While director Jack Arnold is better known for his moody, science-fiction mini-epics set in the desert, colleague and Warner Bros contract director Gordon Douglas approached the giant bug concept with the same seriousness, thereby giving the film's standout cast - particularly Whitmore as a beat cop, drafted into the national defense team - plenty of room to treat their roles with more sincerity. Douglas mines the desert location for all its beauty and mystery, tossing in opaque sandstorms to mask the bugs' initial appearances, yet revealing just enough to make the giant ants pretty effective.
Previously released on laserdisc, Warner Bros' DVD transfer adds more clarity to the overall images, and the excellent transfer shows off the sublime black and white cinematography which makes "Them!" so enjoyable. The deep grays of the film's bright desert and Los Angeles noontime locations are nicely contrasted with the murky tunnels of the giant ants - some photographed with high speed film - and the characters' use of bright, powerful (and way cool) flame throwers glow onscreen.
The mono mix is fairly clean, and the film's outstanding ant sounds - an eerie, cricket-like shrill - are nicely blended with Bronsilau Kaper's discordant score.
The disc's extras include the film's original trailer (which uses a few crowd shots not used in the film), a still gallery, a short history on giant bug flicks, and outtakes of a few special effects sequences, five of which reveal some of the mechanics and primitive air bladders used to animate the immense ants (along with the extra time the technicians required to get the massive bugs in place and in motion).
An extra nod is also required towards the disc's menu design. Inspired by the lurid poster art, each page resembles a newsprint fragment, with loud headlines, aggressive text, and several stills (with captions). Make sure you read all the text, including the pages that precede the outtakes, and the menu options which humorously change from one level of publicity-styled hype to another.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan
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