Them! (1954)

93-94 mins | Horror, Science fiction | 19 June 1954

Director:

Gordon Douglas

Writer:

Ted Sherdeman

Producer:

David Weisbart

Cinematographer:

Sid Hickox

Editor:

Thomas Reilly

Production Designer:

Stanley Fleischer

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

Copyright records state that the film was shot in Eastman Color, and contemporary HR news items and production charts reported that shooting was in 3-D and WarnerColor, but the final film was shot in black and white. Only the letters in the opening title card were in red and blue, over a black and white background. According to a Sep 1952 DV news item, Warner Bros., which had released the successful The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms , was eager to make another science fiction film and paid George Worthing Yates $25,000 for his story about giant ants in the New York subway tunnels. A Jul 1953 NYT article announced that Russell Hughes would write a screenplay based on Yates’s story and Ted Sherdeman would produce it. Later, Sherdeman took over the completion of the script from Hughes and David Weisbart became the film’s producer. According to modern sources, the New York locale of Yates’s story was moved to the New Mexico desert and the Los Angeles River tunnel system to cut production costs.
       According to a modern source, Warner Bros. studio technician Dick Smith designed two full-sized models of giant ants, which were controlled by ropes and pulleys, to interact with the actors. Film footage of smaller models and real ants, enlarged to appear nine to twelve feet long, were intercut with the rest of the film, according to the same source. HR news items and production charts reported that the film was shot on location in the Mojave desert, near Palmdale. Modern sources identify Los Angeles' Tujunga Wash as the location of the river ... More Less

Copyright records state that the film was shot in Eastman Color, and contemporary HR news items and production charts reported that shooting was in 3-D and WarnerColor, but the final film was shot in black and white. Only the letters in the opening title card were in red and blue, over a black and white background. According to a Sep 1952 DV news item, Warner Bros., which had released the successful The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms , was eager to make another science fiction film and paid George Worthing Yates $25,000 for his story about giant ants in the New York subway tunnels. A Jul 1953 NYT article announced that Russell Hughes would write a screenplay based on Yates’s story and Ted Sherdeman would produce it. Later, Sherdeman took over the completion of the script from Hughes and David Weisbart became the film’s producer. According to modern sources, the New York locale of Yates’s story was moved to the New Mexico desert and the Los Angeles River tunnel system to cut production costs.
       According to a modern source, Warner Bros. studio technician Dick Smith designed two full-sized models of giant ants, which were controlled by ropes and pulleys, to interact with the actors. Film footage of smaller models and real ants, enlarged to appear nine to twelve feet long, were intercut with the rest of the film, according to the same source. HR news items and production charts reported that the film was shot on location in the Mojave desert, near Palmdale. Modern sources identify Los Angeles' Tujunga Wash as the location of the river tunnel scenes. Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, Nov and Dec 1953 HR news items add Lloyd Dawson and Charles Meredith to the cast. James Arness, who played FBI agent “Robert Graham” in Them! , was being considered for the lead role in Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett television series when, according to modern sources, Disney saw Fess Parker’s performance as the Texas rancher in the film and offered him the part. Despite its small budget, Them! was well respected by the critics and became Warner Bros.’ largest grossing film of 1954. Modern sources credit it as the first “big bug” movie. It received an Academy Award nomination in the Special Effects category.
       According to a Sep 1955 DV news item, Dr. John B. Grant of the Rockefeller Foundation filed a federal suit against Warner Bros., asking $200,000 for allegedly invading his right to privacy and ridiculing him in public by using his name and likeness in his professional capacity. The outcome of the lawsuit is not known. According to an Oct 1999 DV news item, Artists Production Group, an arm of AMG, planned a remake of the film, which was to be written by Mark Montgomery and directed by Joe Johnston; as of spring 2005, the picture has not been made. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
17 Apr 1954.
---
Daily Variety
9 Sep 1952.
---
Daily Variety
8 Apr 54
p. 3.
Daily Variety
9 Feb 1955.
---
Daily Variety
6 Oct 1999.
---
Film Daily
14 Apr 54
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Sep 1953
p. 27.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Oct 1953
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Oct 1953
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 1953
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 1953
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 1953
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Apr 54
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 1954
p. 8.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
10 Apr 54
p. 2253.
New York Times
12 Jul 1953.
---
New York Times
17 Jun 54
p. 36.
New Yorker
26 Jun 1954.
---
Saturday Review
5 Jun 1954.
---
Time
19 Jul 1954.
---
Variety
14 Apr 54
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Mary Ann Hokanson
Dick Wessell
Dubb Taylor
Eddie Dew
Hubert Kerns
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
Extra dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
2d cam
Stills
Gaffer
Best boy
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop const mgr
Asst props
COSTUMES
Ward
Men's ward
Men's ward
Ladies' ward
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Radio man
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 June 1954
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 16 June 1954
Production Date:
late September--early November 1953
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
27 June 1955
Copyright Number:
LP4918
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
with color titles
gauge
1.66:1
Duration(in mins):
93-94
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16752
SYNOPSIS

