Producer/director Irwin Allen struck box office gold with a string of star-studded disaster films including The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974). Based on a novel by Arthur Herzog, The Swarm, seemed liked a surefire hit given Allen’s track record and fear over armies of Africanized killer bees that swept America in the mid-1970’s. Marred by poor production values, a nonsensical plot, and Allen’s scattershot direction, The Swarm bombed at the box office in 1978.
As the film opens, a hazmat team are storming a Texas air base. They discover nearly everyone dead. Among the handful of survivors is Dr. Bradford Crane (Michael Caine, The Wilby Conspiracy) an entomologist who claims a swarm of African killer bees are responsible for the deaths. Team leader General Thaddeus Slater (Richard Widmark, Broken Lance) dismisses Crane’s claims until they’re confirmed by base doctor, Helena Anderson (Katharine Ross, The Graduate). After Contacting the White House, Crane is put in charge of the operation to destroy the deadly bees. Slater has little patience for Crane, Anderson and their analytical approach to the problem. He just wants the swarm dead. Now. His idea to spray a radioactive toxin before the swarm reaches any civilian populations nearby, is deemed too risky. Slater is less than thrilled.
Enter Henry Fonda (On Golden Pond) as Dr. Krim, an immunologist tasked with developing a mass antidote and Richard Chamberlain (Shogun) as Dr. Hubbard to develop poison pellets that will harm bees and not any plant or other living thing on the planet. When the bees attack and kill his parents on a picnic, young Paul Durant (Christian Juttner) and his friends take revenge by firebombing the hive, sending the swarm to the Marysville. In the aftermath, Crane and his team discover the bees are only three days outside of Houston!
Allen’s cast also includes such notables as Ben Johnson, Olivia de Havilland, Fred MacMurray, Patty Duke, José Ferrer Lee Grant and Slim Pickens. No matter though, the dumb plot exposition leaves the actors doing little more than robotically reciting their lines or fantastically overacting. Everyone involved seems ashamed to be there, cementing The Swarm’s status as a clunker of a movie. But like other ‘bad’ movies through the years, The Swarm refuses to die, acquiring a loyal following of the “so bad it’s good” variety. I admit to being one of those fans; I love star studded films and Irwin Allen always brought the glitter. Like all previous U.S. home video releases, Warner Archive Collection’s Blu-ray contains the Extended Edition, adding forty minutes to the fun, not included in the original theatrical release.
Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Warner Archive’s 1080p transfer is a notable upgrade over the previous DVD. The image is wonderfully crisp throughout and a nice sheen of grain is produced accurately. Colors are vibrant and there are no digital anomalies to speak of. The image looks clean throughout.
The DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack can be a bit thin in a few spots, but Jerry Goldsmith’s exuberant score comes through convincingly. The buzzing bees are nicely rendered and other explosions has a nice presence. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout. English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Behind the Scenes: Inside “The Swarm”: (SD, 22:12) From 1978, this vintage piece has various cast members discussing the film
- Trailer (HD, 2:10)
Movie title: The Swarm (1978)
Director(s): Irwin Allen
Actor(s): Michael Caine , Patty Duke , Katharine Ross , Richard Widmark , Richard Chamberlain , Olivia de Havilland , Ben Johnson
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Sci-Fi, Action