The Swarm (1978)

The Swarm

Directed by Irwin Allen

Based on the novel by Arthur Herzog Jr., Screenplay by Stirling Silliphant

Tagline: “It’s more than a speculation – it’s a prediction!”

Run Time: 156 minute Director’s Cut (Yeah, baby! 2 and a half hours of cheese!)

After a person sees enough bad movies, it’s easier to categorize each movie based on its particular "pedigree": From contemptible, insulting tripe such as Hobgoblins, to incomprehensible quagmires like Manos: The Hands of Fate, and Monster A-Go Go, to bizarre 60’s monster-musicals such as The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? and The Horror of Party Beach. Another popular genre is the cheap "homage" (i.e., rip-off), of which the Italians seem particularly skilled at producing. For example, the "Superman" rip-off The Pumaman and the Conan "homage" of the ‘Ator’ series: Ator: the Fighting Eagle, Ator: the Blade Master, Ator: The Invincible (aka: Cave Dwellers), ad nauseam…

One of my favorite "flavors" of bad movies is the Hollywood Superstar Debacle…when egos (and budgets) run wild and unchecked by the reason of cooler minds. The result of a virtually unlimited budget, an Oscar-heavy cast, and a deplorable script is inevitably a morass of confused plot lines, absurd dialog, ham-fisted acting, strained credibility, and humiliated actors.

Exhibit A: The Swarm.

Our current feature is a lovely example of just such a travesty…and brother, is this film packed with embarrassed heavy-weight stardom. The film’s cast reads like an Academy Award alumni meeting: (A ‘*’ indicates an Oscar win, a ‘+’ indicates an Oscar nomination.)

Sleuth (1972) and Alfie (1966)”);
quotetablerow(“Richard Widmark+”, “1 Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor Kiss of Death (1947), an Emmy and a Golden Globe nomination as well.”);
quotetablerow(“Olivia de Havilland**+++”, “2 Oscars for Best Actress: The Heiress (1949) and To Each His Own (1947), along with 3 Oscar nominations for Best Actress. Last but not least, a Golden Globe Best Actress to top it off.”);
quotetablerow(“Lee Grant*+++”, “1 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Shampoo (1976), along with 3 Oscar nominations, tons of Golden Globe and Emmy awards, and a Cannes award for Best Actress.”);
quotetablerow(“Patty Duke*”, “1 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in The Miracle Worker (1972), 2 Emmy awards and 2 Emmy nominations, along with a few Golden Globes for spice.”);
quotetablerow(“Henry Fonda++”, “2 Oscar nominations (Best Actor and Best Film), along with a 1978 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Association. Needless to say, Henry had numerous Golden Globes, Emmy’s, you name it.”);
quotetablerow(“Ben Johnson*”, “1 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in The Last Picture Show (1971). He also won a Golden Globe award for the same film that year as well.”);
quotetablerow(“Katharine Ross+”, “1 Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in The Graduate (1968). There’s a pile of other awards and nominations as well.”);
quotetablerow(“José Ferrer*++”, “1 Oscar for Best Actor in Cyrano de Bergerac (1950). 2 Oscar nominations as well as Emmy’s, Golden Globes, and such.”);


Needless to say, the aforementioned actors and actresses went on to win many more awards after "The Swarm", which must add to their eagerness to forget that they ever appeared in this fiasco. (Well, maybe not Michael Caine, who seems to appear in whatever script that shows up in his mailbox that week. God bless ya, buddy!) On an odd, almost enigmatic note, "The Swarm" was nominated for Best Costume Design (!) in the 1979 Academy Awards. (It lost out to Death on the Nile.)

Although "The Swarm" was not Irwin Allen’s first directorial effort, it was undoubtedly the largest and most audacious film he had helmed up to then. Irwin "The Master of Disaster" Allen is better known as the producer behind the 70’s ‘disaster’ blockbusters The Poseidon Adventure (1971), and The Towering Inferno (1974) (He also produced a couple of 1976 TV ‘disaster’ movies Fire! and Flood!). I can only assume that Allen leveraged his success as a producer to wrangle such a heavy-weight cast for this ego-driven flop. (Irwin Allen didn’t seem to learn his lesson from this ponderous production…he went on to produce and direct Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979) (starring…surprise!…Michael Caine), and was also the man behind a few made-for-TV disaster flicks, The Night the Bridge Fell Down and Cave-In!, both from 1983.)