In New Mexico, policemen Ed Blackburn and Sgt. Ben Peterson find a little girl who is stunned and unresponsive, walking through the desert, tightly gripping her damaged doll. Nearby, they find an unoccupied trailer hitched to a car by the side of the road, its metal hull ripped from the inside out. While they investigate, they hear a high-pitched buzz and discover a large, unusual animal footprint on the ground. On their way back to town, the policemen find that a general store has been wrecked and its owner mysteriously killed. Ed stays behind to guard the store, and he, too, is brutally killed after hearing the high-pitched sound. Later, the coroner reports that the storekeeper died from a large injection of formic acid, not from the many fractures on his corpse. Upon learning that the owner of the trailer was a vacationing agent, the FBI sends Robert Graham to investigate. Bob sends a cast of the animal track to the FBI’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, and in response, Department of Agriculture entomologists Dr. Harold Medford and his daughter and fellow scientist Patricia, are flown in. At the hospital, Harold examines the little girl, who remains traumatized and uncommunicative until he uncaps a bottle of formic acid under her nose. Jolted into a panic, she screams “Them! Them!” Although Harold has a frightening theory, he withholds it, until it is later confirmed by the appearance of a nine-foot, insect-like creature at the trailer site. By ordering his companions to shoot at the creature’s antennae, Harold saves the group from its attack and the creature is killed. Harold then explains that it was a descendant of an ant that was ... +


In New Mexico, policemen Ed Blackburn and Sgt. Ben Peterson find a little girl who is stunned and unresponsive, walking through the desert, tightly gripping her damaged doll. Nearby, they find an unoccupied trailer hitched to a car by the side of the road, its metal hull ripped from the inside out. While they investigate, they hear a high-pitched buzz and discover a large, unusual animal footprint on the ground. On their way back to town, the policemen find that a general store has been wrecked and its owner mysteriously killed. Ed stays behind to guard the store, and he, too, is brutally killed after hearing the high-pitched sound. Later, the coroner reports that the storekeeper died from a large injection of formic acid, not from the many fractures on his corpse. Upon learning that the owner of the trailer was a vacationing agent, the FBI sends Robert Graham to investigate. Bob sends a cast of the animal track to the FBI’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, and in response, Department of Agriculture entomologists Dr. Harold Medford and his daughter and fellow scientist Patricia, are flown in. At the hospital, Harold examines the little girl, who remains traumatized and uncommunicative until he uncaps a bottle of formic acid under her nose. Jolted into a panic, she screams “Them! Them!” Although Harold has a frightening theory, he withholds it, until it is later confirmed by the appearance of a nine-foot, insect-like creature at the trailer site. By ordering his companions to shoot at the creature’s antennae, Harold saves the group from its attack and the creature is killed. Harold then explains that it was a descendant of an ant that was present when the atomic bomb was first tested in the desert in 1945, mutated each generation by lingering radiation. With the help of the local Air Force officers, Brig. Gen. O’Brien and Maj. Kibbee, Harold instigates an aerial search of the desert for the creature’s nest. When the nest is found, it is torched and its tunnels gassed with cyanide. Afterward, to determine if all the ants were killed, Bob, Ben and Pat gear up and enter the nest, rappelling through the tunnels hundreds of feet into the earth. After passing many gigantic, dead ants, they reach the queen ant’s nest. Seeing that two eggs have hatched, Pat anxiously orders that everything be burned. Back on the surface, Harold and Pat announce that the problem is not over, as two queens appear to have hatched and escaped before the nest was destroyed, and will now mate and start other nests. Ants have limited flying ability during the mating process, Harold explains, but ants of that size would be able to travel a large distance. In top-secret conferences, the Medfords, Bob, Ben, Kibbee and O’Brien meet with Washington officials. After showing film footage demonstrating the strength, ferocity and mating habits of ants, Harold predicts that humans will be extinct within one year if the queens are not destroyed. Secrecy is maintained to avoid worldwide panic, but news is monitored for unusual sightings and mysterious disappearances or deaths. When ant-shaped flying saucers are reported by Texas ranch foreman Alan Crotty, who is then institutionalized, Bob knows that the man is not insane, but to keep the story from spreading, tells his psychiatrist that the FBI will let him know when his patient is well. Having assumed that, so far, only the American continents are in jeopardy, the Medfords and their colleagues are disturbed by reports that a ship on its way from Mexico to Singapore became infested with giant ants that killed all hands. Shortly after the ship is sunk to kill the queen and her offspring, forty tons of sugar is ripped out of a railroad car in Los Angeles. Thinking that the second queen is the culprit, Harold and his colleagues go there to investigate and learn that a man, who was last seen flying model airplanes with his two sons, died mysteriously and his children are missing. From a hospital room overlooking the Los Angeles River, Jenson, a half-coherent drunk, reports that he saw the family and the giant ants near an opening that leads to 700 miles of tunnels under the metropolis. Martial law is instated and the Army is called in. However, because they believe the children are in the tunnels with the ants, they cannot gas or burn out the creatures. Instead, armed with bazookas and flamethrowers, Ben, Bob and Kibbee ride jeeps into the tunnels with the soldiers. After finding the boys alive in a storm drain, Ben gets them to safety, then is killed by an ant. Later, Bob radios to the waiting Pat and Harold that new queens have not hatched in the egg chamber. He orders the chamber burned and the crisis is over. However, Bob later wonders if more mutations from later tests will be discovered. Harold responds that when man entered the atomic age, he opened a door to a new world and what will eventually be found in that new world no one can predict. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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