• A Review Page For Those Movies You Watch At Home!

    Couch Potato Movie Reviews is, obviously, a blog that exclusively reviews movies. What makes this blog different is the fact that all of the films we are reviewing are all movies that are available on home movie rental companies such as Redbox, Netflix, Blockbuster, and your quickly disappearing neighborhood rental store. This blog is designed to take a more detailed look at those movies that either were sent straight to DVD, received a very limited release in the theaters, or were distributed through the art house or film festival circuit. We will also review those big Hollywood films, but only after they are available for home viewing.

    All the reviews are written by fans of the great art of film making rather than some newspaper reviewer or stuffy film student. We don’t know everything about film but we do know what we like, and we are more than happy to share our opinions with you. What you do with those opinions are totally up to you, although comments are welcome and encouraged.

    Each film review has a one to five star rating at the end of the critique. Here is what those star ratings mean for you couch potatoes:

    * * * * * : Five stars: go and buy this one, don’t just rent it!

    * * * * : Four stars: put this at the top of your rental list.

    * * * : Three stars: average, not bad just not great either.

    * * : Two stars: only rent if you have to see everything.

    * : One star: don’t waste your time with this.

Them!

TITLE: Them!

YEAR: 1954

GENRE: Science Fiction and Horror

Back in the 1950’s there was a strong paranoia with nuclear fission and its potential destructive powers. Between the fact that the Russians now had the Bomb and that the average American did not understand its future benefits, the fear of this fairly new technology was great and perfect fodder for film makers to use this dread to create movies that would resonate in the minds of frightened fans. The Day The Earth Stood Still was the first major film to mention nuclear power’s destructive forces back in 1951, but it took a couple years for Hollywood to display the fictitious effects of bugs and reptiles growing to enormous sizes due to nuclear fallout. The 1954 film Them! was the first of the big bug movies which spawned literally dozens of monster movies including the Japanese movie series Godzilla. Them! is more than just another film filled with big bugs, but rather it is a well written and crafted science fiction horror offering that still creates chills to this day.

New Mexico State Police Sergeant Ben Peterson (played by James Whitmore) and his partner Ed Blackburn (Chris Drake) discover a shocked and silent girl (Sandy Descher) wandering the desert. Upon investigating the police officers discover that the girl’s entire family had been killed and that their vacation trailer had been ripped open from the outside. The cops assume that it must be the work of a serial killer, especially when several other locals end up deceased including Officer Blackburn who was killed while guarding one of the murder scenes. FBI agent Robert Graham (James Arness) is called in to assist in the investigation, and because of some unusual animal prints in the desert calls in scientists Dr. Harold (Edmund Gwenn) and Pat Medford (Joan Weldon) to help identify what left the prints. The results are astounding: the prints are from giant ants that must have mutated due to nuclear bomb experiments in the area a few years back. Twelve foot tall ants are a big enough problem, but when it is discovered that they are migrating to Los Angeles the military must be called in to battle the giant creepy-crawlies.

What makes Them! stand out is that it was the one of the first nuclear monster movie ever made and the very first mutated bug film in Hollywood history. Them! was also one of the very first movies to have the special effects as the true star of the film, as the ants were the focal point of the marketing. The bugs may be a bit cliché now and comical to the CGI-only film fan, but the special effects in Them! were revolutionary for their time and received an Academy Award nomination. Even though the bugs were the primary attraction, Them! would not be the memorable production it is today without the quality acting and decent filming that the film displays throughout its run. In addition, the sound effects are excellent and the noises that the mutant ants create will send shivers down the spine once they are heard in each scene.

Little known at the time character actor Fess Parker plays a hysterical Air Force pilot in Them! and the role changed his career: Walt Disney saw his role in the film and was so impressed that he hired him to play Davey Crockett on segments for the TV show “Disneyland” (later named “The Wonderful World Of Disney”) which later created a merchandising frenzy of coon skin caps, rifles, rings, and board games and forever cemented Parker’s career as the rough and tumble frontiersman (he also played the lead role in the 1964-70 TV show “Daniel Boone”). Although many copies have been attempted over the years, Them! is still one of the very best giant bug movies and stands tall over the genre it created. Them! is an indelible moment in the history of science fiction and should be watched by any fan of the genre who can appreciate its rich historical significance as it is a watershed moment in the annals of nerd cinema.

* * * * 1/2

–Mark

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