Small World Alert: In an interesting note, it was "The Swarm" screen writer Stirling Silliphant that happened to be scouting for locations in El Paso one fine day in the 1960’s when he met aspiring actor/director/producer Hal Warren. After chatting for a bit, Hal bet Stirling that he could make just as good a film as any big Hollywood production but on a much smaller budget. The result? Hal Warren’s legendary Manos: The Hands of Fate, arguably the worst film ever made. How delicate we dangle from the threads of fate, eh?

I’m proud to say I wrote this review based on the 156 minute Director’s Cut DVD. Say that slowly: One-Hundred-And-Fifty-Six-Minutes…! Unfortunately, most of the restored footage is scenes of tedious dialog that were wisely edited out of the theatrical release.

The DVD also has a 30 minute documentary on the making of "The Swarm". It is refreshingly hilarious (and believe me, anything seems refreshing after watching nearly 3-hours of "The Swarm"), and contains several interviews with the stars of the film, all of whom can’t brag enough about what an honor it was to work with such a talented director as Irwin Allen. Even funnier then the glassy-eyed cast’s flattery of Irwin Allen is the way most of them, in all earnestness mind you, attempt to warn the viewer of the all-too-real threat of killer bees invading our country and killing everybody. (We all remember The Great Bee Invasion of 1980 where 59 million people were stung to death and half of the United States was rendered inhabitable? You don’t? Oh, that’s right, it never happened.)

I vaguely remembering seeing this movie at the theater, and I also remember there being a bit of hysteria in the media about swarms of killer bees approaching from the "South". Oh well, maybe it was all empty hype orchestrated by Hollywood to help increase box-office returns for the movie. Anyway, if you ever see the DVD, make sure to check out the documentary…it’s a riot.

I know I’m not giving away too much by saying that the story revolves around a swarm of killer bees, a stuffy military guy, General Thalius Slater (Richard Widmark), that wants to blast the bees to kingdom come, and a renowned entomologist, Dr. Bradford Crane (Michael Caine), who tries to neutralize the threat without harming the environment. The General and the Scientist butt heads at every opportunity, resulting in unforgettable, and unbelievable, heated arguments at every turn. While Slater and Crane argue, and argue, and argue, the bees destroy a town, a nuclear power plant, and also derail a train for good measure. The killer insects finally settle into downtown Houston, when the military finally steps in and sends in a team of men with flame-throwers to burn down the entire city (!!!). When Houston’s immolation fails to wipe out the bees (Duh!), Crane devises a method to lure the bees into the Gulf of Mexico where a convenient oil slick has been spread onto the water’s surface. The bees land on the water, the oil slick is ignited, and bye-bye bees. (Yeah, now that was environmentally friendly!)

On a side note, I really wonder how much of the film’s $21,000,000 dollar budget went to special effects. It couldn’t have been too much since the bee attacks are often created by off-camera stage hands dumping bags of yellow and brown pellets into fans and blowing the resulting "swarm" onto the actors. Interestingly, Irwin Allen hired unemployed people (and I imagine paid them next to nothing) to clip the stingers off thousands of live bees for use in scenes requiring living insects. (It’s also been said that after filming scenes with live bees, Michael Caine thought the multitude of yellow spots on his clothes were honey from the bees and ate them…until somebody finally told him the yellow spots were actually bee shit.)

All in all, "The Swarm" is a gigantic, expensive, bloated mess, and well, I guess I have 156 minutes of to get through so I better get started.

The SwarmWe open with a grandiose wide shot of what looks like an abandoned missile silo…Hmmm, I wonder where all the soldiers could be? I hope nothing bad has happened. An armored personnel carrier cautiously makes its it way up the mysteriously deserted access road and through the unguarded main gates. The Air Force APC comes to a stop and out of the vehicle’s rear hatch, like clowns hopping out of a Volkswagen Bug at a Shriner’s circus, a squad of highly trained extras, sorry, Air Force soldiers, emerge with weapons at the ready. As I sit and watch all this, I can’t help but wonder why some soldiers are wearing orange jump suits while others wear white, but then again, Top Secret Air Force procedures are certainly too advanced for a mere civilian like myself to understand.

