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EMPIRE OF THE ANTS(director/writer/producer/special effects: Bert I. Gordon; screenwriters: from a story by H.G. Wells/Jack Turley; cinematographer: Reginald Morris; editor: Michael Luciano; music: Dana Kaproff; cast: Joan Collins (Marilyn Fryser), Robert Lansing (Dan Stokely), John Carson (Joe Morrison), Jacqueline Scott (Margaret Ellis), Pamela Shoop (Coreen Bradford), Robert Pine (Larry Graham), Brooke Palance (Christine Graham), Edward Power (Charlie), Irene Tedrow (Velma Thompson), Harry Holcombe (Harry Thompson), Jack Kosslyn (Thomas Lawson), Ilse Earl (Mary Lawson), Albert Salmi (Sheriff Kincade); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: PG; executive producer: Samuel Z. Arkoff; AIP/MGM Home Video; 1977)
“Bert I. Gordon makes ant crap out of an H.G. Wells short story he loosely adapted to the big screen.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Bert I. Gordon makes ant crap out of an H.G. Wells short story he loosely adapted to the big screen. Gordon has an obsession with making cheesy sci-fi movies about gigantic mutated insects (“Beginning of the End”/”Earth vs. the Spider”). With Samuel Z. Arkoff as the executive producer, American International Pictures as the film studio, and Joan Collins as the star, you expect nothing less than schlock and, by golly, that’s just what you get.

The film opens with a voice-over informing us about the hymenopterous insect of the family Formicidae, in other words ants. We are led to believe that ants, of all the other world species, rates next to man in the scale of intelligence. As a plot point, we are informed they release pheromones which causes an obligatory response–forcing obedience. But this educational material could in no way prepare us for the stupidity that is to follow.

Marilyn Fryser (Joan Collins) is a bitchy scam artist hawking worthless swampland in the Florida Everglades–some turf in the so-far undeveloped Dreamland Shores. Her gimmick is to offer a free yacht ride to potential customers and wine and dine them in order to get them to invest in her company’s fraudulent real estate venture. Joan manages to hook in a boat load of potential customers, I counted 11 of these morons plus 2 others who are visibly working for Joan–a kept lover (Edward Power) on hand to do the dirty work and a cynical boat captain (Robert Lansing) along to make a buck. The motley mix of customers either came along for the freebie or were hooked on the idea of a possible home with an ocean view and a nearby golf course.

Upon arriving at the isolated barren island Joan Collins’ party are soon greeted with a crush by giant radioactive mutated ants, a product of toxic waste dumping and leaky barrels. It seems the ants have a lousy attitude and insist on eliminating the inferior humans by crushing them to death. It’s too bad every ant looked like an inflated hairy octopus and offered no scares. The film wasn’t able to draw any comedy or become campy, but continued in this hopelessly dull manner as a B-film adventure story of how Joan and her followers will get off the island when their yacht was destroyed and when they do how will they escape from a sinister town near the island. It makes for a good gambling picture to see who the ants get first and to guess who will be the final survivors. Some film buffs might take some pleasure in watching Joan get crushed to death by the ants. But though I thoroughly enjoyed that, it was not enough of a reason to get caught in this bad sales pitch sci-fi flick.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”