film-to-video transfer, rich in contrasts and crystaline detail, off of a near-flawless source -- there's one small audio drop-out in one shot that you have to listen to very closely to pick up. The care taken by the producers is demonstrated in the disc's capture of the delicate lighting in chapter 15, when the search party finds the egg chamber -- the eeriness of the shadows and the motion of the flashlights is presented about as well as at any time since the movie's original release. The film's denouement, inside the storm drains underneath Los Angeles, is also mastered beautifully in terms of lighting and detail. The audio is very clean, albeit at a slightly low level that boosts up very nicely, and is well balanced so that the special effects and musical stings aren't excessively louder than the dialogue adjacent to them (a problem when one watches DVDs with the sound pumped through a stereo or surround system). The 1954 movie was always intended to be seen in 1.33-to-1 aspect ration (the configuration of a normal television screen) and is presented in that format. The menu opens automatically on start-up and is a tiny bit confusing at first, mostly because it is very "busy" -- though the "Play" option is in the default position, so no one need ponder its complexities for too long unless one wishes to. There is a cast list and a couple of minutes of silent behind-the-scenes outtakes showing the giant mechanical ants being manipulated, with audio from the finished scenes used over the footage. The original trailer is very interesting, as it manages to convey the horrific and mystery elements of the story without revealing more than a few glimpses of the giant ants, and almost nothing of the actual story -- a handful of minor supporting actors are also shown in scenes and speaking dialogue that isn't in the film; it's also easy to return to maneuver around the menu once one gets accustomed to the structure. The 30 chapters are more than generous in outlining the 92 minute movie.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
Unlike most of the "giant bugs" sci-fi programmers of the 1950s, which are good for little more than a campy laugh today, Them! remains a compelling and entertaining thriller with an unusually intelligent script, strong performances from a fine cast, and tense, well-paced direction that knows how to play this material seriously. While the special effects technology is not especially impressive by today's standards, watch Them! after such anti-classics as Beginning of the End or Earth vs. the Spider and you'll realize how striking this film's giant ants must have looked in 1954. More important, Them! generates a palpable tension from the start, never overplaying its hand as it gradually develops the unreality of the mutated insects, well after establishing that a real and deadly menace is terrorizing the desert. James Arness and James Whitmore are capable and credible lawmen, Edmund Gwenn keeps his "lovable" eccentricities to a minimum as Dr. Medford, and the charming but all-business Joan Weldon lifts her character above the usual sci-fi token woman. Fess Parker and Dub Taylor make the most of their bit parts, and, if you keep an eye peeled, you'll notice Leonard Nimoy using the teletype machine. Them! blends the lean and efficient construction of a B-picture with the craft that studios usually reserved for more expensive efforts, and the result is one of the best sci-fi films of its era.

Product Details

Release Date:
08/06/2002
UPC:
0085391119128
Original Release:
1954
Rating:
NR
Source:
Warner Home Video
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[B&W]
Sound:
[Dolby Digital Mono]
Time:
1:32:00

Special Features

Closed Caption; Behind-the-scenes archive footage; Montage on the design and operation of giant ants; Interactive menus; Cast film highlights; Theatrical trailer; Scene access; Subtitles: English, Français, Español, Português & Japanese

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
James Whitmore Sgt. Ben Peterson
Edmund Gwenn Dr. Harold Medford
Joan Weldon Dr. Patricia Medford
James Arness Robert Graham
Onslow Stevens Brig. Gen. O'Brien
Sean McClory Maj. Kibbee
Chris Drake Officer Ed Blackburn
Sandy Descher Little Girl
Don Shelton Captain of Troopers
Fess Parker Crotty
Olin Howland Jensen
Richard Bellis Mike
John Beradino Ryan
Robert Berger Sutton
Willis B. Bouchey Actor
Walden Boyle Doctor
Marshall Bradford Actor
Alexander Campbell Official
James B. Cardwell Officer
Roydon E. Clark Jeep Driver
John Close Pilot
Booth Colman Reporter
Walter Coy Actor
Richard Deacon Actor
Eddie Dew Actor
Lawrence Dobkin Engineer
Ann Doran Psychiatrist
Cliff Ferre Lab Man
Norman Field General
Frederick J. Foote Dixon
Joe Forte Coroner Putnam
Russell Gaige Coroner
Dorothy Green Matron
Mary Ellen Hokanson Mrs. Lodge
Gayle Kellogg Gunner
Hubie Kerns Actor
John Maxwell Dr. Grant
Charles Meredith Actor
Jack Perrin Army Officer
Charles Perry Soldier
Victor Sutherland Senator
Harry Tyler Actor
Dick Wessel Cop
Joel Smith Ben's Driver
Otis Garth Admiral
Janet Stewart WAVE
Dean Cromer M.P. Sergeant
Chad Mallory Loader
Warren Mace Radio Operator
Leonard Nimoy Sergeant
William Schallert Ambulance Attendant
Dub Taylor Watchman
Ken Smith Actor
Harry Wilson Actor
Douglas Spencer Reporter

Technical Credits
Gordon M. Douglas Director
Ralph Ayres Special Effects
Gordon Bau Makeup
Gustav Bernsten Set Decoration/Design
G.W. Berntsen Set Decoration/Design
Stanley Fleischer Art Director
Edith Head Costumes/Costume Designer
Ray Heindorf Musical Direction/Supervision
Sidney Hickox Cinematographer
Russell S. Hughes Screenwriter
Bronislau Kaper Score Composer
Moss Mabry Costumes/Costume Designer
Thomas Reilly Editor
Russ Saunders Asst. Director
Francis J. Scheid Sound/Sound Designer,Special Effects
Ted Sherdeman Screenwriter
David Weisbart Producer
George Worthing Yates Original Story

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Credits [1:21]
2. Desert Wanderer [2:49]
3. Wrecked Trailer [4:23]
4. Freakish Wind [1:42]
5. General Store [3:25]
6. Bye Bye Blackburn [3:03]
7. Formic for 20 [2:13]
8. Doctors Medford [3:50]
9. "Them!" [1:36]
10. Something Incredible [2:59]
11. Windstorm Attack [3:50]
12. Seeking the Nest [3:35]
13. Plan of Attack [2:50]
14. Firing up the Nest [4:32]
15. Egg Chamber [3:55]
16. Not Soon Enough [1:50]
17. Nature of the Enemy [5:31]
18. Alan Crotty [4:53]
19. S.S. Viking [3:07]
20. Los Angeles Railyard [2:48]
21. Mrs. Lodge [2:13]
22. Potential Witnesses [1:44]
23. Jensen's Tall Story [2:10]
24. The River Bed [3:07]
25. Emergency Press Conference [3:05]
26. Into the Tunnels [4:27]
27. Two Boys. Two Ants. [4:30]
28. Peterson's Sacrifice [2:06]
29. Final Faceoff [2:49]
30. Open Door [1:46]

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Them! 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The bluray "Them" should be labeled "image cropped to simulate wide screen". I compared the expensive bluray that I purchased at Barnes and Noble in Union Sq. N.Y. with the older full screen DVD version and discovered that the wide screen version is nothing but the full screen version with the top and the bottom cropped off. The result is a disgraceful deception for serious collectors who pay extra for the most faithful rendering of the favorite films. I discovered that this is not the only bluray on which they pulled this scam.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not a big fan of sci-fi. I am a big fan of james Arness from his Gunsmoke days so had to see this movie. I was not at all disappointed in it. The cat including James Whitmore, and James Arness among others was wonderful. The storyline was easy to follow and the movie very enjoyable. There were comedic scenes as well as dramatic. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and would recommend it to anyone
CalCollegeGal More than 1 year ago
When most Fifties sci fi movies depicted invading aliens or space ships, this classic sci fi horror went below ground to find horror in monstrously gigantic ant warriors ripping off the limbs and snapping the bodies of helpless humans who were unlucky enough to invade their cavernous ant hills. Unforgettable scene: young survivor of an attack who lost her entire family gets a whiff of the test draught of formic acid held up to her nose, her face contorted in hysteria, yelling "THEM! THEM!" The heroic actions of actors James Whitmore, James Arness and even scientist Edmund Gwynn are always straight up and never played for laughs, thus intensifying the horrible premise that a nuclear mutation could transfer those pesky kitchen ants into our worst nightmare.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An ABSOLUTE classic, THEM has stood the test of time. In a time when Sci-Fi movies were a dime a dozen THEM finds itself as one of the leaders (by far). This movie has a feel that only few others of its day reached. It draws you in immediately with special effects well ahead of its day. It also has a cast of characters that display great teamwork in refecting the seriousness of the iminent danger. THEM has a more 'real possibility' feel then some of the corny Sci-Fi flicks of the 50's. This is what sets a good Sci-Fi movie apart from the rest. Only The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Thing from Another World and Invasion of the Body Snatchers leave a similar emotional effect. In a time when we were unsure of the after effects of atomic energy, THEM had viewers wondering 'just what if.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
Despite its age, Them! still has one of the most eerie and effective opening sequences of any science fiction film, and gets my vote as the best SF film of the fifties, and that¿s saying something. The plot development up to the moment the giant ants are revealed is a minor masterpiece of understatement and dramatic tension. I¿ve seen this film at least a dozen times and the scene where the catatonic girl sits up in the ambulance, unseen except by the film audience, never fails to thrill. Yes, the giant ant effects are extremely dated and almost always suffer the indignity of comparison to modern techniques, but they probably weren¿t that scary even in 1954. They certainly aren¿t as scary as the search through the shattered, wind-blown general store, or as chilling as Dr. Medford¿s observation that ¿we may be witnesses to a biblical prophecy come true¿ (echoing Dr. Robert Oppenheimer¿s famous comment during the Trinity testing, ¿I am become Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds¿). This movie really isn¿t about giant ants, it¿s about little people, winningly represented by the likes of James Whitmore¿s Sgt. Ben Peterson and Edmund Gwenn¿s Dr. Harold Medford, who quite literally save the population of earth from itself. In another humanistic touch, Them! has a wealth of truly comedic moments, frequently through the expertise of Edmund Gwenn, and most memorably through the character of Olin Howlin, the drunk who keeps singing ¿make me a sergeant, gimme the booze!¿ The military suffers a few light jabs in the movie, probably because much of the adult male population, including moviemakers, was less than 10 years away from serving during WW ll and remember their experience with something less than complete adoration. And in the end, it¿s not military might that saves the earth, it¿s individual initiative and sacrifice---a valuable lesson for today¿s times.
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