Animal Attack Movies: Them!


Them! (Gordon Douglas, 1954)

We watch through binoculars as a giant ant drops a human rib cage. It tumbles down the anthill. For me, the horror of this moment is exceeded only by the joy of recognition, for I’ve spent many a slow morning squatting near the dens of harvester ants and watching them clear out their own dead. Giant bug movies proliferated like cockroaches in the 1950s. It’s a famously cheesy genre, but it did produce some gems, like Jack Arnold’s beautifully photographed Tarantula. Them! is the best of the buggy bunch.

No one who has ever studied ants has failed to imagine the premise of this movie—the sizes of our two social species somehow evened. We humans would win if we were allowed high-tech weapons—the people in the movie use flamethrowers. But the harvester ant has a mighty sting, among the most painful in North America—as I can personally attest. In a fair fight, we’d have no chance. Of course, harvester ants probably wouldn’t be interested in hurting us without provocation. They prefer seeds to meat. 

4 comments:

  1. It always amazes me that they're the ones sold for ant farms; you'd think we could find a more benign ant for that purpose. (I got drilled more than once in my youth by hostile harvesters in captivity.)

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    1. At least they don´t use siafu in ant farms :D

      When I was a kid my father was frustrated that I would rather lay on the floor to watch leaf-cutter ants at work instead of playing.

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  2. Have you read Edward O. Wilson's new (within the last two or three years) book on leafcutters? His editor sent it to me for a review a while back and I never got around to it. Then I saw Richard Dawkins having a spasm about it in print. Wilson makes some claims about group evolution that Dawkins can't quite get his head around. Really interesting stuff. My copy is buried in one of piles somewhere or I'd be more specific.

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    1. There are many things Richard Dawkins can´t get his head around...

      I didn´t read the book. I'd like to, but many books never arrive here and I'm still not able to order many via internet. :(

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