I Like Big Bugs and I Cannot Lie

Join ATM this Monday, September 18 at 8pm ET, as Turner Classic Movies has an evening of movies filled with some creepy crawlies on film. From giant ants and tarantulas to Mothra and The Wasp Woman.

The six sci-fi films TCM celebrates find familiar creatures inexplicably transformed into powerful, world-ending threats. The kicker? They’re usually brought to life by mankind’s so-called scientific advances.

In Them! (1954), police are perplexed after finding a young girl evidently suffering from shock wandering the New Mexican desert. Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn) and his daughter Dr. Patricia Medford (Joan Weldon) are called in, and their research leads to a horrifying conclusion: Radiation from early atomic tests spawned giant mutant ants that are preying on humans. Consequently, scientists and police must swiftly track down queen ants before they reproduce and potentially destroy the human race.

Crossing state lines into Arizona, Tarantula (1955) begins with the discovery of a deformed body in the desert. The man was a research scientist, and he and his colleague Dr. Deemer (Leo G. Carroll) were concocting a nutrient that would act as a new food source to humans to combat overpopulation. It works on test animals—they grow rapidly—but it’s not ready for mankind yet. Following an attack on Deemer in the lab, a giant tarantula escapes, and it’s a race against time to kill the deadly spider as it continues to grow and prey on locals

The Black Scorpion (1957) takes place following an earthquake in Mexico. Geologists Dr. Scott (Richard Denning) and Dr. Ramos (Carlos Rivas) investigate the ensuing destruction and random occurrences, some of which prove unusual, like the sudden formation of an active volcano. Eventually, it’s determined that gigantic scorpions are hiding in the volcano, and scientists and the military must annihilate them before the deadly creatures destroy Mexico City.

Jumping from land to air, The Wasp Woman (1959) centers around Janice Starlin (Susan Cabot) and her flagging cosmetics company. To boost sales, she hires Dr. Zinthrop (Michael Mark), who claims his serum made from queen wasps’ royal jelly can reverse aging. Starlin funds Zinthrop’s research with one stipulation: that she be the test subject. As her physical appearance begins to change, her personality does too, and Starlin soon starts randomly morphing into a deadly wasp-like being.

Taking things international, Mothra (1961) unfolds in Japan, where typhoon survivors are discovered on Infant Island, an atomic testing site, miraculously unharmed by radiation. No one thought the island inhabitable, so an expedition sets out and uncovers incredible things, including a native tribe and two twin fairies (Emi and Yumi Itô of the pop duo The Peanuts). When Kurâruku Neruson (Jerry Itô), an evil businessman from the fictional country Rolisica, kidnaps the fairies to exploit them for entertainment purposes, they telepathically seek help from their island goddess Mothra to save them.

Traveling from Japan to the British Isles, The Cosmic Monster (1958), released in Great Britain as The Strange World of Planet X, finds Dr. Laird (Alec Mango) conducting risky experiments with magnetic fields that compromise the Earth’s ability to protect itself from cosmic rays. Sure enough, cosmic radiation strikes the planet, resulting in a horde of large mutant insects, among other deadly things. Meanwhile, Mr. Smith (Martin Benson) mysteriously arrives and positions himself against Dr. Laird’s work, eventually revealing himself to be an alien from Planet X—and perhaps the only being who can save Earth from Laird’s manic ambitions.

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