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Empire of the Ants

Empire of the Ants (1977) Movie Poster
  •  USA  •    •  89m  •    •  Directed by: Bert I. Gordon.  •  Starring: Joan Collins, Robert Lansing, John David Carson, Albert Salmi, Jacqueline Scott, Pamela Susan Shoop, Robert Pine, Edward Power, Brooke Palance, Tom Fadden, Irene Tedrow, Harry Holcombe, Jack Kosslyn.  •  Music by: Dana Kaproff.
        A sleazy scam artist tries to sell phony real estate deals down in the Florida everglades. What she and her unsuspecting buyers don't know is the area has been taken over by giant ants!

Trailers:

   Length:  Languages:  Subtitles:
 2:19
 
 
 0:29
 
 

Review:

Image from: Empire of the Ants (1977)
Image from: Empire of the Ants (1977)
Image from: Empire of the Ants (1977)
Image from: Empire of the Ants (1977)
Image from: Empire of the Ants (1977)
Image from: Empire of the Ants (1977)
Image from: Empire of the Ants (1977)
Image from: Empire of the Ants (1977)
Image from: Empire of the Ants (1977)
Image from: Empire of the Ants (1977)
Image from: Empire of the Ants (1977)
Image from: Empire of the Ants (1977)
Image from: Empire of the Ants (1977)
First of all, let me say I like Bert I. Gordon. I liked his stuff from the 1950's ("Amazing Colossal Man," "Earth vs. The Spider," "George and the Dragon", even the awful "Beginning of the End"). So, it wasn't like I was expecting a masterpiece. But, this film wasn't even up to his usual standards. It was evident (even more so later when he claimed credit for "Food of the Gods") that his career was in a decline, sort of like when Rod Serling and John Ford went into similar slides. In order to work, BIG had to be content with directing and not calling the shots. The result was dreck like this.

Actually, let me say that the acting is good. Joan Collins is pretty good as a sleazy real estate agent. Her snappy one-liners helped make her famous later on with "Dynasty." Robert Pine is serviceable before his "CHiPS" days. Veterans Robert Lansing, Albert Salmi and Irene Tedrow are decent. The rest of the cast (soap opera stars John David Carson, Pamela Shoop, Jack Palance's daughter Brooke) do their best with less than average material.

The Florida locations are great. In fact, the first half of the film would have earned the typical 2-star average rating from TV Guide, despite the tired cliches and poor special effects. Ultimately, it's the second half of the film that does BIG in.

The plot revolves around nuclear waste (since most eco-horror films of the 70's evolved around either nuclear or industrial wrong-doing). Barrels get dumped into ocean, but one makes it ashore on an island in the Florida Keys. The waste mutates ants into giants almost overnight. Interestingly, the ants in "Them!" took nine years and countless generations to mutate from repeated A-bomb blasts.

Anyway, Collins and a group of guests come to the island to check out her real estate investments. Of course, we know it's just a sham, but since the ants ate all Collins' co-conspirators, the guests will never know. Of course, no one notices that all the workers have bitten the dust. The usual cliches ensue -- a strange rustling in the bushes causes a guest to venture into the woods to check it out; an old couple leave the safety of the group and run into a shack deep in the swamp, then run back outside in time to be surrounded by ants. Ants walk down the boat ramp to attack the boat, but the captain finds reason to stall so he can't start the motor and just sail out of danger (sort of the like the car that wouldn't start in "Tarantula" even though it had just been driven).

The poor special effects are laughable. In "Beginning of the End," Gordon had real grasshoppers crawling on cardboard with buildings painted on them. At least, the grasshoppers stayed on the buildings. In "Empire of the Ants" he had ants filmed inside an ant farm, then superimposed on the screen so the ants are mostly crawling on air!

Despite all this, the movie was somewhat watchable, especially since nothing else was on late night. But, then the second half started and the one ounce of credibility simply vanished.

I know producers take liberties when bringing novels and short stories to the screen, but this was ridiculous. The movie was based on H.G. Wells' classic short story, but I don't remember it ever having mentioned ants that hypnotized people. This reputedly wasn't even Gordon's idea, but he needed the money, apparently.

The survivors of the real estate group finally get out of the jungle and make it to this big town that has a giant sugar refinery. Robert Lansing and John David Carson find the sheriff, played by Albert Salmi. He listens to their plight, then pulls his gun on them. He leads the group to one of the refinery and we see the townspeople lined up by a giant box that looks like the ones security guards use at factories. Each person steps inside and gets sprayed by the pheremones of the queen ant so they can be used like aphids as slave labor.

No one bothers to explain how the ants got control of the town. It's connected to the mainland, yet apparently no one gets to a phone. No outsiders ever come calling. Anyway, ****SPOILER ALERT***** Lansing pulls out a flare and fights the queen ant. For some reason, this breaks the queen's hold on the people and they run screaming. The queen ant attacks Joan Collins and douses her, apparently killing her, though I still can't figure out how. In an even stranger scene, when Salmi is released from his trance, he shoots the queen, then calmly strolls away while Collins is screaming for help. Well, Collins is sort of the bad girl here, so she has to get her comeuppance somehow.

"Empire of the Ants" is certainly not Bert I. Gordon's worst film (no, "Food of the Gods" takes that honor). But, it had some much potential. It's not even laughably bad. It's so stupid, you can't laugh. For those familiar with Gordon, they'll see how bad life was for him at the end.


Review by pv71989 from the Internet Movie Database.

 

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Jun 28 2017, 00:53
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Jun 28 2017, 00:54