THEM! is one of the best of a 1950s spate of monster movies rooted in nuclear paranoia. Whitmore and Drake, two New Mexico state troopers patrolling the desert, happen across a trailer home that has been peeled open like a sardine can and gutted. Hiding nearby is a little girl who is

nearly catatonic from fear. All she can utter is the word "Them." As the mystery deepens, FBI man Arness, scientist Gwenn, and his daughter Weldon (a scientist in her own right), are called in to help in the investigation. Eventually they learn that secret atomic testing in the area has spawned a

colony of 20-foot-long ants. Realizing that if the queen is able to mate, the world may be overrun by the giant creatures, Whitmore and company hurriedly work to locate the nest and destroy it. They trace the creatures to the Los Angeles drainage system (in perhaps the best use of that overly

photographed location). Armed with large flame throwers, they confront the monstrous critters.

THEM! pulls all this off quite convincingly. The giant ants do look a bit phony, but they are never on screen long enough to become bothersome. In fact, the image of dozens of giant ants in their underground nest is unforgettable. There was no stop-motion animation used in the film. Instead, two

actual-sized models were constructed by prop man Dick Smith (one entire ant, and another front section for closeups). Special effects supervisor Ayres was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the film. The film is produced and performed with such seriousness that one becomes engrossed in

the logistics of dealing with such creatures and forgets about plausibility. THEM! was Warner Brothers' highest grossing film of 1954 and inspired countless imitations, all of which were inferior to the original.