Them! Is one of the first 1950s films to warn against the dangers of irradiating areas with nuclear bombs. It’s also one of the first Giant Bug movies.
A Cautionary Tale comes to us from Folk Lore and is a story that warns the listener of danger. It usually has three parts:
- The prohibition is made. Usually it’s someone telling someone else, “Don’t do this or that!” After all if the character doesn’t know what is taboo, he/she can’t very well be blamed for breaking it.
- Next comes the tale where we see someone breaking the prohibition. They disregard the warning they have been given and just go ahead and break the rule.
- Finally, we see the consequences of not heeding the warning or following the prohibition. It’s usually gruesome and horrible thus driving home the necessity of NOT breaking the prohibition.
In Them!, the prohibition is the use of nuclear bombs. This was a big deal in the 1950s. The first nuclear bomb, Trinity, was detonated in 1945. No one was really sure what the effects might be from being exposed, so even testing was looked down upon by everyone but the military. Them! is the narrative that shows what might happen in a fantastic what if scenario. It shows messing with nuclear bombs could cause giant mutations in insects like ants who are kind of the coolest species on the planet when it comes to…well…society. We are reminded that ants are the only other species than man who makes war. Then we are shown these giant war machines in action.
Cautionary Tales take many forms but their essence is to drive conformity to an idea or action. Horror movies explore the disobeying and consequences of ignoring social taboos probably more than most genres. I mean come on…how many of us actually would fool around with a Ouija board? Right? hehehe