A little girl is found wandering through the desert, apparently in a trancelike
state of shock. When police officers Peterson (James Whitmore) & Blackburn
(Chris Drake) find the trailer of her parents nearby, they find it horribly
thrashed, & the parents missing. Later, stopping by a local shop, they find
it thrashed pretty much the same way, & in the basement its owner, dead.
& while gurarding the place, Blackburn is killed, too, & autopsy shows,
he was killed by formic acid.
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The local police realizes the case is a few numbers too big for them &
contact the FBI, but when FBI-agent Robert Graham (James Arness) takes up
investigations, all the gathered evidence soon leaves him baffled as well. When
he sends his evidence to headquarters, they promise to send help ... & do
so in sending 2 insectologists, doctors Medford father (Edmund Gwenn) &
daughter (Joan Weldon) - & these 2 soon come up with the wild idea of giant
ants having caused all the havoc ... & wouldn't you know it, their
suspicions are soon confirmed out in the desert when they, with officer
Peterson & agent Graham, are attacked by one such ants, about ten feet
long, too. The four of them manage to kill the animal, but unfortunately, ants
are in general no loners but live in big ant-nests in large colonies ...
Soon an ant-nest gigantic enough for ten feet ants is found, too, &
bombed with an (un-)healthy dose of phosphor & cyanide ... enough to kill
all the ants !
The end ?
Of course not, after the ants have been killed, doctor Medfort (the
daughter) goes down into the caves with Peterson & Graham - & has to
realize 2 queen ants have already hatched & flown away to build colonies of
One of these queens is easily tracked down as she foolishly planned on
building a colony on a ship bound for Asia ... & has thus become an easy
targe for bomber-jets, with nowhere to go for her or her offspring (ants of
course can't live in water).
The second queen though proves to be a tougher cookie, as she has left no
easily detectable trail, & it takes some painstaking policework by Peterson
& Graham to track her down ... & only thanks to the evidence of Jensen
(Olin Howland), a hopeless & half crazy drunk, can she & her new colony
be found - in the sewers of Los Angeles no less.
& while the city is promptly put under martial law, Peterson, Graham
& the doctors Medford with the help of the army not only manage to destroy
all the ants but also to save 2 little boys from them ...
Giant creature films were big in the 50's, & more often than not pretty
stupid (if highly enjoyable because of it), this though is definitely one of
the best ones, since it boasts a good screenplay that avoids most of the
obvious clichés & is at the same time intelligent enough to take itself
dead serious (what moved other movies into the realms of unintentional
hilarity), is told in a very sober yet suspenseful way, & has some creature
effects that, while not being great, are convincing enough to sustain the
terror they are supposed to cause.