Saturday 6 January 2024

Movie Review: The Swarm (1978)

Genre: Disaster Thriller  
Director: Irwin Allen  
Starring: Michael Caine, Richard Widmark, Katharine Ross, Henry Fonda, Richard Chamberlain, Lee Grant, Olivia de Havilland  
Running Time: 155 minutes  

Synopsis: A swarm of killer bees originating from Africa kills most personnel at an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Base in the United States. The President appoints scientist Dr. Crane (Michael Caine) to lead the response, and he immediately clashes with the military's General Slater (Richard Widmark). Crane finds an ally in the base's medical officer Dr. Anderson (Katharine Ross), then recruits scientists Dr. Krim (Henry Fonda) and Dr. Hubbard (Richard Chamberlain) to try and develop a bee-defeating strategy. Meanwhile, the swarm attacks the nearby small town community of Marysville, then heads towards Houston.

What Works Well: The scenes of bees swarming fallen victims are impressively yucky.

What Does Not Work As Well: An inept and laughable script combines with plastic performances to contend for the title of worst 1970s-era disaster movie. The science is bad, the military response is worse, and most of the special effects are childish. Michael Caine and Richard Widmark embarrass themselves with frequent shouting matches, but Olivia De Havilland, Ben Johnson, and Fred MacMurray are also awful as participants in the cringiest of love triangles. Ross collapses and recovers multiple times, but still stumbles through a wedged-in romance with Caine. Lee Grant as a television journalist suddenly disappears, and only Henry Fonda as a wheelchair-bound scientist salvages a modicum of dignity.

Conclusion: As an unintended parody, The Swarm is pathetically funny.

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