Monster of the Day, #5

“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.”

Since I was a kid, this has been probably my single favorite monster movie.

  • The Rev. D.D.

    I knew they were coming before too long.

    Those giant ants are so great. I wish I could get some of those props, and then stage battles with the dragon from The Magic Sword that I also want.

    I dream big, dammit.

  • Ericb

    Here’s a question that’s been bugging me (no pun intended) after seeing this movie recently: In the 50s they talked a lot about the “atomic age.” Did it ever end, if so when and why, if not why don’t we ever refer to it any more?

  • Ericb

    Well, I guess you could say it ended when the “pollution age” began and that age ended with the onset of the “bioweapon age” which overlaps with the “genetic engineering age.”

  • BeckoningChasm

    I always wondered about the “car alarm” noise the ants made. Where did that come from?

  • Rock Baker

    I wish I could erase this movie from my memory and watch it again as a mystery story, which it was intended to be. But has anyone seen this film since 1954 and NOT known going in that the movie was about giant ants? (I also wish I could erase Airplane! from my memory whenever I watch Zero Hour! and just enjoy a tense drama as it was intended)
    The Atomic Age gave way to the Nuclear Age, then the Computer Age. Then computers evolved but stayed with us, at some point in the 80s I think the term The Silicon Age was used. I suppose you could call the time we live in now The Internet Age.
    The weird chirps made by the ants were distorted treefrog chirps. One species provided the steady ‘song’ of the ants and another species made the sound that is heard when the ants attack. (as far as I know, this info is correct)

  • Rock, I hear you, but since the film’s posters and the trailer played up the giant ant angle pretty heavily, there was no age of innocence on this one.

    Of course, if you hid the box you could show it to a kid today and probably freak him out.

  • Ericb

    When I was a little kid and first saw this moive I didn’t know it was about giant ants. When I first saw the title I didn’t even know it was a monster movie.

  • BeckoningChasm

    Rock–thanks for the info. I was curious, though, about why the ants made that sound in the film. I suppose it was some kind of “radioactivity” thing but I don’t know if the characters ever addressed it. I would guess the film-makers put it in because it made the ants more eerie.

    Also, as Bill Warren notes, the film was constructed as a mystery, but the formula was followed by almost every giant monster movie that followed–including those, like “The Deadly Mantis” in which the mystery is given away in the title.

  • Yeah, I’ve noted that several times myself. It’s one of my favorite bits of ’50s dumbness.

    Ants really communicate, of course, via pheromones, but I think the sound thing is a lot more movie-friendly.

  • P Stroud

    Ha! We live in the Jabootu Age. I can’t ever remember seeing such a broad plethora of choices for unintentionally bad cinema as I’ve seen since the mid-90s. And the more they spend the more insane the movies get. Truly this Age of Schlock is a monument to the horned demigod’s pervasive influence. How else does one explain Roland Emmerich, Nichael Bay and Reny Harlin getting work?

  • Rock Baker

    Well, if you enlarge a creepy-looking bug, you’ve got to give it a creepy-sounding call. I can suspend disbelief that far without a problem. (I have to admit tho, giant ants sounding like a field of crickets makes more sense than that breathless wail heard in Earth vs The Spider, or that sound Spiega -and pretty much every other enlarged arachnid- makes that sounds like the bridge of the Enterprise. The huge tarantula in Village of the Giants roared like a lion if I remember right.)

  • BeckoningChasm

    Sound is one of the reasons I thought the original Blob was so scary. It didn’t make any noise at all. You’d never know when it was right behind you, as that scene in the garage demonstrated. (The 80’s Blob screamed and mewled like a kitten, in addition to sounding like a flushing toilet.)

    Mind, I’ve always liked the sound the Them ants make. It’s very cool and eerie.

  • Rock Baker

    Good point about the Blob! As much as I’ve seen the film, I never really stopped to notice how silent the monster was. It was a subtle element, but rather obvious upon reflection.
    Speaking of which, hey Ken, when are you going to review Son of The Blob? Or the 80s Blob?

  • Well, the remake of The Blob isn’t awful–it just screws up everything I like about the Blob. Most people seem to really like it though. However, one of my myriad of backburner pieces has always been on the three Blob movies.

  • BeckoningChasm

    To my (admittedly limited) knowledge, the Blob is the only monster from the 50’s who made no noise at all. Everything else screamed, howled, moaned, beeped or otherwise gave evidence other than visual of their presence. Sound is such a big part of movies, it’s natural that film-makers would want to give their beast/alien/robot/whatever a sound to go with the makeup. Even the flying brains from Fiend without a Face have a thumping noise that accompanies them.

    Which is why the Blob is so unnerving. It makes no sound, so in movie terms, it’s almost as if it doesn’t completely exist. That makes it that much harder to anticipate or fight against. (The invulnerability helps, too.)

  • Rock Baker

    I’d really like to see that piece!

  • Rock Baker

    Yeah, now that I think about it, seems like even ghosts and radioactive minerals gave off some sort of noise when the camera was on them.

  • Marsden

    I’d also like to see the Blob piece!

    I remember, one of the aspects of undead was that they supposedly made absolutly no noise which made them very stealthy and scary. But as with everything else, everyone wants their own “vision” on screen.

    I remeber “The Screaming Skull” , the one scene where the guy opens a drawer to “discover” something (it’s been awhile), all there is in there is a paper but the music swells so loud when he opens it I jumped watching it (plus I was half asleep).

  • David Fullam

    The winner and still champ of the Atomic Monster Movies!

  • Rock Baker

    I need to correct something I said earlier, as I forgot to include The Space Age in the list! After thinking about it for a few seconds, I think it breaks down thus:
    The Atomic Age (1945-1963?)
    The Space Age (1957-1989?)
    The Silicon Age (1983?-2000?)
    The Internet Age (2000-present)
    I notice they tend to overlap one another.

  • I will now gloat over the fact that I, indeed, hid the box cover from my kids and showed it to them without saying what it was about. I didn’t even let them see the DVD menu screen.

    They LOVED it.

  • sandra

    I’m old enough to remember when THEM came out ( I was very young, cough cough, but precocious enough to read the newspsper. They used teaser ads: “Only ten more days til THEM !” Then, the next day “One nine more days…” etc etc. One of my sisters went to see it as soon as it opened. Naturally my first question when she got home was “What is Them?” “Giant ants.” Well, it was impossible to keep the secret, but I don’t think they ‘played it up’. I really envy that first audience, walking into it cold. But I’m glad I wasn’t there at the time because, being just a wee child, I would have started screaming and they would have had to take me home.