Joan Collins plays a dodgy real estate agent, trying to flog plots of a reclaimed swamp land development to a group of people, consisting of:
- an elderly couple who photograph everything and can’t run fast
- a grumpy married couple with a husband who seems a bit rapey
- a single, attractive woman in a tight blouse
- a single, attractive man in tight trousers
- a tight-fisted couple who both wear green outfits
- an older woman who looks a bit like Camilla Parker Bowles
Drinks and nibbles take place by a pier, on a cold-looking, windy beach, where everyone fails to notice a big, washed-up, leaky barrel, with “DANGER RADIOACTIVE WASTE” and “DO NOT OPEN” all over it in big red letters. Joan Collins is busy mingling with the clients, sipping drinks and praising the meatballs, and one woman remarks, “It’s beautiful here, isn’t it!”, almost having to shout above the blustery winds.
The group soon climb aboard a millkfloat-and-trailer contraption for a tour of wooden postmarkers (“Future Pool”, “Future Golf Club”, etc.) while Joan Collins sits a foot or so away, bellowing at them through a huge loudhailer (I laughed a lot at this). And then the giant ant attacks begin..
The ants are represented in a number of amusing ways. First the ant-cam, which is a bit like looking through a sieve. Then there is the split-screen, with extreme close-up footage of the insects on one side, and full length shots of humans reacting to them on the other. The fuzzy dividing line is often clearly visible, and creatures that go too near to it briefly lose tips of limbs. Finally and best of all, there’s the giant ant head puppet, which is used in close-ups of ant attacks, to bump up and down on victims’ heads. And I never knew that an ant screams every time it attacks – continuously.
People who are attacked generally stand still in the same place as the ants approach and someone pokes the puppet head in their face. The resulting gore seems to consist of a bit of smeared blood, not much else. And fleeing-in-terror scenes include the obligatory female character tripping over (“My ankle!”) and someone puffing and panting, and struggling to keep up.
Before long, single attractive man and single attractive woman are getting suspiciously close and touchy-feely (it’s amazing how giant radioactive insects can be more effective than dinner or flowers). Though it’s a bit mean that they didn’t give the woman a bra under her tight blouse, especially as she gets soaked by very chilly water at least 3 times. But not to worry, clothes seem to dry as fast as a change of camera angle in this movie.
The climax of the film takes us to the town’s sugar refinery, where a slow-motion ‘queen’ ant sits in a kiosk, farting smoky gas into local people’s faces. Whatever for, and whether the remaining principle characters get out of that – you’ll just have to watch it to find out.
The pace is good, apart from just one slow section in the middle, and the story is enjoyable in a 1950s-b-movie way. The music bears an uncanny resemblance to the Jaws theme. The special effects are, well, priceless. And the continuity is bizarre (clothes being wet/dry, buttoned/unbuttoned, the location of the sugar refinery). It has to be one of the funniest of the 70s creature features, and a fond childhood memory of mine, and I love it!
Empire Of The Ants can be purchased at amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, play.com and other retailers.
Empire Of The Ants/1977/Cinema 77/Dir: BI Gordon/Prod: BI Gordon