Palm Springs Classic Science Fiction Film Festival was THEM! (1954), in which giant killer ants emerge from the New Mexico desert and head to Los Angeles.
This was one of my favorite movies of the festival, along with THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) and THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953). The ants were plenty creepy, yet simultaneously fake enough so as not to be too scary; more importantly, the film had a very well-paced script, good direction by Gordon Douglas, and a terrific cast.
THEM! is yet another sci-fi film in which we learn that atomic testing has the power to unleash disturbing creatures on the world, and it's once again affirmed that in sci-fi films "Nothing good ever happens in the desert!"
Police Sgt. Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) finds a disturbed little girl (Sandy Descher) wandering in the desert. He quickly deduces that she was from a nearby travel trailer which is completely demolished, no parents in sight. What happened, and why?
A strange print from the site brings a team of experts from Washington, FBI man Bob Graham (James Arness) and Department of Agriculture scientists Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn) and his daughter, Dr. Patricia Medford (Joan Weldon).
It's soon disclosed that atomic testing resulted in mutant killer ants...and some of them have flown off to Los Angeles, where they build a nest in the L.A. sewer system. If the nest and baby ants aren't destroyed, before long the ants will spread all over the country, leaving massive destruction in their wake.
Arness and Weldon carry on a subtle flirtation which helps to lighten the story, and Gwenn has some funny moments, particularly when he's got to learn how to say "Over" when using a public communications system. Alan Rode told the audience in his intro that Gwenn was suffering from arthritis but continued to act due to his medical expenses.
A side note with an interesting bit of trivia which I just recently learned: Edmund Gwenn was born Edmund Kellaway and was the cousin of Cecil Kellaway. Cecil Kellaway played a similar kind of role as the older scientist dealing with a creature unleashed by atomic testing in THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS.
When the film moves to L.A., there's some nice atmospheric shooting in Downtown L.A. and the L.A. riverbed, between the 1st and 4th Street bridges, according to IMDb.
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956).
THEM! was filmed in black and white by Sid Hickox. (The title of the film is notably in color, a startling contrast to the rest of the movie.) The film runs 94 minutes.
THEM! is available in multiple DVD editions including a TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection. It was just released on Blu-ray and is also part of a new four-film Blu-ray collection.
It can be streamed via Amazon.
THEM! is a classic of the genre, and the sci-fi festival ended on a great note with this most enjoyable film.