Tag Archives: Joan Collins

Empire of the Ants (1977)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Giant ants terrorize island.

A group of prospective home buyers are taken on a tour of a small island off the coast of Florida that supposedly has ‘prime beach front property’, but in reality it’s worthless. Marilyn (Joan Collins) is the realtor touring the others around, which quickly gets cut short when ants, who have feed off of toxic chemicals that were illegally dumped there and have now grown to giant size, begin attacking the people.

This film marks yet another tacky production by director Bert I. Gordon who enjoyed making movies filled with special effects dealing with giant animal life much like he did just two years earlier in Food of the Gods. The effects are predictably laughable where process shots showing close-ups of ants get combined with shots of the actors on the set, but you can tell that the quality of the film stock is different making the ants look completely out-of-place in the setting. When the actors get directly attacked by the ants large rubber mock-ups were used, but this gets combined with a shaking camera and quick edits making the action hard to follow.

It might’ve worked a bit better had it not given away right up front the cause for why the ants got so big and thus allowed for some mystery. Having the toxic waste be the cause just adds more questions than answers anyways. For instance: why were these chemicals being dumped to begin with and why did they choose this island? How were the ants able to get so big so fast? Did they just feed on the chemicals and then ‘poof’ they were big, or how fast or slow did the process work? Why were just the ants the ones that got big? Supposedly other insects, spiders and birds might’ve ingested the chemicals too, so why don’t they grow to a giant size as well?

The cast of characters are predictably stale and taking a full 30-minutes introducing them to the audience before the action even kicks-in just makes the movie even more boring. Having more eccentric characters would’ve helped like having the ants attack a clown convention that was meeting there, which would’ve given the film a humorous/offbeat edge that is otherwise lacking.

For the record I did enjoy Robert Pine who plays this coward who makes no attempt to save his wife when she’s attacked and then obsesses afterwards that everyone believe his story that he ‘couldn’t find her’ and there was ‘nothing he could do’. Collins is quite attractive, most will remember her for her appearance on the TV-show ‘Dynasty’, which was her career peak, but done when she was already well into her 50’s and no longer had a youthful appeal, but here she looks youngish and easy-on-the-eyes, which helps during the film’s slow moments.

The film states during the opening credits that it’s ‘inspired’ by the H.G.Wells story, but that short story, which was published in 1905, was way different. For one thing it didn’t involve ants growing to a giant size, so trying to connect the two as the producers here do, is outrageous. Had the filmmakers stuck more closely to that story, the film would’ve been much more interesting.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: July 29, 1977

Runtime: 1 Hour 29 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Bert I. Gordon

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video

Up in the Cellar (1970)

up in the cellar 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Senior citizens watch porno.

This is a variation of the film Three in the Attic and for a time was called Three in the Cellar to try and capitalize off of the success of that one. Ironically both films starred Judy Pace. In this one Colin Slade (Wes Stern) is a nerdy college student who loses his scholarship to a computer glitch. When he can’t get college president Maurice Chamber (Larry Hagman) to help him, he decides to get revenge by seducing both his wife (Joan Collins) and daughter (Catlin Adams).

The production proudly proclaims to be filmed on location in New Mexico, which is obvious from the start and nothing to really boast about since it hurts the film as a whole. Shot in wintertime it’s dusty, desolate landscape leaves the viewer with a cold, lonely feeling, which configures poorly with a story that is supposed to be lighthearted and whimsical. The big, modern cement buildings used as the campus looks like they would be better suited for a corporation than a student body. The students themselves, or what little you see of them, look all suspiciously over the age of 24.

Director Theodore J. Flicker nicely camouflages the fact that this is a very low budget production. His script is compact and well-paced. He frames and cuts his shots so you don’t notice how lacking in personality or energy it really is. Yet he also shows little connection to the student uprisings that dominated the campuses of that era and seems to view it as a sort of silly amusement. He keeps the film at this tone the whole time and thus makes it as silly and forgettable as the characters and situations he tries to satirize

Hagman comes off best. He plays it with a fun mixture of traits from two of his best known characters. He has J.R. Ewing’s arrogance coupled with Major Nelson’s frantic anxiety.

The film also has two fun and unique scenes. One has Hagman climbing up an actual radio tower to save Stern who is threatening to jump off. The second one has a pornographic movie shown to a group of unsuspecting and shocked senior citizens

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: August 12, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated R

Director: Theodore J. Flicker

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: Amazon Instant Video