Them! (1954)

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Released 8-Oct-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Design and Operation of Giant Ants
Gallery-Photo
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1954
Running Time 88:43
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Gordon Douglas
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring James Whitmore
Edmund Gwenn
Joan Weldon
Arness James
Onslow Stevens
Sean McClory
Chris Drake
Leonard Nimoy
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Bronislau Kaper


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Spanish
Finnish
German
Icelandic
Swedish
Turkish
Czech
Polish
Greek
Dutch
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    If I started to write a plot synopsis that included a little girl wandering alone, so traumatised by a brush with a horrible monster that she couldn't talk and carrying a doll, you might well think that I was talking about the second Alien movie. The reason behind this is that this is the film that started the whole genre in America. While there appear to be parts of this film that are clichés (the scientist and his beautiful daughter for one), this is the film that set the mold for all the later films that turned the original ideas in this film into the aforementioned clichés.

    The special effects are not that great until you remember that this film was made in 1954. The acting is very good - everyone plays their part exactly as it should be, and nothing is over the top. Even the obligatory female scream scene is handled properly. The story is quite taut, with some great and, for its day, original ideas. The trivia about this film is interesting. Reportedly it was meant to be in 3D. Now, this can really wreck a film where they put scene after scene in that is there purely to show off the 3D effect. Thankfully, there is almost none of this type of effect.

    For fans of science fiction, this is a must-see film, not only because it is a landmark film that started the genre, but also because it is a great film that has stood the test of time. Even non-fans of the genre can enjoy this one as it is a very good drama with tension and characters that are believable and likeable.

    The film starts out in the famous New Mexico desert, of which the section known as White Sands is the most famous as the testing ground for the first American nuclear bomb. The radiation from this and later tests has had a rather unfortunate effect on some of the local residents, small black residents that live in a hole in the ground. They have mutated and grown to somewhere between nine and twelve feet in length. At first we don't know what it is that is causing some rather strange happenings, including several murders. A caravan is ripped open from the outside, a whole side removed. Two of the local police are called in and start their investigation. Strange things that don't add up are found, along with a very strange footprint in the sand. One of the missing people is an FBI agent and this of course brings in another agent to find out what happened, this along with the aged scientist and his daughter that are brought to the scene by the cast of the footprint that was sent to Washington. They have suspicions on what might have made the footprint but won't talk until they find more evidence. This brings together the main characters that the film revolves around and they begin their hunt for the nest of these very large pests. The story that evolves from here is excellent and filled with a wonderful tension and expectation, so to say more would be to ruin the effect.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

     What we have here is a 1954 film with a near perfect transfer, nothing short of miraculous.

    The transfer is presented at 1.33:1. There seems to be a little confusion about the original aspect ratio of this film with different sources claiming it to be either 1.66:1 or 1.36:1.

    The transfer is sharp and the shadow detail is great. In fact, the entire grey spectrum is faithfully reproduced here. There is no low level noise.

    This is a black and white film and as mentioned, the greys are very nicely reproduced.

    I could not find a single MPEG artefact. I looked very closely because the compression rate for this disc sits at about 10:1 while the bitrate sits at a normal healthy 8Mbps. This is normally a sign that there can be problems but there are none whatsoever. It also indicates that there has been no filtering applied to the transfer. There is some very minor edge enhancement, such as around the dark suit at 61:26, and some aliasing. The aliasing can be seen in the chrome trim around the ambulance door at 8:21. As for film artefacts, there just aren't any. There is no grain to speak of, no noticeable marks, no scratches, nothing! Clearly this transfer has been taken from a pristine source.

    There is a wide selection of subtitles available in a variety of languages including both English and English for the Hearing Impaired. They are easy to read and accurate.

    This is a single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There are three Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtracks on this disc; English, German and Spanish.

    Dialogue quality is excellent throughout as is the audio sync.

    While the audio is not the best in high fidelity with a fairly narrow range, it is fifty-odd years old. The music is the wonderful early science fiction fare that goes so well with these old films. The audio effects are also lots of fun and used very skilfully at the start of the film to build tension.

    I resisted the temptation to turn on one of those tacky but fun mono movie modes that my amp offers, although it is fun to add that great fake echo that reproduces the old cinemas for this kind of film. The surrounds and the subwoofer were quiet for the night.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    Presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack, this is without a doubt the most original and clever menu that I have seen on a disc. There are no fancy 3D animation or other time wasters here, rather the menu is styled around a tabloid newspaper from the period. Headlines and story headings form the menu selection items - the choice of wording to give the impression of both a story and the menu item is very clever. The audio starts with a sound bite from the film with dialogue, but this only plays the first time you fire up the disc. Once the loop has repeated we just get wind and noise effects. The same applied when leaving this menu for another and returning - the audio does not repeat the first section but starts half way though at the sound effects.

Featurette: Behind The Scenes (2:56)

    A series of short clips showing outtakes or what must have been test footage for the ants. Whilst not of the same quality as the main feature as there is some grain, just how these are still around after nearly fifty years makes the mind boggle.

Photo Gallery

    Twenty photos from the set of Them, showing the actors or scene set-ups along with four of the original movie posters. A fascinating look at the technology. Check out the lovely old movie cameras. Someone somewhere must have preserved these gems and they have my thanks.

Trailer (3:08)

    The original movie trailer presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack. Suffering slightly from grain, dirt and some scratches it is a little over the top. It is far more dramatic than the film and in my opinion does the film an injustice giving the wrong impression of what is to come. It is typical of the trailers of the period, and also almost gives away the ending so stay clear until after viewing the main feature.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    Other than some variation in the subtitle languages on offer, the filmographies and production notes hardly make for a compelling difference leaving us with basically equivalent releases.

Summary

    I love the way the the director builds tension in the audience during this movie with some great techniques. We are encouraged to be a step ahead of the characters from the very start. At one stage, early on, the little girl that they find is lying near-comatose in an ambulance. We hear the noise that the ants make and the little girl reacts, showing us that it is connected with whatever scared her, but the other characters are not watching her so they miss this. Another part that I loved was the scene where our leading lady appears in overalls. I have never seen a pair of overalls that were as well tailored as these, particularly around the top!

    The video quality is amazing.

    The audio is as you would have heard it all those many years ago.

    The extras are a nice touch.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Sunday, August 24, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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Comments (Add)
I've been waiting for this ... - John
"Them!" -- A childhood favourite - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)
Is this the best B/W transfer ever? - John
Classic Horror film of the 50's - Anonymous