I’m also confused as to why some of the soldiers carry M-16’s, while others carry revolvers (!). Furthermore, others are armed with flame throwers. (The Air Force uses flame throwers?).

In an early funny bit, the soldiers in white are completely sealed into their bio-hazard suits, while the orange-clad soldiers wear flight helmets (!) that are completely open around the neck…so why the hell are they wearing oxygen tanks? And since we’re at it, why the hell are they wearing flight helmets?

Anyway, as the soldiers make their way across the silo grounds, they discover a civilian van parked outside the silo entrance. Hmmm, I wonder whose van that is? The tension is killing me. No. Really. It is.

After gaining entrance into the missile silo itself, the colorfully-garbed soldiers make their way through the eerily silent corridors and finally reach an elevator. Piling into the elevator all at once, and violating every rule in the book regarding "bunching up during combat", the soldiers descend into the bowels of the missile silo; namely sub-level 18: the Communication Center.

The Swarm

Combat Rule #1: Never bunch up…elevators excluded.

Upon reaching the appropriate floor, the doors open and…And…AND….!!!!

We are treated to more Walking Down Dark Hallway excitement.

Alas we reach some sort of control room. How do I know it’s a control room? Because of the floor-to-ceiling computer panels. Gazillions of blinking lights, and a "ticka-ticka-ticka" sound add to the sense of awe in the face of such advanced technology. You may want to avert your eyes as the camera pans across the room revealing several dead bodies sprawled on the floor and slumped over desks. The attack on the control room was obviously so swift and unexpected, that a pair of soldiers didn’t even have time to fall down when they died since we can plainly see a couple of bodies standing and leaning against the far wall. (???)

The Swarm

I said stand at attention soldier! I don’t care if you’re dead!

After looking around a bit, the search party remove their helmets as the team leader, Major Baker, radios in to "Top Kick"…aka General Slater.

OK, obviously the filmmakers wanted to keep the identity of the "killers" a secret for a little while longer, but let’s be realistic: The film’s title is "The Swarm", so everybody better know just what happened here. If you are still puzzled then please contact your local mental health clinic.

Furthermore, given the fact that they were killed by bees, a few questions should immediately pop into your mind:

1) Where are all the dead bodies above ground? I assume that the guard shacks and watch towers were manned by, you know, guards. So where are their bodies?

2) How did the bees get into the silo itself and descend 18 floors en masse?

3) Now for the biggest plot hole that is ignored throughout the entire film: Nature designed the bee to leave behind its stinger after it stings something thus allowing the maximum amount of venom to be pumped into the victim. Unfortunately for the bee, a sting is a one time deal since the loss of the stinger results in the bees death. So obviously there should be about a bazillion little bee corpses strewn about the missile silo…so where the hell are they?

I do have a theory that could explain how all the silo was taken out: A swarm of killer bees, disguised as flower delivery men, attacked the base above ground and killed every guard before anybody could radio in what was happening. The bees shed their delivery uniforms and donned the dead soldiers’ uniforms instead (after carrying away the bodies and stashing them out of sight in the motor pool). Once dressed in the stolen uniforms, the incognito swarm of bees tricked the guards inside into opening the massive steel doors that lead into the silo. After overcoming these guards, the bees pushed the ‘Down’ button on the elevator, got into the elevator car, and killed everybody floor by floor. Once again, the bees’ disguise was so amazingly convincing, that not a single soldier had any chance to summon help before being stung to death. (Furthermore, nobody, and I mean nobody, managed to step on, slap, or otherwise squish a single bee, which would leave behind a bee corpse to be found later.) After killing everybody in the missile silo, the bees gathered their fallen comrades (if any), pressed the ‘Up’ button on the elevator, and ascended the 18 floors back up to the surface.

Yep, that would explain it.

The SwarmAnyway, General Slater and his soldiers arrive and secure the base. Back down in the Control Room the soldiers are busy baggin’-and-taggin’ the bodies. (Bodies which, if I may point out, don’t show a single welt or red mark despite being stung to death by killer bees.) Without warning, Dr. Bradford Crane (Michael Caine) calmly walks into the control room from an adjoining chamber. (Nice job of securing the base, you idiots.) Shocked by the sudden appearance of a civilian dressed in leisure suit, Major Baker raises his gun and quickly asks the stranger just how the hell he got into the silo.

