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Under Attack! Big Bug Films of the 1950s

Under Attack Tarantula


Apr 04

6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

McCarthy Hall 013

The College of Arts and Sciences Liberal Arts Lecture will include a series of film clips and a panel discussion featuring classic science fiction films. A reception for retiring Arts and Sciences faculty will begin at 6 p.m.

Cost: Free and open to the public


Debbie Dobbyn


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Sixty years later, science fiction films that some call "big bug movies" still frighten and fascinate us, and even make us laugh. Insects have been used as symbols in art and literature throughout human history. American filmmaking of the 1950s employed special effects in reaction to the fear of nuclear annihilation in the era of McCarthyism, anti-communism and blacklisting. A series of clips from THEM! (1954), The Deadly Mantis (1957), The Beginning of the End (1955) and Tarantula (1955) will be shown. A panel discussion will follow, separating bug fact from fantasy, taking into account the filmmaking of the time, and analyzing the messages these works conveyed, both intentionally and unintentionally.

The panel will include the following St. Ambrose faculty members:

Sarah Vordtriede-Patton has been at St. Ambrose since 2001 as professor of biology and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. She is board certified in medical and veterinary entomology, a member of the Entomological Society of America since 1996, and a former Captain US Army Reserve and former Commander 480th preventive medicine detachment (entomology). She has conducted research with ticks, blister beetles, lightning bugs and caterpillars. She earned her bachelor of science in biology from McKendree College, a master's in environmental studies from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, and a doctorate in ecology, evolution and systematics from St. Louis University. 

Sandra Quinn Quinn has taught at St. Ambrose since 2003 as a professor in criminal justice and women's studies. She was a lecturer in humanities at Arizona State University, where she taught many film courses, including a course on the "Big Bug Films, and Communist and Nuclear Threat Panics of the 1950s." She has served as a peer reviewer for The Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture. Quinn holds degrees in communication and film, focused on documentary filmmaking and editing, from Columbia College in Chicago, interdisciplinary humanities from Arizona State University, and a doctorate from the School of Justice Studies at Arizona State University. Learning film and cultural theory at Arizona State, her MA thesis earned her the humanities Parker Award, and her PhD dissertation won an Outstanding Dissertation award. 

Paul-Thomas Ferguson has been an adjunct history instructor at St. Ambrose since 2007, while simultaneously serving as archivist for U.S. Army Joint Munitions Command. He holds a bachelor's degree in European history from Western Illinois University, a master's in medieval history from Marquette University, and a doctorate in American history, Middle Eastern history and urban history, with an emphasis on sports and leisure, from Marquette University. He has been recognized by the honor societies of Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Alpha Theta, and Phi Beta Kappa.  

Preceding the movie night, a reception will be held, recognizing retiring faculty members Bea Jacobson, PhD and Owen Rogal, PhD, both professors in the English Department.

MORE LIKE THIS:College of Arts and Sciences, English, For Alumni, For Faculty and Staff, Lectures & Film Screenings