Horror Through the Decades Presents: THEM! (1954)

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One of..THEM! — Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Welcome to Horror Through the Decades, boils and ghouls!! In this edition we’ll travel back to 1954 to meet THEM!!

Caution: this article contains spoilers of the film, so if you haven’t seen the film and want to watch it spoiler-free, go ahead and watch it, then come right back to this spot!

The ’50s was the apex of what are sometimes referred to as “Creature Features.” Films that were wildly successful at drive-in and movie theaters across the U.S. containing weird monsters wreaking havoc over the population that are nearly uncontrollable. Creature From The Black Lagoon, Godzilla, The Blob, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, and many, many more graced the screens of theaters across America throughout the 1950s. Of course, the world’s fascination with renegades of nature bringing destruction, or man’s interference with nature bringing about unnatural things, is a tale as old as industrial civilization itself.

THEM! was made nine years after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War 2. George Worthing Yates (It Came From Beneath The Sea, Attack of the Puppet People) who wrote the original treatment from which the screenplay was adapted, in addition to screenwriters Ted Sherdeman (Men Into Space, Latitude Zero) and Russell Hughes (Jubal, Playhouse 90) have a very clear bias against the use of nuclear weapons, which was not the attitude amongst most of the general public.

Them! — Courtesy of Warner Bros.

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The writers and the director, Gordon Douglas (Fortunes of Captain Blood) are not subtle about their distaste for nuclear warfare. The message may appear to be a bit heavy-handed. However, at the time, due to the fact that the cold war had really risen into the public consciousness a few years prior, and the fear of nuclear war with the USSR was constant, the subject matter is completely relevant to the sociopolitical landscape of the era in which it was released.  The reason I mention this is that the “them” in THEM! are giant eight-feet-high ants. The way that they became as large as they are is because they were born close to White Sands, New Mexico, where the first atomic bomb was dropped in a test prior to its use in WWII.

The film begins with two policemen on patrol in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Sgt. Ben Peterson (James Whitmore; The Shawshank Redemption, Gunsmoke) and Trooper Ed Blackburn (Chris Drake; Sheena: Queen of the Jungle) run across a little girl on the side of the road. She won’t speak and appears to be in shock. Curious as to what brought about this child’s state, the duo heads to a trailer which was pulled off in the desert which a police pilot radios about.

The trailer appears to have been blasted out from the inside, but there are no signs of explosives. No money was stolen, but some cubes of sugar are missing. Sgt. Peterson finds the remnants of a little girl’s baby doll and knows that whatever happened in this trailer was what caused her catatonia. While on the scene, a huge animal print of sometime is detected, which is just about the only concrete evidence the cops have.