Its 10:55 pm
The cheetah and I love our creature features/crazy nature movies. The bigger the creature,the better! So I decided to show him a movie that I actually saw at the theater when it came it. Of course I needed a hand from our contact (and fellow The Crusaders fan) “M” over at Warner Brothers Archives to send me a copy of “The Swarm”.
“The Swarm” was one of famed director-producer Irwin Allen’s last films in a career that spanned over 30 years and he left a handful of beloved cult classics like “Lost In Space”,”Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” and “Land of the Giants”.
But Allen as best known as the “Master of Disaster” for the various huge movies that placed all-star Hollywood casts in mortal danger. Films like “The Poseidon Adventure” and “The Towering Inferno” were monster hits and combined with “Earthquake” which took advantage of Irwin’s twin hits and copied them right down to the casting,the middle of the 1970s had no shortage of people in peril films.
I was 14 when I saw “The Swarm” and had only seen it once or twice on TV since then.
I had fond memories of it,it was an exciting movie about a what was then a very real threat,the invasion of the African killer bees from South America. The news was full of stories about how bad the invasion could be and how powerful the venom was,that it could kill a grown adult with as little as 5-6 stings.
Irwin Allen decided to produce and also direct “The Swarm”,while he had two huge hits,as of late his career at that time was a bit rocky,he was still doing movies but now they were made for TV films and back in the 1970s,TV movies were seen as the minor leagues (until the mini-series Roots changed that). Allen need a hit and so using the “ripped from the headlines”,he produced “The Swarm”,a film about a huge invasion of killers invading Texas and how the United States would react to such a threat.
Let me be perfectly blunt here,many people and critics have gone on record as saying “The Swarm” is the worst film ever made,that isn’t right. Yes,it suffers from some very weird story telling and Michael Caine as our hero Dr. Brad Crane,does some seriously overacting at times but Allen isn’t entirely at fault.
“The Swarm” was based on a novel but the screenplay was written by Stirling Silliphant,a VERY good writer who won a Oscar for his screenplay of “In the Heat of the Night”,the man knew his way around a typewriter.
But everyone has a bad day and in “The Swarm”,Silliphant had his. His screenplay was much too long and far too chunky. One wonders how much time he was given to come up with a script,it seemed rushed upon my viewing it this time around.
Now while Allen had experience as a director,he would have best been served as producer only,with such a massive story,he got lost in behind the story.
There are some truly questionable plot holes that even today will have you shaking your head,the main one being a sweet love triangle between cowboy Ben Johnson,town mayor Fred McMurray and school superintendent Olivia De Havilland. The first half of the film spends a lot of time developing this storyline but then with Maysville,the town the Swarm overwhelms in its first major attack being evacuated,the script then kills ALL three characters when the train they are on crashes.
Some of the other stars also don’t fare very well….Caine finds himself pretty much yelling at Richard Widmark in all their scenes together,Henry Fonda plays noble Dr. Krim who tries to find an effective anti-venom,Katherine Ross plays a military doctor with whom Caine falls for,Bradford Dillman who spends most of his time “making a dossier” on Dr. Crane. Other notable stars include Slim Pickens,Lee Grant,Richard Chamberlain,Patty Duke and even crusty Cameron Mitchell grabs some screen time.
The true stars are the 20 million honey bees who used as The Swarm. This is the most impressive part of the film,using live bees being handled by professional bee handlers.
In the behind the scene special feature on the making of “The Swarm”,you can see how the bees were used and how the stunt people handled it. Over 800,000 bees had their stingers removed for key close up scenes and according to reports,only one person was actually stung by one bee and that was Olivia de Havilland.
“The Swarm” was very earnestly made and Allen did his very best in trying to make an exciting topical film but “The Swarm” failed to hit at the box office.
After producing two more box office failures,Irwin Allen stuck to television movies and one short lived series called “Code Red”.
As for the invasion of the African killer bees? Well,you can read an interesting article by going here.
The original run time for “The Swarm” was 2 hours,in the Warner Brothers Archive BluRay release,an additional 30 minutes has been added,sadly it doesn’t do much to improve the film.
“The Swarm” is rated PG and special features include the mentioned “making of” and the original trailer.
While the cheetah wasn’t too impressed,I am going to be a bit more forgiving,Allen had his heart in the right place,with a more experienced director,”The Swarm” could have worked and worked well. You can purchase the movie and form your own opinion by going to the website of Warner Brothers Archives.
What film from the 1970s is your favorite? Drop a comment and share it with the cheetah and myself….