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Killer bees from South America have been breeding with the gentler bees of more northern climes, slowly extending their territory northward decade after decade. Entomologist Brad Crane has discovered that something is making them come together in huge, killer swarms. He wants to keep the General Slater from using military tactics from further upsetting the balance of nature as they join to try to stop the swarms from approaching Houston. Written by
Managing the bees was a huge challenge on this film. The production went through several bee keepers before finding one who solved the problem by hiring people to clip the stingers off of the bees. This was accomplished in a refrigerated trailer, as bees are incapacitated by freezing temperatures. This operation, which went on all summer, made the bees safer for use around the cast and crew, although a few stingers were missed. But, as it turned out, some lingering venom got into the air on the sound stages and produced some allergic reactions. In addition, everyone had little yellow dots on their clothing - bee poop, probably. See more »
A train approaches Houston with mountains in the background. See more »
A swarm of African killer bees rampage across America's south-west before descending on Houston, destroying everything in their path.
Contrary to popular opinion, THE SWARM is not the worst movie ever made, and anyone who says otherwise clearly hasn't seen the collected works of Jesùs Franco, Andy Milligan or Woody Allen (just kidding!). Representing the last gasp of the disaster cycle inaugurated by Ross Hunter's big-time adaptation of Arthur Hailey's AIRPORT (1969) and further popularized by the likes of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972) and THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974) - the latter a bona fide Hollywood classic
THE SWARM encapsulates director Irwin Allen's basic commercial ethos:
Big stars, big set-pieces, and big drama.
Taking its cue from previous small-scale entries like THE DEADLY BEES (1966) and TERROR OUT OF THE SKY (1978), Allen's old-fashioned monster movie revels in the destruction of towns, trains, nuclear power plants and the reputations of numerous high-profile actors. However, Stirling Silliphant's script is so hokey, it's difficult to believe he wasn't poking inglorious fun at the entire project: Michael Caine is so obviously miscast (as a 'brilliant' entomologist), and so clearly contemptuous of the material, his expression never changes throughout the entire film, though co-star Richard Widmark gives it everything he's got as a gruff military type who's eager to quell the threat by bombing everything in sight. Henry Fonda rises above the fray as a dedicated immunologist, and Slim Pickens is quietly dignified as a bereaved father, while Olivia De Havilland forms the centerpiece of a gentle romantic subplot (she's courted by Fred MacMurray and Ben Johnson). Richard Chamberlain, Lee Grant, Jose Ferrer, Bradford Dillman and Patty Duke Astin are featured in supporting roles alongside leading lady Katharine Ross, who seems particularly embarrassed by her ridiculous dialogue (get a load of her hysterical reaction to the death of a sympathetic younger character - if you lean forward, you can almost *smell* the ham!).
The film exists in two separate versions: The 116 minute theatrical print, and an expanded 'director's cut' running 155 minutes which pads the narrative with pointless dialogue exchanges, turning a tightly constructed disaster thriller into an endless yak-fest. Stick with the original.
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