"It’s a complicated story…it starts a year ago. But let’s skip that," Crane replies.

Yeah, the script would pretty much have to skip that explanation because there’s no way in hell a passing civilian could have gotten inside! What a story! Hooo-wah!

Baker tacitly agrees to "skip" the explanation (the film never brings it up either) and orders Dr. Crane to be patted down, revealing, wait for it…a bag of sunflower seeds. Get it? Good because I don’t. I guess it’s all part of the wonderful character development process that is so vital in a movie about killer bees.

At that moment, Slater walks in, sees Crane and growls, "What the hell is he doing here?"

A fair question to be sure. Alas, before Crane can explain himself (or use his "let’s just skip it" explanation), a radar operator runs in and breathlessly reports an "unidentified force" about 30 miles outside the base. Slater orders Crane to be "checked out" (uh yeah, a civilian is found in a missile silo full of dead soldiers, good idea, General) as he rushes off to take a peek at the radar screen in the next room.

Slater’s curiosity is piqued when the radar operator reports that the "object" is moving at 7 mph. (Oh my God! Something moving at 7 mph! Alert! Alert!) Slater quickly dispatches a pair of helicopters to check it out this slothful threat.

After a short time one of the helicopters radios in, "A black mass…a moving black mass."

For some reason, instead of say, flying away from the bees, the helicopter flies into the swarm. Now everybody knows that a helicopter will immediately go haywire and crash into the ground when encountering insects, which is exactly what this one does.

"Oh my God…we’re losing control!" the pilot screams as the camera is rotated in an effort to convince the viewer that the helicopter is spiraling out of control. This clever special effects effort is somewhat wasted when you catch a glimpse of the horizon and a couple of telephone poles at the bottom of the windshield as the helicopter <cough> ‘plummets’ to the ground.

The Swarm

This helicopter is spinning high in the air…not sitting on the ground…nosirree.

As one helicopter crashes and burns, the other is having problems of its own. "Oh my God! Bees! Bees! Millions of bees!" says the pilot with about as much enthusiasm as somebody making a root canal appointment. Once again, this helicopter also "loses power" (?), spins (with the ground easily viewable at the bottom of the windshield), and crashes into the ground.

After losing contact with the helicopters, Slater scrambles a squadron of jet fighters to track the swarm. (Jets? The bees move at seven miles per hour. I repeat: Seven. Couldn’t they just use a couple of kids on bicycles to pedal along and track them?) At long last, Slater orders the mysterious civilian to be brought before him for questioning.

Baker informs Slater that the prisoner’s name is Bradford Crane.
"Ph.D. Institute of Advanced Study. Princeton via Cambridge," Crane adds. (Ahhh…THE Institute of Advanced Study. Well why didn’t you say so?)

"English?" Slater asks upon hearing Crane’s dialect.

"American…for the last eight years."

(Yes, I’m glad we cleared up THAT plot hole. Whew! I was going nuts wondering how Crane got that accent. Don’t worry about explaining how a swarm of bees rode in an elevator or anything…)

Now comes the first of many inexplicable shouting matches between Crane and Slater. As we all know, it’s a tried-and-true gimmick to have Military and Science butt heads in order to create conflict. When handled correctly, it usually works, because hey, the Military is Evvviiilll, right? Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work in this film which is too bad because it’s such a central part of the story (as such). Crane and Slater fight over everything, lashing out at each other at every opportunity. To be frank, it’s unconvincing and quickly becomes tedious.

The SwarmAnyway, Crane recounts how he saw the swarms of bees earlier that day, followed them, and then entered the open gates at the silo to see if the bees "had flown down here". (Still, not to beat a dead horse, but who opened the gates? The bees? Even if Crane could have driven onto the grounds, how did he get access into the silo itself? Oh yeah, the bees left a key under the matt.)

"Just who are you?" Slater demands to know.

"I’m an entomologist."


"Insects, General!" Crane snaps with a trace of indignation in his voice.

For some reason Crane explodes into fury and begins shouting at Slater that Something Must Be Done to stop the bees.

Slater listens to Crane’s tirade before shouting back, "Thousands of people are stung by bees every year…and it’s damn rare if anybody dies from bee stings!". (There’s a lot of shouting between these 2 knuckle-heads. And yes, it’s not just rare, it’s "damn rare!")

