EMPIRE OF THE ANTS is a science fiction horror film released in 1977, directed by Bert I. Gordon and loosely based on a short story of the same name by H.G. Wells. The film is notable for its unique concept and blend of horror and ecological themes. However, it achieved a different level of success or recognition than some of its contemporaries.
The movie takes place in a small coastal town in Florida, where a corrupt land developer, played by Joan Collins, tries to sell swampland to unsuspecting buyers. The land is contaminated with toxic waste, and this pollution leads to the growth of gigantic, mutated ants. The ants menace the town’s inhabitants and trap them on a small island. The survivors must find a way to escape and overcome the monstrous ants.
EMPIRE OF THE ANTS presents an intriguing and original concept by taking a classic H.G. Wells story and infusing it with a 1970s environmental twist. The idea of ordinary creatures turning into monstrous, intelligent beings due to human interference taps into ecological concerns of the era, reflecting anxieties about the consequences of pollution and environmental degradation.
Bert I. Gordon, known for his work in B-movies and creature features, directed the film. His storytelling approach often emphasizes the creatures’ spectacle rather than character development or narrative depth. Considering the time’s limitations, the cinematography and special effects showcase some impressive shots of giant ants and their interactions with the human characters.
The performances in EMPIRE OF THE ANTS are typical of the B-movie genre. As the lead, Joan Collins delivers a committed performance, but the characters generally lack depth and development. The supporting cast includes actors like Robert Lansing and John David Carson, who bring a sense of urgency to their roles, despite the limited material they have to work with.
The film attempts to create suspense and horror through scenes of ant attacks and the characters’ attempts to survive. However, the dated special effects and the limitations of practical effects of the time can make some scenes appear unintentionally comical to modern audiences. The suspenseful moments are often punctuated by awkward dialogue and exaggerated reactions.
One of the film’s strengths is its underlying ecological message. The movie highlights the dangers of environmental negligence and corporate greed, as toxic waste creates giant ants. While this message might not be as overt as in other era films, it adds a layer of social commentary that resonates with environmental concerns.
EMPIRE OF THE ANTS didn’t become a significant box office hit upon its release and has remained mainly in cult cinema. While it may not have achieved widespread critical acclaim, the film’s unique premise and incorporation of ecological themes have contributed to its enduring appeal among science fiction fans and B-movie aficionados.
In retrospect, EMPIRE OF THE ANTS is a product of its time, capturing both the ecological concerns and the filmmaking techniques of the 1970s. While the film may not be a masterpiece in the horror or science fiction genres, its blend of horror, social commentary, and spectacle continues to attract audiences who appreciate the B-movie aesthetic and the era’s distinctive cinematic sensibilities.
If you would like to add this cult classic to your movie collection, I have provided links throughout the blog to help you purchase a copy.