Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Learning From Giant Ants (Part Three)


Okay, Back to Ben and Ed and the abandoned trailer.

No, you don’t have to transcribe the entire movie…unless you want to. But keep the disk in the drive and shift gears. Let’s start breaking the movie down, turning it back into an outline, back into a document that will reveal the underlying structure of the work. Picking up where we left off, let’s do the next couple of scenes:



• Ben investigates the wrecked trailer. Signs of a violent struggle, blood soaked cloth. Money scattered on the floor. This was no robbery. Ben figures the dried blood must be ten, twelve hours old. He checks the rest of the trailer while Ed looks around outside. Ben finds a recently fired pistol and a piece of cloth that matches the little girl’s robe along with the jigsaw piece of the missing doll’s skull confirming whatever happened, the girl Ben and Ed found was there.


• Ben joins Ed outside. They talk about how the trailer doesn’t look like it was in a wreck, more like something pulled the wall out to get at whatever was inside. Ed’s found the ground scattered with sugar cubes. He shows Ben a curious print in the sand, maybe it’s the track of some animal, but it’s nothing either of them can recognize. They call in for an ambulance for the kid and crime scene support.


• Later. Crime lab guys show up along with medical support for the little girl who remains mute and unresponsive…until a weird sound is heard in the distance. A strange shreaky noise that draws the attention of Ben and the medic. For a moment, seen only by us, the little girl’s face opens in recognition and fear. The sound fades and she returns to her passive condition.

The little girl is transported to the hospital. Ben and Ed decide to check in with Gramp Johnson who owns a general store nearby.


• Major sand storm blowing up by the time Ben and Ed arrive at the Johnson store and find the place a complete wreck. Money in the till. No robbery here either. It looks like somebody’s been through the place with a tank. They find Gramps’ shotgun, snapped in two, then they find Gramps. He’s dead, dragged and thrown into the basement of the store close to a side wall that’s been pulled out just like the trailer. Nearby, an overturned barrel of sugar.

Ben wants to be at the hospital when the little girl wakes up. Ed offers to stay and grab a ride back with the crime lab boys.
Ben leaves Ed alone at the store.

Ed hears that strange noise, the one that reached the girl in the depth of her shock. He explores, gun drawn.


Ed goes around the side of the store. We lose sight of him. The sound grows louder, but not loud enough to drown out the sound of Ed screaming and firing his gun. Then nothing but wind and that weird noise.

• Next day. Chief’s office. Ben there, kicking himself over leaving the vanished Ed at the store. So far all they know is the name of the car and trailer owner, a man from Chicago. This case doesn’t make any sense. The violence, the destruction, only sugar taken. Maybe a maniac. But that doesn’t make sense either, not unless the psycho is armored like a battleship. And nobody knows what that print was found by the trailer. For Ben this is personal. Before Ben leaves, the chief gets confirmation on the identify of the car and trailer owner. The man was an F.B.I. agent on vacation with his wife and two kids. The Fed’s have got a stake in this case now.


• Following day. Ben and an FBI agent named Robert Graham return to the station after visiting the crime scenes. He’s been bringing the agent up to date. Graham asks to send the mystery print to Washington. The little girl is still mute and uncommunicative. The coroner comes in with the autopsy of Gramps Johnson. He could have died in any of five ways: His neck and back were broken, his chest was crushed, his skull was fractured…and there was enough formic acid in him to kill twenty men.

• Days Later. Ben and Bob Graham are at an army airfield. Bob’s gotten a telegram from Washington: The Department of Agriculture is sending the “Doctors Medford” to New Mexico. Bob is to extend all cooperation possible. Does this mean the print’s been identified? Graham doesn’t know.

The Doctors Medford arrive: A distracted man in his seventies and his attractive young daughter, Patricia. No time for chit chat. The senior Dr. Medford wants to see all the reports and evidence immediately. Bob Graham wishes he’d gotten his suit pressed before meeting Patricia Medford.


• At the station, the two doctors go over the reports and evidence. They seem to have a theory they’re unwilling to share it with the two law enforcement officers. But with every clue and report, they grow more concerned. Dr. Medford asks about the first atomic bomb test and learns that it was in the same area as the recent crimes. Graham wants to cut to the chase, but Medford wants more information before he’s willing to articulate his theory. He wants to see the little girl. Ben tells him the girl’s not talking, but Medford still wants to see her.


• Ben and Graham take Medford and Patricia to the hospital where Dr. Medford passes a small glass of formic acid under the nose of the catatonic little girl. The smell gets through to her like nothing else has. The child screams one word: “Them!” then runs to the corner, crying hysterically. Medford asks to be taken to the desert immediately.


• Sand storm kicking up as Ben, Ed, Medford and Patricia arrive and start to search the area. Ben and Graham pressure the elderly professor; they’ve got five homicides and they want to know what Medford knows. But Medford refuses. Everything he says indicates there’s more going on here than murder. If he’s wrong, he tells the officer and agent, no harm. But if he’s right, and he’s getting more convinced of that with every moment, then something monstrous has happened in this desert.

While Ben and Graham are with Medford, Patricia is searching by herself when the desert is filled with that strange sound, the one that frightened the little girl and was heard before Ed Blackburn screamed outside of the general store.


A dark shape looms over a dune and Pat is confronted by a nightmare: An ant of monstrous proportions, fully nine feet in length.

Ben and Graham rescue Pat from the ant, killing it with machine gun fire. Dr. Meford explains this is what he was afraid of: An atomic mutation due to the first A-bomb test. The desert is filled with the stridulation of the giant insects. Medford wonders if this is the beginning of the end for mankind as the dominant species on the planet.


Continue in this fashion and you’ll end up with four or five pages representing the skeletal structure of the movie. It’s not a selling tool or a treatment, more of a raw schematic of the picture that lets you glimpse how and why things were put together, what the flow of information was between characters, how exposition is handled.

(to be continued)

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