Them! DVD Review

Sure, just about everything ended up mutated by the end of the 50's. But, it all started right here in the Warner Bros. classic "Them!" The inspiration for countless cheap knock-offs to follow, this is a true classic that has stood the test of time. Warner also took their time with this DVD release resulting in picture quality that almost eclipses many of the digitally shot films of today. A child is discovered wandering through the desert alone, her only possessions being the clothes on her back and a broken doll. Not far from her, a trailer is found ripped apart. A few miles from that incident is a small store that has suffered the same fate, its owner also found dead. The only clue is a footprint unlike anything ever found before. The truth is discovered when a giant ant nearly kills Dr. Patricia Medford (Joan Weldon) in the desert. It doesn't take long for her father, Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn), to figure out that the queen has hatched and has made a new nest.....in downtown Los Angeles. Now begins a frantic race to find the exact location and hunt these oversized creatures down before a new queen can be spawned. The eerie opening moments of "Them!" are like nothing else to come out of the era. A little girl simply walks forward with no purpose, never blinking, and is unable to speak. It's a horrific sight that flawlessly sets up the rest of the film, directed with skill by Gordon Douglas in his only attempt in the genre. The giant ants themselves were created full size, controlled in various ways to make them move realistically. They effects don't hold up quite as well as some other films of the era, but you can almost feel the pain when they manage to grab someone in their mandibles and squeeze. That's the important part. "Them!" is the quintessential giant bug movie for all time and a film that everyone should see at least once. (***** out of *****) When this disc enters your DVD player, you'll realize what a stunning achievement this restoration is. Simply put, for most of this movie, there are NO flaws. No compression, just a hair of grain, sharp edges, and not a single scratch on the print itself. It's a strong case for delaying high-definition DVD for a while yet (Yes, it's really that good). Oddly, all of the scenes shot underground (including the movies final assault in the sewers) are soft and blurry with some annoying grain. The contrast between shots above and underground are easily apparent when the scene switches back and forth. This is likely a fault on the original print and has nothing to do with the transfer (or maybe something to do with the fact that the film was going to be shot in 3-D), but it is jarring though not enough to ruin the experience. (*****) Dolby Digital Mono is as good as it gets from a film this old and as good as this disc can be. The only problem is when the soundtrack hits full volume and it causes some distortion. The rest of this presentation, including the strange and terrifying sound the ants create, is fine. (****) Extras here are sparse and the only real notable inclusion is some rare behind-the-scenes footage. There is no explanation for the 3-minute segment and you'll find very little of interest here. A short text essay on bug movies is included along with some actor bios and the films trailer. Not much could be expected here, but the some type of explanation to go along with that footage would have been great. (**) If you're the type that finds giant bug movies hilarious, then you just don't get it. Sure, a lot of films from this genre (ok, most) are just terrible, but "Them!" transcends them all. The effects work may seem archaic, but trust me when I say that Jurassic Park will look just as bad in 50 years. Learning to appreciate films like this are a necessity to becoming a true movie fan.

Comments (2)

Brandon:

Jurassic Park will still look fantastic in 50 years. Spielberg doesn't mess around, much of his work will be considered "classic" for many many decades. Jurassic Park was one of the last films to use great hydraulic/animatronic creatures, and one of the first to believably use CG.

See, people said the same thing about King Kong, Them!, and Star Wars. Ever notice the huge boxes around the tie fighters in the original cuts of the SW? JP is my all time favorite film (even if the book was 15 times better), but you need to accept the facts. Watching the T-Rex chase scene reveals some really bad CG. Watch the branch when she breaks free and the greyish tone to everything in the scene. It's not terrible yet, but everyday is begins to get a bit more noticeable.

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