Released in October 1962, on the very eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis, “Mant” is the enduring sci-fi classic that made the giant ants in “Them” look like gnats. Compared to the insectile inamorata of “The Wasp Woman,” the Mant is male. Compared to the fly in “The Fly,” the Mant is not a fly, nor a wasp, but an ant.
But the Mant in “Mant” is not only a man who is an ant – the Mant is a man who is an ant who kills. People, that is! Man or woman, no one is spared by the masticating mandibles of the Mant. The Amazing Colossal Man would shrink, and the Incredible Shrinking Man would shrink even more, at the mere sight of the Mant’s frightening visage of vengeance. You’ll never look at the tiny uninvited guests on your fresh-sliced watermelon in quite the same way again, because this ant-man is no picnic.
Presented by that barrel-chested B-meister Mr. Lawrence Woolsey, whose finest hour this could be, “Mant” (the title character of which is played by the imposing Mr. Mark McCracken) is fairly teeming with long-legged dames and six-legged terror. But for all the skin-crawling creeps to be had, there’s no end of tragedy on display as well. “Mant” stands tall as a tale of human hubris, of ambition run amok, of the price one man pays when he tries to tame mother nature and make her his housewife.
A harsh mistress, Ma Nature. To this day, the old lady has so far refused to go gently into that great good night, and the lessons “Mant” has to impart to us today will resonate into the 23rd century and beyond. The fastest ’57 Chevy on Route 66, with or without whitewall tires and/or a Tiger in its Tank, cannot outrun the Atomic Age’s most fearsome foe: the quest for scientific understanding in the hands of those who do not understand it.
For now we know that the blind pursuit of the answers to life’s mysteries is not a pretty sight to see, do we not? Yes, if “Mant” tells us anything at all in this day and age, it is that the future is no place for a man who has forgotten his past, or who simply cannot recall it.