The cult classic animals attack Made for TV Movie Ants!, or It Happened at Lakewood Manor, hit Blu-ray last week thanks to Kino Lorber. Originally airing December 2nd, 1977 on ABC and even enjoying a brief theatrical release in some territories, the telefilm manages to surpass its confines thanks in part to its script and in large part to its exceptional ensemble cast including Lynda Day George, Myrna Loy, Bernie Casey and Suzanne Somers (who also was the model for the strangely lurid poster art, included on the double sided insert). Ants! was admittedly a blind spot for me in this great genre of horror which hit prime time television in the 70s/80s, and that enjoyed quite a bit of freedom on the medium (that is until the FCC stepped in). If you’re at all curious about Made For TV horror, I can’t suggest Amanda Reyes’ comprehensive tome on the subject Are You In The House Alone?: A TV Movie Compendium enough.
As the title would lead you to believe, this film is about killer ants that have been supercharged by pesticides which have seeped into the soil over the years, granting them the ability to poison humans. This chilling evolution comes to light when a construction crew happens upon their massive colony while digging behind the charming hotel known as the Lakewood Manor, hence the telefilm’s alternate title. This all transpires the day a wealthy investor is visiting with his partner (Somers) to hopefully buy the property and (unbeknownst to its current owner,) demolish it to put up a casino. It’s this light messaging that offers up some intriguing subtext while not taking away from the ants, who after a few victims, are finally discovered to be behind the people around the hotel mysteriously going into an almost catatonic state.
The film here is presented in two aspect ratios 1.33:1 full frame to mimic the TV presentation or 16:9 for HD TVs and also to mimic its theatrical run. A quick comparison of the two ratios has more information to the right and left of the frame with the 1.85:1.The film sports a new 2K transfer and suffers from some light damage and higher than normal contrast, which is usually the case for TV fare. Keeping in mind this was intended for the small screen the film surprisingly holds up rather well and looks and sounds way better than it probably has before this release. Accompanying the release is a bevy of extras including a new audio commentary by Author/Film Historian Lee Gambin and new audio interviews with the likes of Actress Barbara Brownell, Barry Van Dyke, Anita Gillette, Moosie Drier and production Assistant and Daughter of Producer Alan Landsburg, Valerie Landsburg.
Ants! was an entertaining discovery and a great example of what was so interesting about this period of Made for TV horror and how it would often tow a delicate line, to tell these stories that would never play today. The film can be a bit ridiculous here and there, but never descends into camp no matter how high it ups the stakes. It’s something that was as impressive as it was engrossing as the telefilm takes some pretty big leaps in its final act, surprisingly without losing its footing. Kino, as usual, has gone above and beyond getting extras together, preserving and presenting the film for both fans and those looking to check this film out for the first time like myself. Given ants are most active in the summer this is the perfect time to check Ants! out, which will no doubt have you looking at those critters in your kitchen with a whole new perspective.