Empire of the Ants (1977)

EmpireOfTheAntsPosterThings begin ominously enough when the unseen narrator starts droning on about how cool ants are and how they can do all this great stuff like push aphids around and dig up dirt between the cracks of sidewalks. They also have this super sweet gimmick where they spray pheromones on people to make them do their bidding!

Sensing an opportunity to turn this dopey giant bug movie into a learning experience, I hit the world wide web to find out if pheromones could really cause giant ants to take over the world.

They actually use this stuff to communicate with each other about dangers, sex, and the location of the right ant hill. I also made the mistake of looking into our own use of pheromones and found out that it is thought pheromones released from the armpits may cause women living together to have “synchronous menstrual cycles.” Let see those ants beat that!

Joan Collins stars as Marilyn, a chick who is trying to trick people into buying worthless swamp land for some paradise community with the prissy sounding name of Dreamland Shores. She’s not a terribly bright businesswoman though because she gives out all this free food and booze and boat rides which seems to attract a certain type of clientele – the kind who only have enough money for free food, booze, and boat rides.

She has some stud on retainer named Charlie that she pushes around as well as the gruff captain named Dan Stokely. If Dan Stokely looks a bit familiar to you giant bug aficionados out there, it’s because after he got done fending off giant ants, he battled an island of killer cockroaches in The Nest.

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The passengers include old couples, a middle aged woman who just got fired from her job and is looking to start her own business, and a young, cool guy whose personal life is in a shambles. There’s no good reason he’s there except that Captain Dan Stokely is way too old to carry the picture by himself.

There’s also a boat in the area and it’s being operated by guys in red hazardous materials suits who keep dumping all these poorly-sealed barrels of stuff marked in big red letters “Radioactive” and “Do not feed to ants” into the sea.

At least one of these barrels washes up on some part of what will never become Dreamland Shores and starts leaking. This toxic waste must be sugar flavored because the ants immediately run over there and drink the stuff up!

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When the ants finally attack, it’s denoted by a high pitched squeaking that I guess is what really big ants sound like when they’re running amok. I’ve never stuck my ear down an anthill to try and find out what their talking sounds like, so I can’t say whether that’s a bunch of bunk or not.

Another gimmick they use that gets old in a hurry is the ant point of view shot. This is characterized by a bunch of honeycombed shots of the action from the ant’s perspective and only serves to drive the viewer into near-fatal dizzy spells.

The surviving characters end up back at Captain Dan’s boat and see the ants attacking it. Captain Dan jumps into the water and swims out to save his boat which was amazing when you consider the quantity of denim that he was wearing.

Eventually everyone is rescued by the sheriff of a small, sinister town. As he’s driving them back to town, they pass by the really big sugar processing plant, but that probably has nothing to do with anything, right?

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Wrong! The queen ant is housed in a special chamber there and all the townspeople are brought in once a week to her so that she can fart in their faces with her pheromones and make them her slaves! After that, those catfights Joan participated in while on Dynasty must have seemed like nothing!

There are some pretty bad special effects used throughout the film that deserve to be highlighted. There was the use of the tried and true technique of superimposing regular ants onto the action so that there are scenes where it looks like the characters are swinging oars at an ant that is walking around on a piece of glass and the perspective and depth are all wrong.

Then you get the scenes where the film crew made a bunch of big ant heads, arms, and bodies and had people off camera shove these ridiculous looking things at the actors, while the actors would writhe around like they had a really bad case of jock itch. The worst special effect though had to be Joan’s culottes and boots outfit!

Still, I’m confident you’ll have no problem overlooking those shortcomings since ant farts figure so heavily into the plot. Smells like a winner to me!

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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