Everybody knows that Them! is about giant ants, which is hilarious, because a movie called Them! could be about almost anything, as long as they're plural and not "us." And that's ignoring my favorite parameter: the exclamation point. "They" are not to be discussed in quiet, ominous overtones, but rather discussed briefly and to the point, just before the commencement of running. That the movie about giant ants was the first to co-opt that particular pronoun fills me with delight.
Of course since it's 1954 you can't get into these kind of shenanigans without a totally awesome stereotypical scientist, preferably white-haired and sporting a surprisingly hot daughter. We get both with Dr. Harold Medford, who busts onto the scene with one of the best sciency schticks 50's sci fi had to offer: the "I will say nothing until I have all the facts!" schtick. The thing is, he already knows it's giant ants, he figured it out right away, but until he's got the proof he isn't going to tell anybody and he doesn't care how weird he looks. So he leads a trio of tough guys out to the desert, secure that his unexplained, cockamamie requests will be honored because he has a hot daughter, and sure enough proof comes stomping along.
As the trusty gang stand around the vanquished ant, Dr. Medford can finally deliver his speech, culminating with the movie scientist's favorite punchline: "we are looking at none other than an enlarged member of the family Formicidae, or... the common ant."
"But that's impossible!" says the no-nonsense, plainclothes fed, instantly removing himself from the pool of people who might sleep with Dr. Medford's daughter. And well she should reject, in my opinion, for if there's one time in life you should hold back from the hackneyed "of course there are no giant ants" rant, it's when you and your pals are standing over the cooling corpse of a GIANT FUCKING ANT.
I do mean this movie respect, it takes itself seriously and presents a genuinely suspenseful story as the good guys try to prevent the spread of the original colony, using good old real-life ant science as their guide. The military is competent, the threat feels real and looming, and the only hitch is that for some reason our heroes are forced to track down the single theatrically drunk man who has managed to spot a swarm of car-sized ants in the middle of LA.
So it does occasionally get silly, but it's also true that the actors never flinch, and the final action scene is cool and scary in a way that you wouldn't think 1954 could pull off. I dig this movie, and I think it's ripe for a remake (and no, I don't mean Starship Troopers).