Ethel Adams (Myrna Loy) and her daughter Valerie (Lynda Day George) own and operate Lakewood Manor, an old hotel that has been in the Adams family for decades. Anthony Fleming (Gerald Gordon) and his partner Gloria (Suzanne Somers) are interested in buying the hotel and, unbeknownst to Ethel, plan on tearing it down and building a casino. They take a couple rooms at the hotel to be on hand to smoodge the old lady and talk her into selling.
The hotel is currently doing some renovations and construction workers are on hand. Mike Carr (Robert Foxworth) is the head of the construction company and Valerie’s fiancé. The heavy construction equipment disturbs an immense colony of ants. Two workers are attacked by the ants and end up buried under an avalanche of dirt. They are rushed to the hospital. One dies but the other is in dire shape due to the poison in the ants’ system. After years of being exterminated with various poison chemicals the ants have adapted and now use it as a weapon by biting people in massive numbers and distributing their poison.
After another worker, Vince (Bernie Casey) is bitten, Mike becomes suspicious that the ants have something to do with people being poisoned. Then a young boy (Moosie Drier) is bitten and the kitchen cook, Luis (Rene Enriquez) is killed from the ant bites. Mike tries to convince the Board of Health inspectors, Peggy Kenter (Anita Gillette) and Mr. White (Steve Franken) that the ants are responsible. It’s not until the ants, stirred up by Mike’s bulldozer, launch a full-fledged attack on the manor and everyone in it, that the authorities realize the extent of the problem. By then there are more deaths, and the remaining residents are trapped and surrounded by hordes of deadly ants.
“Ants” AKA “It Happened at Lakewood Manner” AKA “Panic at Lakewood Manner” was released in 1977 and was directed by Robert Scheerer. It is a made for television eco-horror movie. The film was originally called “It Happened at Lakewood Manner” for television. The home video release renamed it “Ants”. The College Inn in Qualicum Beach BC, Canada was used for the manor lodge. The College Inn used to be a boys school.
For a made for TV movie it was pretty good. Some of the ant special effects were not great but there were plenty of actually ants in the film. Enough to make it quite creepy and intense. Granted there is some padding here and there but overall, it was enjoyable. Normally your garden variety black ant isn’t all that horrific, at least not until there are millions of them. True, it’s not a spectacular film but it’s made for TV so there is only so much horror you’re allowed to have.
At the beginning of the film, a worker named Frank gets buried under dirt from a cave-in. The man is stuntman Conrad E. Palmisano. Palmisano was actually buried with only a garden hose to breathe through. Due to it being a dangerous stunt Palmisano would only do it once. He told the crew they had better get it right the first time.
The actors were actually covered in real ants during the film, even Suzanne Somers, who was terrified of ants.