Take Charge Heroines:


Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) of Aliens and Patricia Medford (Joan Weldon) of Them are both take charge heroines who show strong leadership skills. Ripley more or less took charge when Gorman showed that he was incompetent.

She took no guff and was quick to come down on someone who was losing it such as Hudson. She snapped him into joining the team effort when he was having a ranting tantrum.

Patricia Medford showed unusually strong leadership compared to female characters of the fifties when chivalry ruled the box office. Throughout the film she commands attention with intelligence and did not allow fear to control her determination to exterminate the threat.

When Robert Graham (James Arness) was pulling his macho swagger implying that no lady has any business going into the creature's tunnel, she gave him an ear full of no nonsense logic till he conceded.

She also was the unofficial leader of the trio that ventured into the creature's nest providing info and ordering them to destroy the remains.






Orphans of Misfortune:


Both films introduce traumatized little girls. Both are mysteries how these two orphans are on their own, what horror they experienced, and how they survived. In Aliens, Newt is a lone survivor of the planet's colony and a little girl, listed as the Ellison girl, is the survivor of an attack in the New Mexico desert.


A Family Tragedy:


Not only do both films feature a traumatized little girl, both their families were victims of their respective creatures. By a miraculous chain of events, the two girls escaped the brutal attacks on their families.

Also, the family killings for the most part take place off screen for both films. The audience only sees the after the fact when the two girls are introduced in their respective stories, at least for the Aliens theatrical cut.

The special edition version of Aliens does show brief scenes of Newt during happier times with her family. The special edition also shows a brief moment with a facehugger on the face of Newt's father.


Muted by Shock:


When both little girls were found, neither one would talk due to their traumatic experiences. Despite Gorman's badgering to get her to talk, Newt remains silent with a distant and blank stare in Alien 86. And the Ellison girl behaves the exact same way in Them 54.

Newt eventually opens up to Ripley, and the Ellison girl is snapped out of her daze when the doctor waves a glass of formic acid near her nose sending her into a fit of panic and screaming.






The Dilapidated Doll:


This is simply a visual icon shared in both films. Over the decades, the dilapidated, mutilated, broken, or partially destroyed children's doll has become a popular visual icon to convey some prior horrific event whether it be some apocalyptic disaster or other events of violence.

It often represents a previous time line to the film's time line if it wasn't already shown on screen. The battered doll tells a visual story of it's own to the audience.

No matter what a child suffers from a traumatic experience, they will often default to the thoughts and behaviors of more innocent times such as their joyful interaction with their play dolls. As long as some piece of the doll remains, they will cling on to it with the same loving nature.

And this is the very example we see with Newt of Aliens and the Ellison girl of Them. After all Newt has went through surviving the alien infested colony, she stills manages to hang on to the doll's head, Casey. The Ellison girl cradles her doll with a large hole in the side of it's head.






A Trail of Destruction:


Both films employ early in the films a build up to the big reveal of their star creatures by showing only the aftermath of their attacks. The Aliens 86 marines discover a colony base that shows destroyed interior areas as the result of a firefight as Hick described.

For Them 54, we see similar damage to a trailer and a local store. Large holes ripped open on the trailer side, which Sgt. Peterson explains that it was not caved in, it was caved out.



Things That Go Bump in the Night:


Both films also mentioned they are nocturnal creatures. Initially, this seemed too much of a broad device used in horror film to dedicate a checklist mention. Of course frightening film creatures only come out at night, that's become a standard that is entrenched in the horror genre.

Day creatures exist in horror film, sure, but it's things that go bump in the night that gives us chills. However, it's the matched dialogue for both film's nocturnal creatures that warrants a dedicated checklist mention.

In Them 54, Dr. Harold Medford explains the large ant creatures are active at night due to the cool air and they tuck themselves away in their tunnels during the hottest period of the day.

Aliens really offers no valid reason the alien creatures are nocturnal. Other than a single line of dialogue, nothing in the film seems to imply why the alien creatures are active at night.






Doomsday Speech:


Ripley of Aliens and Dr. Harold Medford of Them warn skeptical listeners that doom and gloom is around the corner if the creatures are unleashed on humankind.