"Then they have to be African bees, don’t they?" Crane asks.

"You mean the African killer bees?" Slater asks. (Remember that back when this movie came out the so called African "killer" bee was pretty big news, at least in the tabloids and schlocky sci-fi books that nerds like me read.)

Slater just can’t buy the fact that bees are responsible for the murder of the silo’s entire garrison. Hell, Slater said he’s even "read the reports" (The reports?) and it will be at least 10 years before the killer bees reach the US.

"By whose time table…yours… or theirs?" Crane cynically remarks. (Uh, bees have a timetable? Somebody throw this idiot into the brig and call the police, will ya?)

Fed up with Crane’s nonsense, Slater tells him that either he’s a "crackpot" (agreed), or else he’s somehow involved with all the deaths. Not to be outdone, Crane demands that Slater "kick on your video-com system" and contact Dr. Connors at the White House. (The White House’s emergency entomological response team?)

"Arthur Connors, the President’s adviser?" Slater says with disbelief. Slater doesn’t buy it. Why not? Because these 2 guys have to argue no matter what, and it’s already getting annoying…and there’s a lot more arguing to come. Whatever. Slater refuses to call the White House which drives Crane into a frenzy because he was hoping to have Connors verify his identify.

"Dr. Connors hasn’t the foggiest idea whether I’m on, off, on top of, or under this complex! But I have to speak with him and I mean right now!!!" Crane shouts, spittle flying in every direction.

"Lock him up!" Slater orders, doing something that should have been done a long time ago if you ask me.

Just as Crane is being led away to the brig (Finally!), in walks Captain Helena Anderson, the designated Love Interest, Crane’s future squeeze, and oh, she’s the silo’s physician as well. It turns out that Helena is one of a handful of survivors of the initial bee attack along with a few bee-stung soldiers that aren’t doing so hot.

"I need anti-toxins," Helena implores General Slater.

Crane steps up with a suave look on his face and casually mentions, "I have cardio-pep compound in my van…" (Valentino could learn so much from this guy…)

"Cardio-pep?" Helena says, "I just read an article in the Medical Journal about cardio-pep…by some scientist named ‘Crane’…"

The Medical Journal…and wait a minute. The author’s name was Crane…and his name is Crane too…could they be one and the same?!

The SwarmBlah blah. Another argument breaks out between Crane and Slater. This time it’s because Slater refuses to allow Helena to use Crane’s "experimental substance" on the injured soldiers. (Yeah, I guess it’s better if they die.) Helena insists that she has to contact an immunologist, since none of the "usual procedures" are working.

Crane, the Source of All Knowledge, interjects: "The best immunologist in the country is Doctor Walter Krim…you’ll find his card in my wallet." (Uh, he carries around the country’s best immunologist’s business card in his wallet?) As Crane is led away to contact Krim, Helena tells her story of how she survived the bees by crawling through "air-conditioning ducts to get over to pod three".

"It’s damn hard to believe that insects have accomplished what nothing in the world could have done," Slater says, "except germ warfare or a neutron bomb: neutralize an ICBM site."

Not to be picky (Me? Picky? Never!), a neutron bomb is specifically designed to kill with massive doses of radiation, not blast damage. In other words, if you were to drop a neutron bomb on top of a hardened ICBM silo in the middle of the desert you’d get a medium sized crater and a bunch of glow-in-the-dark lizards. (I don’t even want to get into the ‘germ warfare’ bit because it’s too imbecilic.)

The SwarmCut to a family having a picnic out in a field somewhere. The camera pans across a swarming bee hive as light-hearted comic relief music (tooting oboes and twittering flutes) plays on the soundtrack. I’m not sure if the music was chosen in order to make the upcoming bee attack more of a surprise, or whether somebody thought that being stung to death was ‘fun’. Either way, it’s annoying, as is most everything in this movie.

Yes, the camera zooms in to a bee sitting placidly on a leaf minding its own business. The bee "watches" the family from its leafy perch as they set out their food and begin to eat lunch. (As an extra treat, we get to see the family via Bee-Cam! Far out!) The scene’s accompanying comical music turns ominous indicating all is not well for our Sunday picnickers. Mom sends Paul back to the car in order to fetch the thermos (and so he won’t die…well…not yet at least. Oops! Sorry!) As Paul returns from the car, Mom notices a bunch of bees flying around the table. Her solution: whip out a can of bug spray and shoot a gigantic cloud of insecticide over all of the food. (Yummy!)

