EDITOR’S NOTE: This film was originally on the site on December 31, 2021. Thanks to the new Kino Lorber blu ray release, I’m sharing a revised article on the film. The Kino Lorber release has a brand new 2K scan as well as commentary by author and film historian Lee Gambin, new interviews with Barbara Brownell, Barry Van Dyke, Anita Gillette, Moosie Drier and production assistant and daughter of producer Alan Landsburg, Valerie Landsburg. You also get both the TV and theatrical cuts of the film. It’s available directly from Kino Lorber.
Guerdon Trueblood, who wrote this, really had quite the resume. The grandson of General Billy Mitchell, the founding father of the U.S. Air Force, he was a dependable writer for TV as well as writing and directing The Candy Snatchers. You can also check out a few other TV movies he wrote like The Savage Bees, SST Death Flight, Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo and even the theatrically released — and reviled — Jaws 3D.
Ants — also known as It Happened at Lakewood Manor and Panic at Lakewood Manor — was directed by Robert Scheerer, who also made Poor Devil, the “Primal Scream” episode of Kolchak and episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager.
Probably the main reason to watch this is Lynda Day George, who we all know and love from movies like Pieces, Day of the Animals, Beyond Evil and Mortuary. But you also get Myrna Loy, Suzanne Somers (just before Three’s Company), Bernie Casey and Brian Dennehy, who was in twelve movies and TV programs in 1977.
As for the Lakewood Manor, a real estate madman wants to turn it into a casino while its owner (Loy) wants to keep it as it is. As it involves a pit of venomous ants that can’t be destroyed by pesticides and love to murder people. Imagine — millions of ants covering people, who can’t move or they’ll be killed, ants upon ants taking the life of the soon-to-be Chrissy Snow.
From the moment that two construction workers discover just how aggressive these ants are — they get buried alive before they can tell anyone — you know that these ants mean business. The Board of Health thinks that whatever is killing everyone is some kind of violent outbreak and quarantine the hotel, but it turns out that there’s a giant pit of ants, ants that can’t be stopped with pesticides. Millions of ants, ants smart and mean enough to build bridges over the dead bodies of their fellow insects and cross water and fire just to kill anyone that gets close to them.
There’s a square up reel at the end, as only two of the many characters in this movie survive and they’re told that there’s no way this could happen again because the hotel had “unique environmental conditions vital for the existence of the ants’ nest.” Seeing as how there was never a sequel, maybe they were right.
I also love that this movie was sold with an image of Somers — after she became a big star — covered in ants. She was terrified of them but the producers somehow convinced her to do it.
In the 70s, I spent most of my childhood worrying that I would be killed by a bug. Now, I’m more sure it’s going to be a heart attack any day now.
Pingback: What’s Up in the Neighborhood, July 2 2022 – Chuck The Writer