Blu-ray Review: Empire Of The Ants / Jaws Of Satan Double Feature
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Empire of the Ants
Director: Bert I. Gordon
Screenwriter: Bert I. Gordon, Jack Turley
Cast: Joan Collins, Robert Lansing, John David Carson, Albert Salmi, Jacqueline Scott, Pamela Shoop, Robert Pine
Scream Factory
Rated PG | 89 Minutes
Release Date: May 26, 2015

Co-written and directed by Bert I. Gordon (The Food of the Gods), Empire of the Ants stars Joan Collins as Marilyn Fryser, a sleazy land developer who takes prospective buyers on a tour of some “beach-front property” down in the Florida Everglades.

The trip is cut short, however, when the group stumbles upon a lair of – you guessed it – giant ants. You see, the land itself is not only worthless, it’s toxic – a barrel of radioactive waste has washed ashore and turned the island’s harmless ants into monstrous creatures with a taste for human flesh.

Based (loosely) on a short story by H.G. Wells, 1977’s Empire of the Ants is more of a Jaws rip-off than anything else. The gigantic ants are hanging out in the woods, spying on their human prey with their compound eyes while a facsimile of John Williams’ Jaws theme plays in the background. Too bad there isn’t a scene where local pest control specialists cut open a monster-ant to find license plates and small children inside its crude digestive system.

Gordon makes extensive use of “monster-vision,” which allows us to see through the compound eyes of a killer ant. As exciting as this may sound, it’s quite the opposite. In comparison to the rest of the film, however, bug-vision is like riding Space Mountain on ludicrous speed.

For a film about giant ants, very little seems to happen in Empire of the Ants. Most of the film’s 89-minute runtime is devoted to the interpersonal relationships of the prospective land buyers. It’s like speed dating on Amity Island, complete with freeloading old folks, grizzled sea captains, and pretty girls looking for a good time.

Things get semi-interesting when the ants reveal their nefarious plans for world domination. Turns out the queen ant – using pheromones – has the entire town under her hypnotic spell. Using them as drones, the queen is determined to exterminate mankind and build an evil empire – hence the title.

Empire of the Ants was the third and final film released in American International Picture’s H.G. Wells film cycle, which also included The Food of the Gods and The Island of Dr. Moreau. It isn’t all that great, but it’s good for a laugh if you’re a fan of these cheesy, outdated “when animals attack” flicks.

Jaws of Satan
Director: Bob Claver
Screenwriter: James Callaway, Gerry Holland
Cast: Fritz Weaver, Gretchen Corbett, Jon Korkes, Christina Applegate, Diana Douglas, Nancy Priddy, Norman Lloyd
Scream Factory
Rated R | 92 Minutes
Release Date: May 26, 2015

1981’s Jaws of Satan stars Fritz Weaver as Father Tom Farrow, a preacher who must battle a legion of demonic snakes. The film begins as most stories about satanic reptiles do – somewhere in Alabama.

Aboard a train carrying cargo for a traveling carnival, a venomous king cobra is unleashed by Satan and kills two railroad workers. Look, I’m all about Satan, but he isn’t exactly the most ambitious guy is he? We’re talking about Lucifer, here. Beelzebub, The Prince of Darkness – THE FRIGGIN’ DEVIL, y’all. Why is mankind’s tormentor snake-whispering on a train passing through Alabama?

Meanwhile, Father Farrow attends a cocktail party thrown by Matt Perry (Bob Hannah), a local businessman who’s about to open a dog racing track. If that sounds depressing, that’s because it is. Then again, this is small-town Alabama so a new dog track is like Madison Square Garden.

Enter Evelyn Downs (Diana Douglas), the town witch. What’s that? A town witch? Every rural community in the South has at least one town witch – a weird elderly woman who reads tea leaves and scares her neighbors with prophetic claims. Evelyn strikes up a conversation with Father Farrow and warns him that “a powerful enemy” is after him, and that this powerful adversary is Satan himself.

Turns out Father Farrow’s ancestors were cursed by Druids hundreds of years ago, and that’s why the Satanic shenanigans are his to deal with. In the ultimate battle of good versus evil, an Alabama priest must battle Satan in the form of a giant venomous king cobra – you know, because the Bible talks about serpents and stuff.

Jaws of Satan is immediately disappointing because it can’t live up to its bad-ass title. If I pop in a movie called Jaws of Satan, I expect to see sandworm-sized satanic snakes slithering through city streets and constricting around church steeples, swallowing priests whole while hellfire radiates from their eyes. Instead, we get an old Alabama priest wielding a crucifix and yelling “Satan! SATAN!” before exorcising a snake in a cave somewhere.

Jaws of Satan is good for a laugh, but not much else. Luckily it’s part of this Scream Factory double feature, so you get two turkeys for the price of one! This two-pack of creature features is now available at Amazon. For more information about Scream Factory’s upcoming releases, visit their website.

Bonus Features

* New Audio Commentary With Director Bert I. Gordon
* Photo Gallery
* Radio Spots
* Theatrical Trailers


Cover Art

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