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Empire of the Ants (1977): Crude of the Clods

[ed. note: today is supposed to be the next installment of One-Track Mind. Since I haven’t even started yet, I switched out the review I had scheduled for next Wednesday instead. Hopefully things will die down a bit and I can scrawl some music reviews in the next week.]

Empire of the Ants (Bert I. Gordon, 1977)

A giant ant towers over the principal cast on the movie's poster.

They’re big, they’re bad, they’re black, they’re mad.
Photo credit: madamepickwickartblog.com

In the late seventies, I was at a friend’s house and I caught a few sequences of It Happened at Lakewood Manor on television. I had no idea what it was, and I spent years, decades actually, tracking that movie down. This, of course, brought me into contact with pretty much every ant-related movie that was made in the seventies. Once I found out Empire of the Ants dealt with monster-sized ants, I knew it wasn’t the movie I was looking for, but when I found a listing for it in the mid-eighties and saw Joan Collins’ name attached, I had to wonder what sorts of shenanigans this movie held in store. Now I have seen it, and I know the answer, and I wish it was 1985 again and I was just stumbling upon this movie and still wondering how ridiculous it could be.

MNaddive ants stride down a dock towards a yacht in a still from the film.

I have no idea why the old spiritual “Shut the Door” is going through my head when I look at this picture, but it’s pretty funny.
photo credit: tasteofcinema.com

You know that old saw about having prime real estate in Okefenokee Swamp to sell? Well, this is where it came from. Collins (Dynasty) plays Marilyn, a shady real estate agent who’s trying to pass off a little island in the middle of a swamp as paradise that’s just begging for a resort to be developed on it. She takes down a passel of prospective buyers, and they discover the area infested with ants. Now, that’s not usually enough to get people to not buy land, but you see, these ants are about twenty feet long, as tall as elephants, and need a few tourists to help out with their plan for intergalactic domination. Or something.

One of the principal cast trapped in the ants' gas chamber in a still from the film.

It gives the phrase “gas huffer” a whole new meaning.
photo credit: Youtube

While you’re watching this, if you’re an aspiring filmmaker, just keep saying to yourself “someone greenlit this.” Of course, in the direct-to-video age, if you end up making Empire of the Cockroaches, it’s probably not going to open on a thousand screens…but you never know. Put together a bunch of non-actors, head them up with some fading TV character types, add the cheapest script and special effects money can buy, and, well, you’ve just created an American International Picture, really. My guess is that if you caught this back in the day, and were very young at the time, it may hold a good deal of nostalgia value, the same way It Happened at Lakewood Manor does with me these days. But for everyone else it can safely be avoided. * ½


Trailer. Do you really want to do this to yourself?

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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