TCM was showing a bunch of awesomely cheesy '50s monster movies tonight, stuff like It Came From Beneath the Sea (where a giant octopus tears up the Golden Gate Bridge). Then at midnight came the clincher, a movie that I always forget just how good it until I'm actually watching it.
Now, I say this with all the love in my heart, but fuck Godzilla. Fuck him in his scaly rubbery ass. Them! is, without a doubt, the best monster movie ever made.
Want proof? OK. If you were going to make a list of the best modern monster movies, both Aliens and the Host would have to be right up there. And both of them quote Them! fairly explicitly. The scene where Ripley torches the egg chamber is straight out of the assault on the first nest in Them!, while the entire plot of the Host (kid trapped in sewer tunnels by giant monster) is a nod to Them!'s final act.
On top of that, you can't tell me William Peterson didn't base his insect-obsessed CSI character, at least in some small part, on Edmund Gwenn's alternately absent-minded and deadly serious performance in Them!
Forget its spawn though, The movie itself is just a cut above. The scene where the little girl is snapped out of her catatonia with a whiff of formic acid, that descent into the first nest, the destruction of the USS Viking... this is a monster movie that understands how to raise the stakes, and how to put the world in true jeopardy.
Plus, Gordon Douglas is one of those directors nobody ever thinks about but who was pretty consistently great. When you look over the list of films he directed he starts to look like Robert Wise's crazy cousin. You know that one Our Gang short that won an Oscar? Douglas directed it. Elvis' Follow That Dream? Douglas made that too. They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!, the underrated sequel to In The Heat of the Night? Douglas again.
Just a tremendous piece of work all around. If you're only going to see one '50s movie about giant creatures running amok, it should be Them!