Ripley: "I'm telling you these things exist. Kane, the crew member. Kane, who went in that ship, said he saw thousands of eggs there. Thousands... Goddamnit! That's not all! Because, if one of those things gets down here, then that will be all! Then all this... this bullshit you think is so important, you can just kiss all that goodbye."

Dr. Medford: "Some of you repeatedly ask how really serious it is. Unless these queens are located and destroyed before they establish thriving colonies and produce heaven knows how many more queen ants, man as the dominate species of life on Earth will probably be extinct within a year."






Leadership Delivered! (from the safe zone):


Both films depict the leaders and advisors far from danger and in their safe zone, barking orders on radio to the troops going toe to toe with their respective creatures.

In Aliens, Gorman was commanding the marines in his high tech chair on wheels (or a rail?) along with advisors Ripley and Burke. Tucked away safe in a heavy armored APC.

General O'Brien and advisor Dr. Harold Medford remained safely above ground surrounded by hundreds of troops, giving orders on radio to the troops wandering the dark tunnels where a giant ant can pounce on them at any moment.

Sure I understand that if leadership is on the front line, an offense could lose it's leader. Still though, seems like bravery has no limits when it's delivered through a microphone.

Now in all fairness, the leadership and advisors from both films eventually stepped closer to the line of fire near where the troops were . . . well, after both creatures took out a few of their respective troops, that is. ; )








The Similarities Between
James Cameron's Aliens and Gordon Douglas' Them!

By SFMZ Webmaster

Here is our second stare and compare sci-fi films article providing a check list of shared visuals and concepts between two films. You can check out our first article on this theme, The Similarities Between Ridley Scott's Alien and John Carpenter's The Thing, here.

Just like our first comparison, Aliens 1986 and Them! 1954 share a number of common themes. With the total number of feature films spanning the history of cinema encroaching on the one million mark, hundreds of films could easily be 'matched up,' but it's more the quantity of shared themes between two films that warrants a worthwhile comparison.

Firstly, the basic common theme between the two films is they are categorized as sci-fi horror. More accurately, Them's primary genre is horror, with sci-fi being it's secondary genre, while it's the opposite for Aliens. Cameron's film is more often mentioned as sci-fi action, however with a terrifying alien species as it's star creature, it still maintains a horror element. Not to mention it's the sequel of Ridley Scott's Alien, which is firmly established as sci-fi horror.

Another basic shared themes includes extreme weather conditions - sandstorms, rainstorms, gusty winds. But in all fairness, that has been repeated in thousands if not tens of thousands of films, so I didn't include it since it is such a generic film device.

The world wide web is populated with fan opinions making accusations that Cameron 'ripped off' Them. The problem with that is Cameron modeled the film's premise on Ridley's sci-fi horror classic, combined with the fact that Alien 79's writer, Dan O'Bannon, has stated in interviews that he 'borrowed' from numerous 50's sci-fi films. So the finger pointing among the films involved is an endless loop with no clear answer.

At the very least, Cameron certainly imitated a number of Them's concepts with near identical themes in visuals and story elements. This article is not really focused on creative accountability, so I'll leave it to the movie forum communities to duke it out on the debate of who copied who and focus this article simply on the shared concepts.

Besides both being a box office success, Aliens 86 won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects and Them 54 was Oscar nominated for Best Special Effects. The common themes make for an interesting comparison between the two films released 32 years apart and SFMZ breaks down the similarities with the checklist you see here.




Creatures of the Arthropod Nature:


Both creatures are associated to the Insecta species, Them! being the most obvious. In Alien 1979, there is little or no reference to an insect nature, instead their visual appearance is biomechanoid designed by H.R. Giger. However, the novelization, which was released around the same time as the film's release, explains that their propagation method was inspired by a type of wasp that captures another insect such as a spider and injects it's eggs into the captured insect's body.

"It's a bug hunt," that's the famous line in Aliens 86 that presented the Xenomorph as more insect like. Not to mention the xenomorph's agenda are modeled on the insect order similar to an ant colony. It's Them's creatures that truly imitate insects. The film centers around gigantics ants that terrorize the citizens of New Mexico.

A shared visual side note: take note of the image above, the set up of that scene is even visually similar. Both heroines are in the foreground with their backs to the camera gazing at their respective looming creatures.


