Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Empire (of the Ants) Strikes Back!

A mere week separates us from our enormous tribute to the giant killer ant genre, and I thought I would say a few words about our second feature Empire of the Ants. While the first movie we’re showing, Them!, is the undisputed Citizen Kane of the giant killer ant genre, I have a real soft spot for its 70’s drive-in cousin. I fondly remember as a kid in the late 70’s being utterly freaked out by the TV ad for this film, and subsequently begging my parents to take me (to the drive-in) to see it. Specifically, there was a shot of giant ants overrunning a docked yacht that has stuck with me to this day. I thought if they could get to us on the water, what hope could we possibly have! Had I been just a little older, and familiar with the name Bert I. Gordon, it would have saved me a few sleepless nights. What’s that? Haven’t heard of Bert I. Gordon? Well, chances are you know his work, even if you don’t know the name . . . particularly if you’re a fan of MST3K.

Bert I. Gordon is the mastermind behind some of the greatest Z-grade, giant monster movies ever made. A brief list includes: The Cyclops, The Amazing Colossal Man, Earth Vs. the Spider, Attack of the Puppet People, Village of the Giants, etc. For whatever reason, he really staked out a claim in the cinematic field of unusually large critters (and humans). Unlike some of the great giant creature classics (e.g. King Kong, Godzilla, etc.), Gordon’s films feature effects that aren’t terribly inspiring, but are nevertheless clearly done with love. They rely primarily on rear projection and large puppet heads, which are rarely convincing, but endlessly entertaining. Those of you who attended our Schlock-O-Thon last April were treated to another one of his 70’s classics, Food of the Gods, which is sort of a companion piece to Empire of the Ants. Both are based on H.G. Wells tales, the main difference being that Food of the Gods stars Marjoe Gortner and Empire of the Ants stars Joan Collins. And of course FOTG has rats instead of ants.

So is Empire of the Ants any good? You might conclude that it isn’t given the premise and pedigree. Not to mention the fact it doesn’t have the dynamic presence of Marjoe Gortner. Fear not! It features hammy performances, “interesting” special effects, and plenty of pure 70’s cheese for even the most critical of cult film fans : ) It is the very definition of a 70’s drive-in film, and absolutely qualifies as essential viewing! And if that’s not enough incentive, we’re also going to have a plethora of great trailers for films we’ll be showing at the April Schlock-O-Thon! You dare not miss it!!

Also, don’t forget this coming Friday, March 21, is the BIG season finale of The House Between’s second season! Believe me when I tell you it’s going to be a humdinger! You can catch all episodes from season 1 and 2 at www.thehousebetween.com or www.veoh.com .

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