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THEM! (1954) on TCM Sat Feb 2

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movieman1957
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Postby movieman1957 » February 4th, 2008, 9:23 am

Ollie:

I don't think it's about whether a director thinks he can do better. I wonder if it is not frequently that they find a good story, think most of the audience they will make it for has never seen the original and then get to use all kinds of computer stuff to "wow" them.

Of course, there may be some big heads out there.
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Postby Ollie » February 4th, 2008, 8:24 pm

I think the money-men are told the new film will be better "if they'll put up the money."

I can't imagine a contrary statement being made to them: "The first version was so great we can make a terrible one and make money - and here's how I can guarantee to make it worse."

No, I can't imagine THAT statement being made. Well - maybe between Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel!

I'll bet Peter Jackson told the money-people, "Look, we've not only got much better effects, but we're also going to spend the openijng hour on the characters - that's how you make a remake better than the original!"

I just think that film got lost in their effects, and someone didn't say, "ENOUGH ALREADY! Atari TV Game Consoles had ice-skating effects in 1976 - can't you come up with something else that's better than a 30-year old FX?"

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Postby Ollie » February 5th, 2008, 8:47 am

I appreciated the time-updating on the '76 version. I'm sure those people sold that film on "We can do it better with a modern version and modern costumes." Besides, they cleaned the costume used in Beverly Hillbillies and look how wonderful those episodes were.

I wish they'd managed to snag the overalls and plaid shirt, too. And it was a real cute straw farmer's hat. Then if they'd taken him to Omaha instead, and let him climb some grain silos. FARMER KONG or something like that.

Of course, there's the even more pathetic 1986 sequel KING KONG LIVES. If there's one thing that can make the '76 film look good, it's an even worse sequel.

That's the Latrine Law Of Filmmaking - "Since you're down there, you can appear to elevate yourself by stepping up on whatever else is around you."

As if appearances really means a lot.

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Postby moira finnie » February 5th, 2008, 5:46 pm

My favorite moment is when the cops in Them note that the sugar supply in the demolished general store in the desert has been "tampered with"--cue the ominous music complete with ant sounds....

I came across this exchange between the director of the movie and his editor working on Them that made me chuckle. Maybe it will you too:

During post production, director Gordon Douglas asked the editor how the movie looked. "And he said 'fine.' Douglas said, 'Does it look honest?' The editor said, 'As honest as twelve foot ants can look.'

Honest enough for all of us who love the one and only Them!
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Please note Joan Weldon's lady-like attire, complete with pumps, hat, charm bracelet and dainty crouch as she tries to avoid being an ant snack.
Last edited by moira finnie on March 24th, 2008, 1:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby mrsl » February 5th, 2008, 8:54 pm

We have a similar discussion going on over on the Star Trek thread, and I'll say the same thing about THEM as I did about Star Trek:

- - - "Don't fix it if it ain't broke". :roll: - - -

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Postby Ollie » February 7th, 2008, 10:36 am

I have wondered that, in these great old classics, if I haven't always checked my Critical Facilities at the door when I bought the ticket and started watching. "Don't bother nitpicking the effects, the acting, the story - just see if it's fun and that's all I can judge it by."

Yet modern films - with great looking CGI that rivals 1940's PINOCCHIO - are held to a much higher standard.

"C'mon, guys - you claim to want to produce realism with your CGI - so let's 'get REAL' and accept all criticism that comes with it."

I also hope Monster-Destroys-City movies will understand that those movies should have 90% of the film about the Monster Destroying The City - not some 20-somethings soap opera. That's what DayTime TV is about. When I want to see a monster movie, I actually WANT to see the monster!

Amazing, I know... but filmmakers still believe monster movies should never ever show the monster until the final moments.

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Postby mrsl » February 7th, 2008, 1:04 pm

Ollie:

I don't mind not seeing the monster if it's for shock effect, but that has been done countless time now since JAWS, so it no longer works as well. The problem nowadays is that the 'monster' is no longer an evolved animal, it is now a human being who has gone nuts and just kills people. Moviemakers can't seem to envision the difference between sci-fi (War of the Worlds) and horror (SAW), movies. I'm a BIG sci-fi fan, not a horror fan, yet Spielberg still put Tim Robbins in as that whacko farmer, therefore trying to turn a timeless sci-fi story into a horror story. If you recall, the original WOTW had The two stars walking into a farmhouse which had been inhabited by the space monsters, so the situations were similar, and the stars had to get away, only different things happened. IMO Spielberg did not improve the story with that plot change, if anything he hampered it.

So getting back to the original idea of remakes. Please let's don't. At one time they worked but for the past 30 years they only work for the people who have never seen the original.

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Postby MikeBSG » March 24th, 2008, 10:23 am

I just read the book "American Gothic" by Jonathan Rigby, a book that covers the American horror film from 1896 to 1956. He doesn't pay a lot of attention to science fiction horror films, seeing them as more science fiction than horror, but he has a quote about "Them!" that I had never heard before.

After the movie was previewed for him, Jack Warner declared:

"Anybody who wants to make ant movies can go to work at Republic!"

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Postby Dewey1960 » March 24th, 2008, 11:53 am

Mike, that's a particularly amusing quote from Warner. Had he waited a while before making it, he might have also pointed out that THEM! became the highest grossing black & white film in the studio's history up to that point!

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Postby MikeBSG » March 25th, 2008, 1:25 pm

Warner's attitude toward horror movies puzzles me. He supposedly liked "Mystery of the Wax Museum" very much, and Frank Capra said he took "Arsenic and Old Lace" to Jack Warner since Warner was open to far out ideas.

But then there is this quote about "Them!" and Warner apparently hated "Curse of Frankenstein" even though it made a bunch of money for Warners. (As long as Jack Warner was involved with the company, Warners never again released a Hammer film in America.) Maybe Warner just turned into a grumpy old man.

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Postby moira finnie » May 10th, 2008, 4:57 pm

Michael Daves, an Assistant Director in Hollywood for decades, (and the son of the underrated director, Delmer Daves), once worked with Gordon Douglas, the director of Them! (1954).
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Director Gordon Douglas, the "auteur" of Them! honing his technical skills by posing with some switchboard operators in Hollywood in the late '40s.

In an interview with Mr. Daves that I came across, he mentioned that to prevent possible panic and traffic jams, the giant ants that were used in the film were transported out to the desert on the back of flat back trucks for their "day in the sun" only at night in LA. Guess it would have been a bit unsettling to see a big ant passing you on the thruway!
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Postby Ollie » May 10th, 2008, 6:37 pm

ha ha - yes, I've only seen NORMAL things in LA (ha ha - where IS that Sarcasm Font?!!)

I've just wondered what Daves could have done with the Hotdog Building or the Giant Donut. My my... I believe the Oscar Meyer WeinerMobile existed then, yes? I mean - could you IMAGINE the ad possibilities?

In Galveston, Texas (the on-the-Gulf-of-Mex city south of Houston), there was a seafood restaurant with a giant, roof-sized blue crab on it. I was SO glad that Whitmore and Arness hadn't found it and burned it to a crisp.

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Postby MikeBSG » May 12th, 2008, 10:02 am

They should have driven the ant-trucks out in broad daylight as long as they had a banner on the truck that read:

"ACME EXTERMINATORS NO JOB TOO LARGE OR TOO SMALL!!"

I know I have seen exterminator's cars with big plastic bugs on the roof.


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