Let me be clear that we're not talking about Them-sized ants nor a movie that can be compared in any way to that 1954 sci fi classic. Still, this is the kind of movie I would have watched at a movie theater as a college student in 1977. To my credit, I did see Food of the Gods, but, hey, it had Marjoe Gortner and Ida Lupino fighting the kind of people-eating rats that would put Willard and Ben to shame. Yet, somehow I missed Empire of the Ants on its original release and never caught it on television.
|Jacqueline Scott and Robert Lansing.|
Jacqueline Scott introduced Empire of the Ants by telling a funny story about Joan Collins crying over something in her trailer. Jacqueline overheard it, walked over to Robert Lansing's dressing room, and suggested that maybe he check on Joan. Lansing disappeared for a moment. He reappeared and handed Jacqueline a box of candy. "Give this to her," he said...and closed his trailer door.
|Joan Collins looking very 1970s-ish.|
Before long, giant ants (I'd estimate them at five feet in height) are eliminating extraneous characters like the elderly couple and the coward who left his wife behind during a bug attack. But the ants don't kill everyone and Robert Lansing, who pays the boat captain, wryly observes: "My god, they're herding us like cattle."
|A giant ant confronts Joan.|
The screenplay was loosely based on a 1905 short story by H. G. Wells. In Wells' tale, a gunboat captain discovers species of large (but only five centimeters), intelligent ants in the Amazon. He tries to destroy them, but fails. At the end of the story, the narrator speculates that the ants will reach Europe by 1950 or 1960.
Bert I. Gordon's Empire of the Ants was one of many later 1970s movies about nature taking revenge on humankind. Other films in this mini-genre included Grizzly, Day of the Animals, Squirm, and--the best of the bunch--John Frankenheimer's Prophecy.
Of course, Empire of the Ants had one thing none of these other movies had. It has an ant coordinator. Really. I saw it in the closing credits!