Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Phase IV

Here I write about another of those obscure sci-fi films that I watched as a kid on TV with my Dad. This one, which my later research discovered was called Phase IV, was about a colony of ants that turn intelligent and start causing problems. A scientific team goes out to investigate and sets up a very cool bubble laboratory to find a way to fix the problem but also to learn about the species. The battle of wits between the scientists and the ants was fascinating to watch, especially since they used real ants of several different varieties, filmed at close range and often in sets made to look like underground lairs.
The cinematographer was actually a nature documentary cameraman. It's definitely B material and it has a truck ending which, although interesting for its ominous theme, can largely be ignored. But I don't think I've ever seen a bug movie where the activities of the bugs are followed in close detail using real bugs. That was unique enough to add to the collection and I recommend it only to the vintage collectors.

One other aspect that I like about the film is that its portrayal of science and the scientific method is very dry and serious, just like science should be. Hollywood too often is scared of real science in their films because it doesn't appeal to the masses like the safer elements - drama, humor, adrenaline, etc. So when someone can make a film that gives it some respect, even if the science itself is ridiculous, it's refreshing.

The most unique historical tidbit on the movie is that it was created and directed by Saul Bass, who had achieved some fame for his design of movie credit titles in the 50's and 60's. That was his first and only film. Needless to say, it was not much of a success, except among those who could appreciate it.

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