October 9th, 2021

Them! [1954]

Please join Cultivate Cinema Circle as we screen Gordon Douglas’ Oscar nominated (Best Effects, Special Effects) film Them! [1954].

Event Sponsors:

Venue Information:

Downtown Central Library Auditorium
1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo, NY 14203
(Enter from Clinton Street between Oak and Washington Streets)
716-858-8900 •
COVID protocol will be followed.

TrailerSynopsisDirector BioLinks

In this film, a girl is found wandering in the desert in a state of complete shock. When she finally revives, she can scream out only one word: “Them!” As it turns out, “Them” are giant ants, a by-product of the radiation attending the atomic bomb tests of the era.


  • Academy Awards – 1955 – Nominee for Best Effects, Special Effects

Courtesy of TCM:

Before he was a well-respected film director, Gordon Douglas was a lowly teenage production intern whose go-getter attitude convinced his boss, famed media mogul Hal Roach, to cast him in the youthfully mischievous short-film series “Our Gang.” Already too old to join the central Little Rascals, he was instead given a succession of bit parts. In short order, he gleaned a thorough enough sense of the series’ ins and outs to take on writing and directing roles, eventually emerging as “Gang”‘s most dedicated (and prosperous) overseer, even going so far as to follow the eternally celebrated franchise when it moved to MGM. He ultimately realized, however, that he much preferred the homespun stylings of Roach’s studio, and he returned there, sans Rascals, to find further success as the director of such freewheeling comedies as the gleefully daft Laurel and Hardy adventure “Saps at Sea” (1940). A skilled features director by the time Hal Roach Studios folded altogether, he found a new permanent residence at Warner Bros. in 1950. Over the course of the following three decades, Douglas spread his wings as a multi-genre filmmaker, directing the quintessential atomic-age creeper “Them!” before making a distinct move toward savvier, more sophisticated projects such as the hard-edged detective dramas “They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!” and the forthrightly titled “The Detective.” He retired from the business in 1977 and died of cancer years later at the age of 85.


  • Viva Knievel! (1977)
  • Nevada Smith (1975)
  • Slaughter 2 (1973)
  • Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off (1973)
  • Skullduggery (1970)
  • Barquero (1970)
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs (1970)
  • The Detective (1968)
  • Lady in Cement (1968)
  • In Like Flint (1967)
  • Chuka (1967)
  • Tony Rome (1967)
  • Stagecoach (1966)
  • Way … Way Out (1966)
  • Sylvia (1965)
  • Harlow (1965)
  • Rio Conchos (1964)
  • Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964)
  • Call Me Bwana (1963)
  • Follow That Dream (1962)
  • Gold of the Seven Saints (1961)
  • Claudelle Inglish (1961)
  • The Sins of Rachel Cade (1961)
  • Up Periscope (1959)
  • Yellowstone Kelly (1959)
  • The Fiend Who Walked the West (1958)
  • Fort Dobbs (1958)
  • Bombers B-52 (1957)
  • The Big Land (1957)
  • Santiago (1956)
  • The McConnell Story (1955)
  • Sincerely Yours (1955)
  • Them! (1954)
  • Young at Heart (1954)
  • The Eddie Cantor Story (1954)
  • She’s Back on Broadway (1953)
  • So This Is Love (1953)
  • The Charge at Feather River (1953)
  • The Iron Mistress (1952)
  • Mara Maru (1952)
  • Come Fill the Cup (1951)
  • I Was a Communist for the F.B.I. (1951)
  • The Great Missouri Raid (1951)
  • Only the Valiant (1951)
  • Rogues of Sherwood Forest (1950)
  • Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950)
  • The Nevadan (1950)
  • Between Midnight and Dawn (1950)
  • Fortunes of Captain Blood (1950)
  • The Doolins of Oklahoma (1949)
  • Mr. Soft Touch (1949)
  • Walk a Crooked Mile (1948)
  • The Black Arrow (1948)
  • If You Knew Susie (1948)
  • San Quentin (1946)
  • Dick Tracy vs. Cueball (1946)
  • Zombies on Broadway (1945)
  • First Yank into Tokyo (1945)
  • The Falcon in Hollywood (1944)
  • A Night of Adventure (1944)
  • Gildersleeve’s Ghost (1944)
  • Girl Rush (1944)
  • Gildersleeve on Broadway (1943)
  • Gildersleeve’s Bad Day (1943)
  • The Great Gildersleeve (1942)
  • The Devil with Hitler (1942)
  • Broadway Limited (1941)
  • Niagara Falls (1941)
  • Saps at Sea (1940)
  • Zenobia (1939)
  • General Spanky (1936)

Here is a curated selection of links for additional insight/information:

  • Cultivate Cinema Circle info-sheet – link
  • “Dr. Edmund Gwenn’s final, slightly doleful but strictly scientific observation in “Them!” indicates that when man entered the atomic age he opened new worlds and that ‘nobody can predict’ what he will find in them. The Warner Brothers, fearlessly flouting this augury, have come up with one ominous view of a terrifyingly new world in the thriller that was exposed at the Paramount yesterday, and it is definitely a chiller.The awesome fact is that the Warner Brothers have planted ants on our planet—giant nine to twelve-footers, with mandibles like the tusks on a mammoth, and keening like all the banshees in a fevered imagination. There’s no point in making for the hills, though. It’s fascinating to watch.Since it is difficult to assign specific credit, suffice it to say that the combination of three writers, director Gordon Douglas, producer David Weisbart and a cooperative cast have helped make the proceedings tense, absorbing and, surprisingly enough, somewhat convincing. Perhaps it is the film’s unadorned and seemingly factual approach which is its top attribute.” – A.H. Weiler, The New York Times (1954) – link
  • “By far the best of the ’50s cycle of ‘creature features’, Them! and its story of a nest of giant radioactive ants (the result of an atomic test in the New Mexico desert) retains a good part of its power today. All the prime ingredients of the total mobilisation movie are here: massed darkened troops move through the eerie storm drains of Los Angeles, biblical prophecy is intermixed with gloomy speculation about the effect of radioactivity. Almost semi-documentary in approach, the formula is handled with more subtlety than usual, and the special effects are frequently superb.” – David Pirie, Time Out Film Guidelink
  • “…women are scary. And sexy, too, just like the bomb itself. In Paranoia, the Bomb, and 1950s Science Fiction Films, Cynthia Hendershot has written persuasively about the eroticization of nuclear power. ‘In postwar bomb fantasies,’ she argues, ‘sexuality becomes a means of containing the fear of the limits of meaning.’…In Them!, the monstrous fertility of the queen ants threatens to topple a social order dominated by men. (Joan Weldon’s gutsy scientist may be a babe, but she spends the entire movie chastely in her father’s shadow.) Hendershot proposes that, in a paranoiac worldview, the forces for purification and progress are constantly at war with those of contamination and degeneracy. Since at least Victorian times, matriarchal societies implied a backward step in evolution. So gendered 1950s sci-fi monsters take fears of Darwinist decline, run them through a nuclear power generator, and serve them up to a viewing public already worried about—and fiercely protective of—its civilization. The effect becomes one of diffuse suspicion. Who exactly are the enemies poised to dismantle the American dream? Women? Soviets? Heedless scientists? Somehow all three converge in images of irradiated, unknowable creatures eager to reproduce throughout the United States.” – Katy Waldman, Slate (2013) – link

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