CineSavant Column

Tuesday January 31, 2023



CineSavant contributor and artist Charlie Largent has been adding to his etsy store JestInTime with new pro digital illustrations. Charlie’s work is well known from Trailers from Hell and Video Watchdog, of course.

Charlie adds that he’s offering customized greetings on the cards as an option — just contact him here on Facebook. His overall business page is called Charlie Hill Illustration.



Dependable David J. Schow sends his greetings — he just circulated some fun ‘ant-‘ related links. This one is taken from an old DVD extra. We haven’t seen it in a long time, and it again inspired considerable thought.

The short video piece collects a few raw, uncut outtakes from the movie Them!, clearly sourced from the Warner Bros. stock film library. If you haven’t seen the Giant Ants Behind the Scenes it’s something of a revelation. We knew that the big ants were mechanical puppets, probably only one or two fully articulated creatures and a bunch of partial ants, like bobble heads. But only once or twice are we given a glimpse of an entire ant.

The uncut shots give us a really good look at them — the WB fabricators gave them moving heads, working pincers, excellent waving antennae, and legs that walk smoothly (but rather slowly). We wonder what color they might have been — Them! was at one point going to be filmed in color, and perhaps even in 3-D. In 1953 Variety reported dozens of movies as being planned for depth treatment; how many were seriously prepped is another story.

Here we can see details that might have looked sensational in color — the eyes had bubbly, sparkly liquid swooshing about inside, reportedly activated by washing machine agitators. In one close-up we can see the back of an ant’s head bulging as it tilts downward.

In the movie the cuts are really quick, and the outtakes tell us why — when seen any longer than a second or two, the ant-mannequins begin to resemble exactly what they are, puppets with limited movement. The brief cuts of ants always show them in motion, enhanced with camera trucks and tilts that disguise their limited mobility. I don’t think we ever see an ant foot ‘floating’ off the ground.

Whenever I see Them! I marvel at the skill behind the shooting and editing of the ant scenes. Executives looking at the dailies may have thought, jeez these are fake, this will never work.  Yet the editors find the right bits of action, and dynamic montage sells the monsters 100%. Can they really be talking about a Them! remake now?  To do better than the 1954 original they’ll have to do more than fill a screen with CGI cartoon critters.



And Gary Teetzel has contributed a link of interest, to Boris Karloff’s final dramatic performance. It’s a brief guest appearance on TV’s The Name of the Game, the episode The White Birch. It was filmed at Boris’s old stomping grounds, Universal Studios. His appearance starts about a half hour in.

The actor pictured with Karloff is Jean-Pierre Aumont. Gary adds:

“When Karloff arrived at the set in a wheelchair and accompanied by a nurse, director Lamont Johnson was alarmed by his frail appearance and his breathing, which was impaired due to his emphysema. Karloff shook his hand and said in a firm voice “What you see before you is not encouraging, I’m sure, but what is there is entirely at your service, sir.” The work and being among his fellow actors seemed to energize him.”

“Shortly after completing this role Karloff made a guest appearance on the Halloween episode of The Jonathan Winters Show. That was his last TV work and, I think, his last work period — although some of his final feature films had not yet been released.” — Gary

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson