One Small Island, An… – Empire of the Ants (1977)

Joan Collins plays a real estate agent looking to sell swampland to suckers and pass it off as an area that is on the rise. Like the old saying goes, there is one born every minute and she manages to get a number of people interested in her little scheme. Taking them on a tour of the island, they soon run headlong into disaster as they encounter irradiated giant ants looking for a little something to munch on. As they try to escape, they soon find it easier said than done and their numbers start dwindling. Coming upon the local town, they think themselves saved when it is in fact, completely the empire-of-the-ants-29opposite.

Bert I. Gordon, giant monster-maker of many a wonderful low-budget, science-fiction film is at it again and this time instead of giant people it is giant insects, specifically ants. Gordon brings all his tricks to bear and for the most part, the threat of the ants looks real and credible. There are moments though that seem obviously fake and it has nothing to do with the costume/mechanical ants used in those close-ups where they are attacking people. Instead, it happens to be the scenes where it looks like they are all milling about and where he obviously inserted footage into the film to make said ants look as large as they were. Things could have looked much worse than what ultimately ended up on screen, especially if any other director were at the helm, but Gordon is a master at making things look bigger or smaller than they are and while there was not a lot of fright to be had, he did empire-of-the-ants-20manage to create some palpable suspense.

Also written by Gordon with some help from Jack Turley, the plot is a fairly common one, though there is a bit of a twist in the last act. It almost seems silly at first, but be that as it may, the action soon ramps up even further and ends with a bang. It was good to see Gordon and company try to do something a little different than just your average creature feature, but it was still a wee bit ludicrous when you think about it. For her part, Collins does a fair job of it, especially as you would never think to see her in this type of movie. You feel sort of bad for her character towards the final act, even though she sort of had it coming – karma and all that. In the end, it did not really matter whether you were a bad guy or a good one because it was all about survival at that point.

By no means was Empire of the Ants Gordon’s best film, but it was put together better than most of them had ever been, not to mention featuring some actors that were at least recognizable. In real life, the ants would be exceedingly fearsome and though Gordon does his best, it is hard to be frightened of anything in this film. Still, it was quite enjoyable, especially seeing them hunt down their prey the way that they did.

3 out of 5

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