Film (1977; vt H G Wells' Empire of the Ants). MGM Studios/Cinema 77/American International Pictures (AIP). Directed by Bert I Gordon. Screenplay by Gordon and Jack Turley, very loosely based on "The Empire of the Ants" (December 1905 Strand Magazine) by H G Wells. Cast includes Joan Collins, Robert Lansing. 82 minutes. Colour.
Unscrupulous real estate developer Marilyn Fryser (Collins) is showing property on an Island near the Florida Everglades to a group of prospective buyers including rugged Dan Stokeley (Lansing). The land is almost worthless, with some fraudulent improvements as part of the swindle; it would be pressing the narrative implications of Empire of the Ants to treat it as a commentary on the times we live in, but there is at least an association between Fryser's symptomatic corruption and the fact that radioactive waste has washed ashore, causing exposed ants to turn into giants (see Great and Small) which soon begin killing members of the group. With Stokeley's help, the survivors reach the nearby town only to discover that the Telepathic queen ant has taken over the minds of the residents (see Paranoia). The townspeople are preparing the way for the ants to invade the mainland by supplying them with vast quantities of sugar, but Stokeley again helps the group escape after burning the sugar factory in the town, apparently killing the queen in the process; finally they flee by speedboat.
Empire of the Ants is the third, probably the worst and thankfully the final instalment of the AIP Wells "trilogy" that also includes Food of the Gods (1976) and The Island of Dr Moreau (1977). Repeating his previous effects technique, Gordon photographically enlarged actual ants and rear-projected them onto the screen. Life-size ant props are used for the scenes where the performers interact with the insects. Continuity and scale errors proliferate. The novelization is Empire of the Ants (1977) by Lindsay West. [GSt]
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