Friday night; Summer 1969:
My younger brother and I had been allowed to stay up and watch the late-night horror movie by ourselves for the first time. Being eight and ten years old, this was a Really Big Deal. The parental figures retired to the back of the house for the night and we were left alone . . . by ourselves . . . in the dark of night.
The movie was a 1954 classic titled Them! in which leftover radioactivity from Los Alamos had caused these ants to become huge and really nasty. (Most horror movies in the 1950s featured radioactivity that cause something to become huge and nasty.)
At first, the viewer never saw the giant ants; only weird, oscillating sounds were heard in the distance across the New Mexico desert. Tracks were found. The suspense built for quite some time as more evidence was found.
My brother and I were getting pretty scared.
Finally, the local sheriff and deputy came across an isolated grocery store that had been ransacked by something really powerful. A dust storm was raging outside, dark and perilous. The deputy went out back to investigate further. All of a sudden, the weird oscillating sound was heard, two gunshots were fired, and the deputy let out a blood-curdling shriek.
Well, that was IT for us! We stared wide-eyed at each other, quickly shut off the TV and we went scampering to the safety of our bedroom. So much for staying up late on a Friday night.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that Them! was being broadcast so I set my Tivo to record it. I wanted to see what became of the giant ants and, hopefully, make it through the entire movie this time.
Yes, the suspense was built pretty masterfully. Then, the terrifying dust-storm scene came on where the deputy met an untimely end. When I was ten, it seemed like my brother and I had been watching it for hours in suspense at that point.
I looked at the Tivo time-marker. It was only at the 17-minute mark.
I called my brother and he remembered that night very well.
“Dude, we only lasted seventeen minutes!”
We had a really good laugh over that.
So, if you ever come across this old classic, give it a watch. By all means, take note where the ant eats the deputy and picture two terrified young boys scuttling off for the safety of their bedroom.
It’ll make you smile.