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dwatts
05-10-2003, 07:35 PM
***********Spoilers**********

Is it fair, when talking about a film about ants, to say it’s a turkey?

Empire of the Ants has a star roster that defines the year in which it was made, Joan Collins, Robert Lansing, John Carson. People that you see on the big screen here, but whom also visited the small screen with some regularity. The big screen small screen mix goes right through this film, with less than stellar results.

The plot is quite simple, and it’s right in line with the films of the 1950’s, which this one tries to update with color, widescreen and FX. First we have the mean land dealer, a woman played by Collins who is selling plots of land on a tropical island. Sure, the island is really a swamp, and anyone who buys a plot is flushing their money down the toilet. We know all this right from the start, but that’s okay, because the only purpose of this subplot is to make sure we all realize that Collins is evil.

Other than that, we have the usual assortment of characters that you’ll find in movies of this time – these people are the prospective buyers of the plots. We have the working class older lady, looking to invest her last dime, we have the pensioners who just want a place in the sun where they can live out the rest of their lives, the young beauty whose heart has been broken, the down and out young man who just needs a good woman, and the couple who hate each other because daddy is rich and he’s a loser. You get the idea.

The movie opens with one of the strangest pieces of stock footage one can imagine, a shot of ants with a voiceover explaining that ants are really just as intelligent as man. It’s all very silly indeed, but in the context of the film I let it go.

The film proper starts with a shot of a ship (looks like a yacht, but what the hell) that is dumping oil drums into the ocean. The drums are white, with a big red “RADIOACTIVE” written on the side. Needless to say, these drums are going to wash up on the beach of our island, and the contents will leak (and is then consumed by the ants). This dumping scene is quite funny, since the sailors are dressed in red overalls that look exactly like those the twins wore during the surgical scenes in Dead Ringers. Weird.

Anyway, cutting a long story short, the ants eat this stuff, and become huge. They attack the people who are supposed to buy the land, and we have a chase movie.

Now, all in all this really sounds like my type of film. Giants ants, tropical paradise reduced to hunting grounds, radioactivity, all good stuff. Actually, I saw something very much like it with THEM. However, whereas THEM has, over the years, been elevated to classic status, this film is as forgettable as they come.

One of the reasons this film fails are the SFX. Now don’t get me wrong, as I have already mentioned, THEM is a classic, and while the ants in that film might not be too realistic, they work well. In this film though, the FX are like watching the film commit slow suicide.

Most of the FX are basically shots of ants, obviously behind a pane of glass, and then magnified. This scene is then laid over the scenes with the human actors (or back projected). The problem is, this causes ants to suddenly rear up – or to have their legs shoot skyward. There are scenes here of groups of ants supposedly in the middle of a field, when they stop and start climbing upward, obviously they were trying to climb the glass, but for the purposes of this flick, it looks terrible.

Oh sure there are close ups, scenes where the ants attack people. For those we have models that make those seen in THEM appear start-of-the-art. Honestly, these FX are just impossible to watch.

To add insult to injury, they have dubbed sounds for the ants, and the sound they chose was a woman screaming in a high-pitched wail. It’s awful, during the latter scenes I had to turn the volume down in any scene with an ant in it. It’s enough to make your ears bleed.

I am strongly opposed to anyone spending their hard earned cash on this film. So I’m going to reveal the surprise ending in all its glory. This ending involves a queen ant passing gas into the faces of villagers. When the ant does this, the villagers get hypnotized, and are enslaved to the ants and must do their bidding. One thing they do is to take over a huge sugar factory so the ants can feed. I’m not bullshitting you. The villagers line up, apparently weekly, to have the queen fart on them. I never thought this could get worse, but in the end, it did.

The only question remaining is, is it so bad it is good? Can you watch this and laugh? Well, I watched it alone stone cold sober. In that case – no. This film just stank, it is not so bad it is good. A group of people together, with a 12 pack for each of them, might – and only might – find something to laugh about. However, I promise you, there will be long segments you’ll fast forward through. I watched the whole damn thing so you wouldn’t have to.

This movie is put out, region 0, by MGM. Widescreen (1.85:1). Stereo. It was made in 1977.

The final insult is that the transfer here is superb. I mean, this sucker is close to reference! What the hell is going on? Lesser films look like crap, and this one if gorgeous.

The tag line for this film says it all – “Empire of the Ants….. it’s no picnic!” No shit. This film reeks. I cannot recommend it for any purpose. Stay away!

Zodiac-Mindwarp
05-10-2003, 07:48 PM
Cool review Dwatts!

Sorry that I have to disagree with you on this, but I found this movie to be so bad I had a fun time watching it. :D

Hellbilly
05-10-2003, 08:13 PM
I always thought Joan Collins was the scariest thing in this movie.
Great review!

Zodiac-Mindwarp
05-10-2003, 08:20 PM
:lol: :lol: :lol:

I agree with you on that HB! :D

hell ya!
05-10-2003, 08:46 PM
I will pick this movie at some point it sounds like it would be fun and its pretty cheap.:banana:

studio1
05-10-2003, 09:16 PM
Excellent review m8, shame about the movie though
Did I actually sit and watch this one evening, Yes I did:sleepy:
I had exactly the same reaction to this, as I did the first time I watched an episode of Prisoner Cell Block H:cry:
You say Joan Collins was scary in Empire, did you ever see some of the babes in prisoner cell block H?:eek1: :eek1:

S12

Zodiac-Mindwarp
05-11-2003, 12:39 AM
Actually when it was on many years ago, I enjoyed Prisoner: Cell Block H.

Of course that was many years ago, or at least it feels like many years ago. :lol:

Shannafey
05-11-2003, 04:24 AM
It's a guilty pleasure of mine!

Atmims
05-11-2003, 04:55 AM
I think I seen when I was 4 or 5 years old. It creeped me out as a child, but then again so did Pinwheel. Are there any other movies about giant ants?

dwatts
05-11-2003, 09:31 AM
Other than THEM? Hm, I'm sure there must be. After this one, you probably wouldn't care ;)

Hellbilly
05-11-2003, 09:43 AM
Honey, I Shrunk The Kids had a big ant in it. The only one I could think of :eek2:

dwatts
05-11-2003, 09:48 AM
Didn't Antz have ants in it? Mind you, one was played by Woody Allen :) He's Jewish, so it can't be completely uncut.

Hellbilly
05-11-2003, 09:50 AM
:lol:

Atmims
05-11-2003, 04:31 PM
:lol: Okay it wasn't Them, so I'm pretty sure it was Empire of the Ants that I saw. Thanks again for the great review!