My love of movies began with the monster genre, specifically those shown during the “Creature Features” on Saturday afternoons in the 1970s. Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy were all great company, but my real fascination was anything featuring a large (insert insect/animal/human) attacking miniature cities until a (insert scientist/army guy/innocent-looking blonde) saved the day. I choose not to revisit most of them, fearing my adult-onset cynicism would ruin some pristine memories. But after hearing CineVegas would be showing one of my all-time childhood favorites, 1954’s Them!, drive-in-style, I had to rent it one more time to see how it had aged.
Bottom line: I had damn good taste as a kid. Them! is a ’50s time-capsule hoot that doesn’t induce cringes in any department. The cinematography and special effects are among the best for the post-atomic horror period, the script mostly avoids the sexism that plagued its successors (“If she’s a doctor, I think I’m developing a fever” is the worst of it), and the cast is arguably the finest ever assembled for a film featuring giant ants—James Arness, James Whitmore and particularly Edmund Gwenn as an insect specialist who knows way too much about formic acid. One of the few films of the period that belongs in any video collection, Them! is a great way to celebrate the larger-than-life spirit of CineVegas and movies in general.
Them! plays June 19 at 9 p.m. at Fremont & Third Streets.