NOT Made by Mother Nature:


The Aliens 86 and Them 54 creatures are not exactly products of natural evolution or selection. For Them 54, the gigantic creatures were originally natural tiny ants that were irradiated from nuclear tests in the New Mexico desert. For the Aliens 86 creatures, it's the franchise of sequels where it's more or less implied the xenomorphs were engineered as bio-weapons by another alien species. This is explored in detail in Ridley Scott's Prometheus 2012.





A Queen and Her Drones:


Both creatures are made up of a Queen and the worker or warrior drones. The Aliens queen is not revealed until Ripley returns to the alien encrusted chamber to find Newt. She discovers the queen alien which is surrounded by worker drones. In Them 54, the film actually features two queens. The first nest discovered, the ants were destroyed, but two queen ants escaped to make new nests elsewhere.


Acid Producing Creatures:


Both creatures create and use acid in some form in their bodies. Acid for blood as Burke cites in Aliens, a defense system that makes them quite the trick to kill. If a human is in close proximity of the creature when they shoot it, they are splattered with a dangerous spray of their blood as lethal as molecular acid. We see more than one example of this such as Vasquez obliterating a creature but it was too close to Drake, spraying his face with the flesh eating acid.

For Them 54, a coroner is examining a victim's body and discovers "enough formic acid in his body to kill twenty men." Dr. Harold Medford further explains that once the ant secures a hold with it's mandibles, it impales the victim with a stinger and injects the acid.




The Egg Chambers:


Both films featured egg chambers for their respective creatures. The characters of each film cautiously wander through a chamber where dozens of large eggs surrounded by a fog-like atmosphere. The fog in Them 54 was actually a lethal gas they shot into the nest previously. The fog in Aliens 86 is actually steam since Cameron has explained it was extremely hot in that environment.

When Patricia Medford shines her flashlight at the eggs, you can see the silhouettes of the larvae or baby ants inside. This is actually similar to Alien 79 when Kane is in the derelict ship's egg chamber and closely inspecting an egg. We can see the facehugger faintly inside the alien egg.




How do you like your eggs cooked:


In both films, once the characters discover the eggs, they lit their flamethrowers and fried all the eggs in their respective egg chambers, each for their own reason. In Them 54, Patricia Medford ordered their destruction for the purpose of extermination. For Ripley of Aliens, she incinerated the eggs for either pure rage or as a distraction while her and Newt make their escape.




The Glue That Binds:


The creatures from both films use a secreted resin in some form. In Aliens, Dietrich is inspecting the alien encrusted walls and comments it looks like some sort of secreted resin. Which Hicks asks the question, but secreted from what. In Them 54, Patricia Medford is touching the wall of the creature's tunnel and comments, "it looks like saliva is holding it together."




They're Coming Out of the Walls!:


"They're coming out of the God-damn walls!", screamed Hudson of Aliens as the creatures appeared to be a part of the alien encrusted walls. When the creatures are dormant, it's near impossible to make out their form since it blends perfectly with the walls filled with twisting shapes and the same colors as the creatures. More accurately for Them 54, the creatures were seen bursting out of the tunnel walls to attack the human characters.




Save the Children!:


Both film's rescue finale centers around descending into the creature's lair to save children. In Aliens 86, Ripley loads up with fire power and ventures into the alien inferno to save Newt who has been fastened into the encrusted walls with the alien adhesive. Sgt. Peterson of Them 54 makes his way into the creature's territory to save two boys who were trapped in a small crevice too small for the giant ants to get to them. More accurately for Aliens, just when the audience thought that Ripley's rescue was the climactic confrontation, to our surprise, she is once again forced to rescue Newt from the alien queen after they made it to the Sulaco.



And here's some matched quickies:



"Stay loose."



"Stay frosty."



"It's mostly at night I see them."



"They mostly come at night, mostly."



"Get a moving!
Let's get rolling!"



"Move it out!
Let's go!"



"Get some sleep."



"How long's it been since you got any sleep?"



Similar Visual Frames: Aliens 86 frames on left, Them 54 frames on right



Heading up the Access Ramps for a showdown with their respective creatures.



For both films, traveling through the corridors, getting closer to the creature's nest.



Bishop of Aliens and Sgt. Patterson of Them crawling through the ducts.



Troops from both films cautiously advancing through the creature's territory lit only by flashlights and back light.






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