Saturday, April 2, 2016

Watching "Them!" (1954), and the ideas that pour forth as a result.

Where to start?  Where to end?

Every entrance is covered either by a bazooka team or flame throwers.

Why not both?  You don't know which will be needed.

You want to know what isn't going to end well for you?  A fight where your opponent says, "You brought a bazooka to a flamethrower fight."

At that point the best you can hope for is to take them with you because you're not going to walk away.


They're alive, they're alive!

You don't say that now!

Damn it, you don't tell the mother they're alive until the kids are right in front of her.  Then you say, "Here are your kids, they're alive, hug them before we get eaten by giant ants."  Been nice knowing you, and all that.


Lonespark: Did they even bring any medics?


Well we've got to get through and check the egg chamber, find out if any new queens have hatched out.

Lonespark: I nominate people I don't like.


The guns that worked appeared to be ordinary machine guns, like the kinds that gangsters use.

I said something about breaking out the Tommy guns.

Lonespark asked why the mob wasn't called in and proposed a movie that involved the giant ants vs. the Mafia.


Lonespark: Let's talk more slowly so they'll have even more time to escape.


Other than Reign of Fire and certain zombie movies you never see things where the giant ants win and people have to survive in the after.

And what you really never see are the stories of riding out the apocalypse.  Everyone's all for stories told in the post apocalyptic world, but do you know how people got in that world?  People, often other people, started in the pre-apocalyptic world, worked fucking hard to live through the apocalyptic world, and finally succeeded in surviving into the the post apocalyptic world.

"The world as we know it is ending.  Time for a road trip!"

"We can't beat them so we go where they aren't."

Stuff like that.

And they probably had help from other people who had epic last stands to buy time for the survivors so that they could be survivors.

Initial proposal, Lonespark's idea: Three movie arc.
  1. The pre-apocalypse people try stop the apocalypse and, when that fails, have noble sacrifices so that this will be survivable for others.  Show cute children and cute hamsters being evacuated so that we understand that these sacrifices are worth it.
  2. During the apocalypse: people working together to survive through the collapse of civilization
  3. Post-apocalypse: This is how we live now.  It's not the way we lived before.
Alternate proposal, also Lonespark:
  1. Dystopia
  2. Collapse
  3. Utopia, or at least proto-utopia being established.
I suggested that we need more than three movies.

After you survive the collapse and the giant ants/dragons/zombies/zombie-ant-dragons, then you need to survive the preppers.  Then you need to survive the village next door because the good guys are the ones who help someone up if they trip during the "Run away" portion of survival while there are others who intentionally tripped people and left them for dead in order to buy themselves more time to run away during the "run away" portion.

And perhaps the second group started a Randian empire.

Lonespark: So you're talking about seven seasons of a TV show, so you can get all the viewpoints in.

Sure, why not?


Lonespark: Or fall and rise.  I'm partial to fall and rise.

Me: Yeah, fall and rise is so much better than rise and fall.


Before I started the post, what actually got me to start after watching more than half of the solid post-gold that is Them! was that martial law was declared on LA, the tanks and troops rolled in.  Actually, I don't remember if there were any tanks.

Regardless, I suggested a movie where a fascist regime uses an existential threat like the giant ants of Them! to take power, except they never actually took the threat seriously and didn't even believe it was real.

Then it turns out that the monsters were real, the monsters are really a serious threat, and the monsters don't like fascists.

"Yeah, we gotta eat, but why eat innocent people when there are plenty of these guys to munch on?" monster indicates fascist overlords.

Giant ants vs. the Fascists.


A reporter in the movie, before the general public knows that the threat is giant ants: "Has the Cold War gotten hot?"

Me: The Russians have nothing to do with this.  These aren't communists, they're monarchists!


There was a scene where a the telegraph operator on a ship is tapping out Morse code even as we watch his crewmates being killed by giant ants through the windows of the room he's in.  He doesn't stop tapping until an ant gets him, and even then doesn't stop until he's physically unable to tap the thingy anymore.

If you are ever hiring a communications officer, you want someone like this guy.  People may deride live tweeting your experience of being eaten by giant ants, but the fact of the matter is that our entire civilization owes huge debts to people who do just that.

Scholars, for example, who wrote the ongoing history of the Black Death while dying from it.

In fact, maybe we need a movie or two where we see someone doing something just like this and it is explicitly the information they were able to record/transmit that allows the movie to be triumph rather than tragedy.

Drums in the deep.  The record keeper does not leave zir post.  They are coming, but the telegraph officer doesn't stop tapping that Morse code thingy.


When they're keeping it a secret for no good reason and demanding that people who have committed no crime save honesty be institutionalized in a solitary way too keep that secrecy after promising the guy they'll try to get him released, the temptation arises to root for the ants and the fall of human civilization.


What else?  I need to just have a sound recorder going during such things so that I don't forget.

Here's one:

They think two boys are in the storm drains.  That's all that stops them from just lighting up the storm drains and then then checking the charred remains afterward to see if they got the job done.

Wait what?

Look, I don't know a damned thing about the LA river, but I'm guessing that two well off boys hiding from giant ants aren't the only people in those nice, sheltered places.  Seems like a good place to make your home if you don't have one.  Sure, a flash flood could take you out if you don't see it coming and evacuate, but until then it seems worlds better than something like under a bridge where you're unprotected from the sides.

Why the fuck don't you assholes give a damn about the homeless people?


Sound that isn't the wind.

"Maybe it's the wind."

No.  If the wind made a sound like that around there you'd mention it so that those of us watching who don't live around there would know that the wind was a possibility.  You'd say something like, "Odd, it usually it doesn't sound like this unless the wind is stronger," or some such.

Later, same characters in severe winds:

Me: For future reference, that's what the wind sounds like.


So forth.  Damn, that movie was solid gold when it comes to generating discussion, ideas, and snark opportunities.


  1. Budget cuts, man. We said a flamethrower and a bazooka on every entrance, but we just don't have the hardware.

    Bringing a flamethrower to a bazooka fight also seems unlikely to end well.

    There's historical precedent for calling in the mob. During WWII, the New York docks became hugely efficient, and all it cost was a bunch of staged trials of the mobsters' rivals, and a promise that Sicily would be handed over to them after the invasion.

    I'm very interested in transitional moments like the ones you're talking about. To be fair, quite a few zombie films do take this approach: things are coming apart, let's get to safety.

    How to solve a Randian empire: ① wait until they need a skill they don't have, like unblocking the toilets; ② laugh.

    Post-gold? Is that mercury?

    Lovecraftian protagonists also make good comms officers; they keep writing as the Thing comes in at the window.

    There were no homeless people in 1954. A chicken in every garage, a car in every pot.

  2. "A chicken in every garage, a car in every pot."

    Oooh, excellent! You made me laugh, and I needed.

  3. Ooh. I can actually think of a historical event that would make a pretty good basis for a movie about a guy who saves the day by continuing to transmit messages right up until he dies: base it on the Halifax Explosion of 1917 ( ) and have Vince Coleman ( ) as a major character and/or protagonist.

    Seriously, great post.

    - Iuliana

  4. '1. Dystopia
    2. Collapse
    3. Utopia, or at least proto-utopia being established'

    That's pretty much the structure of Menzies' 'Things To Come.' WWII starts, civilisation collapses, technocratic utopia is created. The collapsed-civilisation bit has a lovely sort of Mad-Max-in-1940 feel to it.