Legendary graphic designer Saul Bass, renowned for iconic posters and credit sequences of countless movies, directed only one feature film: this science fiction thriller. Like Kubrick (who collaborated with Bass on Spartacus and The Shining), he delights in defamiliarizing the natural world. A mysterious cosmic event sparks the rise of highly intelligent ants that ravage the desert—killing people and animals alike. Two scientists arrive on the barren location, now home to an enigmatic and Stonehenge-like cluster of geometric monoliths, and hole up in their research station to study the ants . . . or are the ants studying them? In contrast to the highly structured and communal behavior of the ants, the human scientists diverge in their approaches: Hubbs (Nigel Davenport) seeks to destroy the mutant insects while Lesko (Michael Murphy) hopes to communicate with them; the arrival of a dazed young woman (Lynne Frederick) complicates the tensions. The film’s dazzling graphic montages and dramatic footage of real ants avoid the typical clichés of stop-motion or costumed-creature features, instead beautifully crafting a menacing tone that is at once naturalistic and mystical, expository and abstract. Bass’s original ending for the film—an elaborately hallucinatory sequence (literally, the final phase of the four-part film)—was cut by Paramount and never seen by audiences in the U.S. until its archival rediscovery in 2012.
Screening with film's "lost" alternate ending.
Bing Theater | $10 general admission; $7 LACMA members, seniors (62+), and students with valid ID; $5 LACMA Film Club and Academy members | Tickets: 323 857-6010 or purchase online.
New 35mm print created for the Academy Film Archive’s collection, with thanks to Paramount Pictures. Alternate ending: Digital Cinema Package created for the Academy Film Archive, with thanks to Paramount Pictures.