Thursday, October 07, 2010


American International, the company that brought us a series of B-horror films in the 60's which were supposedly based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe (but only barely), tried the same strategy with this B-sci-fi film, claiming this giant ant movie was based on a story by H.G. Wells, though actually only the title and the basic idea of smart ants were taken from Wells--in the story, the ants are bigger than normal, but not giant. First, we get a little lecture about ants, and how they "cannot defy the obligatory command" of the pheromones which they use to communicate. Then we see ants swarming over dumped radioactive waste along a beach. Finally the story proper starts, or shall I say, the first of what feels like two different stories. Story #1: Joan Collins brings a motley group of people out to a new island resort community called Dreamland Shores, trying to sell them property. We get to know the people a bit, including a retired couple, a quiet single girl (Pamela Shoop), a married sleazeball (Robert Pine) who practically assaults the quiet girl, and a nice-guy loner (John David Carson) with whom Shoop eventually gets chummy. The gigantic ants (a combination of magnified footage of real ants and big plastic ant heads) begin killing off the folks one by one and also destroy the boat so that the skipper (Robert Lansing) can't take them off the island. However, a handful of them find a canoe and escape to the mainland where story #2 kicks in: The locals appear at first to be helpful, but it soon turns out that they are all minions of the ants, who spray the people with their pheromones to get them to do their duty, which is to work in sugar mines to feed the ants. Will the survivors of Dreamland Shores be able to free themselves from the ants and the townies?

For a "bad movie night," this will do nicely. The acting is TV-movie level, and though Collins is a standout, she's not as over-the-top as you might expect given her later "Dynasty" fame. Carson is easy on the eyes, though he's lacking in heroic qualities. Edward Power (as Collins' kept stud) and Albert Salmi (as the town's sheriff) are more than adequate. The ant effects work well enough if you let them--the best single shot is of a parade of ants heading down the pier to crush the boat. The two plot halves don't feel like an organic fit. The Gilligan's Island-ish story of the first half is slow going with too much character development given that most of these folks don't make it to the last half. The Ant Overlords story is more interesting but is rushed through, so an appropriate tone of paranoid creepiness only lasts for about two minutes before we realize what's happening. Then, of course, there's the ecological disaster aspect, which seems to have been tossed in at the last minute. Not a disc to buy, but if you rent it from Netflix, you won't feel too guilty the next morning. And have I said, "John David Carson (pictured): yummy"? [DVD]

1 comment:

dfordoom said...

This movie is proof that I'll truly watch Joan Collins in absolutely anything, but it's actually a lot of fun.