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Them! starring James Arness, James Whitmore
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Them! (1954) starring James Arness, James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon

There are certain movie cliches, and the 1950’s is possibly best known for the science fiction “giant monster” movie (ie. Kaiju). It often served as a morality story, about the dangers of atomic energy, unexpected consequences, and fear of the future, using ordinary animals that have been mutated to giant size to tell the story. It’s been told many times since, but never better than in the first movie of its’ type, Them!

Them! is almost impossible to enjoy as it was meant to be viewed …. Since everyone now knows the plot of the movie. It was originally a mystery, being unfurled as the movie proceeds. Something has devastated a small town, killing several of the inhabitants, and rendering a young girl, one of the only surviving eyewitnesses, in a catatonic state. An elderly scientist is investigating, along with his lovely daughter, as well as more traditional police investigation (with James Arness, best known for his role as Matt Dillon on TV’s long-running Gunsmoke series, and James Whitmore as well).

It’s an extremely well-made movie, that stands the test of time well …. Except for the special effects of the giant ants themselves. It’s an enjoyable movie, which I enjoyed watching with my family. I wouldn’t recommend it for children younger than ten years old, however. I intentionally waited for my eight-year-old daughter to be in bed first since I know it would have given her nightmares.

Cast of characters

  • James Whitmore (The Great Diamond Robbery) … Sgt. Ben Peterson
  • Edmund Gwenn (Between Two Worlds) … Dr. Harold Medford
  • Joan Weldon … Dr. Patricia Medford
  • James Arness (Gunsmoke, The Thing from Another World) … Robert Graham
  • Onslow Stevens (Angel on my Shoulder) … Brig. Gen. Robert O’Brien
  • Sean McClory (Valley of the Dragons) … Maj. Kibbee
  • Christian Drake … Trooper Ed Blackburn
  • Sandy Descher … The Ellinson Girl
  • Mary Alan Hokanson (V) … Mrs. Lodge
  • Don Shelton (Mystery Street) … Trooper Capt. Fred Edwards
  • Fess Parker (Old Yeller) … Alan Crotty
  • Olin Howland (Blondie Brings Up Baby) … Jensen

Editorial review of movie review of Them!, courtesy of

That ol’ cinematic devil the A-bomb has spawned a colony of giant murderous ants bent on destroying humanity in this, the seminal big bug movie (an obvious and oft-credited influence for Alien among countless others). The special effects may be dated, but this brilliantly rational-sounding film has held up wonderfully in all other regards, including some starkly effective location work in the high Arizona desert, a genuinely inspired sound design guaranteed to bring on the creepy-crawlies, and an unexpectedly dry sense of humor (mainly personified by Grade-A egghead scientist Edmund Gwenn). This is essential viewing for all those who consider themselves science fiction or horror fans. Heroic hardcase James Arness previously played for the other team as the titular character in The Thing from Another World. –Andrew Wright

movie quotes from Them!

Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn): We may be witnesses to a Biblical prophecy come true – ‘And there shall be destruction and darkness come upon creation and the beast shall reign over the earth.’

Dr. Patricia ‘Pat’ Medford (Joan Weldon): [observing the tunnel walls] Look! Held together with saliva!
Ben Peterson: Yeah! Spit’s all that’s holding me together right now, too.

[the nest has been saturated with cyanide]
Robert Graham (James Arness): Boy, if I can still raise an arm when we get out of this place, I’m gonna show you just how saturated I can get.

Robert Graham (James Arness): And I thought today was the end of them.
Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn): No. We haven’t seen the end of them. We’ve only had a close view of the beginning of what may be the end of us.

Scientific presentation

Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn): None of the ants previously seen by man were more than an inch in length – most considerably under that size. But even the most minute of them have an instinct and talent for industry, social organization, and savagery that makes man look feeble by comparison.

Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn): [addressing a group of government officials] That, gentlemen, is why you are here – to consider this problem and, I hope, solve it. Because unless you solve it, unless these queens are located and destroyed before they’ve established thriving colonies and can produce, heaven alone knows, how many more queen ants, man, as the dominant species of life on earth, will probably be extinct within … [looking at another scientist] a year, Doc?

The Ellinson Girl: [screaming hysterically] THEM! THEM! THEM!

Jensen: Make me a sergeant in charge of the booze! Make me a sergeant in charge of the booze!

Alcoholic Ward Patient: [in response to Jensen’s shouting] Please! My nerves.

Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn): When Man entered the atomic age, he opened a door into a new world. What we’ll eventually find in that new world, nobody can predict.

Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn): The antennae! Shoot the antennae!

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