- Joan Collins is the star in this feature film directed by Bert Gordon.
The poster depicts the scenes that the makers were aiming for, but could
not attain with the technology and budget of that time.
MOVIE OUTLINE / PLOT
Empire of the Ants is a 1977 science fiction horror film co-scripted and directed by Bert I. Gordon. Based very loosely on the short story Empire of the Ants by
H.G. Wells, the film involves a group of prospective land buyers led by a land developer, pitted against giant, mutated ants.
A heavenly paradise becomes a hellish nightmare when a toxic spill turns harmless ants into gigantic rampaging monster
The opening narration briefly introduces the viewer to the ant and its behavior. It takes note how ants use pheromones to communicate, and how they cause an obligatory response that must be obeyed. "But humans don't have to worry about that...." As the opening credits roll, barrels of radioactive waste are being dumped off a boat into the ocean. Eventually one of the barrels washes up on the shore and begins to leak a silvery goo attractive to local ants.
Meanwhile, shady land developer Marilyn Fryser (Joan Collins) takes a bunch of new clients to view some 'beach-front property' on a nearby island. In reality the land is worthless, but the trip is cut short by the group stumbling upon the lair of gigantic ants. The ants destroy their boat and chase the group through the woods. Fleeing for their lives through the wilderness and losing many of their party along the way, the remaining survivors eventually discover the local island town. But their safety is short-lived when they realize that not only are the giant ants feeding on the local sugar factory, but that they are doing so at the behest of the humans. The queen ant, using pheromones, has the entire town completely under control, and the giant ants are determined to exterminate humankind and build an evil empire. However, the survivors manage to escape and burn the sugar factory, killing the giant ants, and leave the island by a speedboat.
- Toxic waste has made ordinary ants grow to a huge size so that they can
become the masters of the prospective land developers.
Joan Collins as Marilyn Fryser
Robert Lansing as Dan Stokely
John David Carson as Joe Morrison
Albert Salmi as Sheriff Art Kincade
Jacqueline Scott as Margaret Ellis
Pamela Susan Shoop (as Pamela Shoop) as Coreen Bradford
Robert Pine as Larry Graham
Edward Power as Charlie Pearson
Brooke Palance as Christine Graham
Tom Fadden (in his last role) as Sam Russell
Irene Tedrow as Velma Thompson
- The idea was great, but could not be made to work well using real ants
superimposed on other real scenes, were the focus and scale kept changing to
destroy the dramatic effect that the audience were hoping for.
As with most Bert I. Gordon films, the giant ants are rendered by way of photographically enlarged animal footage and rear projection. The size of the ants varies from scene to scene. They often appear to suddenly crawl off the ground and walk vertically upwards in thin air. This is due to real ants being placed in a set lined with photographs of the locations where the scenes were shot. When an ant walked onto the rear photograph it appeared to walk on the sky. Where the film calls for actors to interact with the ants, large mock-up props are used. On the props, Joan Collins later said she did not like working with the ant props as they bumped and scratched the actors, including herself.
- 1954 Warner Brothers movie poster for "Them." RIGHT - The
2015 Marvel movie Ant-Man that was well received, making the most of CGI to
retell the classic comic book theme.
- Joan Collins as Marilyn Fryser, is surrounded by
the ants who are hungry for sugar and control of their paradise island. The
actress complained about being scratched by the special effects props.
Sectasaur™ (thawed) - now on permanent display at Herstmonceux
Museum, in Sussex, England.
OUTLINE - SECTASAUR