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The Similarities Between Aliens and Them!

Be sure to check out our checklist feature on the Similarities between James Cameron's Aliens and THEM! You will be amazed how many common themes are shared between these two films, both in visuals and plot devices.

Them! is based on an original story treatment by George Worthing Yates, and developed into a screenplay by Ted Sherdeman and Russell Hughes for Warner Bros. Pictures Inc., which was produced by David Weisbart and directed by Gordon Douglas for the company.

One of the first of the "nuclear monster" movies, and the first "big bug" film, Them! was nominated for an Oscar for Special Effects and won a Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing.

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.

It is significant that the film starts off as a simple suspense story, with police investigating mysterious disappearances and deaths, all from no explainable cause. The giant ants are not even seen until almost a third of the way into the film.

Them! was released in June 1954 and by the end of that year had accrued US $2 million in distributors' domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals, making it the year's 51st biggest earner. Since its original release, Them! has become generally regarded as one of the very best science fiction films of the 1950’s.

The New York Times review noted "from the moment James Whitmore, playing a New Mexico state trooper, discovers a six-year-old moppet wandering around the desert in a state of shock, to the time when the cause of that mental trauma is traced and destroyed, Them! is taut science-fiction."

"Brog" in Variety opined it was a "top-notch science fiction shocker. It has a well-plotted story, expertly directed and acted in a matter-of-fact style to rate a chiller payoff and thoroughly satisfy the fans of hackle-raising melodrama." Bill Warren described the film as “… tight, fast-paced and credible…The picture is suspenseful."

Phil Hardy’s The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction noted, "Directed by Gordon Douglas in semi-documentary fashion, Them! is one of the best American science-fiction films of the fifties."

Danny Peary believed the film "Ranks with The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers as the best of the countless fifties science fiction films." Of the 24 reviewers included in a Rotten Tomatoes survey of critics regarding the title, 100% reflect a positive reaction.

When Them! began production in the fall of 1953, it was originally conceived to be in 3-D and WarnerColor. During pre-production, tests were to be shot in color and 3-D.

A few color tests were shot of the large-scale ant models, but when it was time to shoot the 3-D test, WB's "All Media" 3-D camera rig malfunctioned and no footage could be filmed.

The next day, a memo was sent out that the color and 3-D aspects of the film were to be scrapped, and that black and white and wide-screen would be the preferred format, trying to emulate the "effective shock treatment" of Warners' The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

Ultimately the film was not shot in wide-screen. Because of the preparation of certain shots, however, many of the camera set-ups for 3-D still remain, such as the opening titles and flame-throwers that are shot at the camera.

Although WB was dissatisfied with the color results, the opening titles were printed in color against a black and white background to give the opening of the film a "punch". This effect was achieved by an EastmanColor section spliced into each print.

Excerpts and References:
wikipedia.org, imdb.com

SFMZ Presents: Them! 1954 Image/Dialogue Gallery

Over 250 screencaps with properly placed highlighted dialogue and some plot descriptions, SFMZ features this gallery for visitors to explore a breakdown of Gordon Douglas' Them! 1954.

A New Mexico State Police airplane piloted by "JOHNNY" is conducting a search in the White Sands desert near Alamogordo.

Police troopers Sgt. Ben Peterson and Ed Blackburn are not far the plane communicating with the pilot.

JOHNNY: 3018 to car 5-W, code one.

PETERSON: 5-W to 3018, go ahead Johnny.

JOHNNY: I think we're chasing the wind, Ben. Maybe the guy who sent that report, drank his breakfast. We might as well call it . . . Hey, wait a minute.

The pilot spots a little girl wandering the desert.

JOHNNY: It's a kid allright. Maybe 50 yards off the road. I'll keep circling her until you pick her up. Ten-ten.

PETERSON: Ten-ten.

PETERSON: Hey honey! Hey, little girl!

PETERSON: Hey wait a minute. What are you doing out here? Honey . . . what's your name? . . . Who do you belong to?

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