OK, let’s see here. Paul takes a couple of steps from the car and notices a MASSIVE swarm of pellets, sorry, bees streaming out of an old hollow tree. (To say that this dense cloud of brown plastic pellets being blown out of a hollow tree by an off-camera fan looks anything at all like a swarm of bees would be a bit of a stretch.) Anyway, Mom and Dad (played by God-knows-who…but at least they allowed themselves to be covered by thousands of real bees) get swarmed and quickly stung to death as a Paul, helpless and horrified, watches from inside the car.

Fortunately for Paul, the car keys are in the ash tray (the first place anybody would put the keys when getting out of a car, right?) and he fires up the family’s ride. A quick flip of the windshield washers to clear the bees away (resulting in several bees getting ‘smeared’ across the windshield…yech), and Paul hauls ass out of there.

The SwarmWell after that charming scene we return to the missile silo, where not a hell of a lot seems to have happened while we were away. Ahhh, yes. Down comes a gigantic video screen and one General Thompson comes into view.

Thompson shouts (of course) at Slater that the thought of a modern ICBM missile silo being taken out by an attack of "natural origin" (as stated in Slater’s report) is absurd. As Slater tries to explain the nature of his report, Thompson espies Crane standing at Slater’s side. When Thompson begins to object to an "un-cleared" civilian being privy to their conversation (Once again, agreed. Wouldn’t Crane’s ass be in a jail cell by now?)

Crane butts into the conversation, "I’m Dr. Brad Crane, an entomologist," he says, "…We have been invaded by an enemy far more lethal than any human force."

So a swarm of bees is more lethal than, oh, just off the top of my head, an atom bomb? A hydrogen bomb? McDonald’s food? Once again, to my astonishment, instead of ordering Crane to the brig, or at least restricting him to the silo’s video arcade, General Thompson growls that he’s going to personally verify Crane’s identity with Dr. Connors.

Cut to Marysville, a small generic town somewhere in Texas. Wouldn’t you know it: that week is the town’s annual Flower Festival. But wait a minute! Bees like flowers! This could be trouble! (Boy, they really hit you over the head with the irony in this movie don’t they. If you’re looking for subtlety, don’t watch ‘The Swarm’) Actually, the Flower Festival is a bit of a red herring since it’s Paul’s upcoming asinine attack on the hive that infuriates the bees and causes them to attack Marysville.

The Swarm

Wow, how ironic, eh? Who would’ve imagined…

We now get into one of the more horrid aspects of this film. The Geriatric Love Triangle between the town’s school superintendent, Maureen, the elderly Mayor Tuttle, and the town’s handy-man, Felix.

Not that watching a pair of amorous men in their 60’s fighting for the romantic attentions of an equally elderly woman is bad enough, but they all freakin’ die in a trash crash. So, you know, I’m sorry to ‘spoil’ that for you, but I have to shout: "What’s the f*@¤%***ing point of spending time, nay, a lot of time, with these characters to just kill them off?

Yes, who will finally end up charming the pants off Maureen? Felix or Mayor Clarence Tuttle? Blech!

The SwarmThe Swarm

Will Maureen choose Felix?

The SwarmThe Swarm

Will Maureen choose Mayor Tuttle?

It doesn’t matter! They all die in a train crash! Woo-hoo!

If you really must know, Mayor Tuttle has had the hots for Maureen for a long time now. As luck would have it, Felix moved to Marysville, retired, and set his sights on Maureen as well. In other words: blah blah blah.

A battle of wits ensues between our love-struck retirees just as Paul (the kid whose parents were just whacked by the bees at the picnic) comes careening through the town in his parent’s car. The car swerves madly from side to side and eventually crashes into a lamp post.

Returning to the missile silo, General Thompson informs Crane over the video screen that his credentials have checked out. (Crane can’t resist the opportunity to shoot Slater a smug I-Told-You-So look. I’m surprised he didn’t stick his tongue out at him.) Thompson also reports that the President has placed Crane in command of all operations. (Say what??!!)

"What are the limits to my authority?" Crane asks.

"None," a flabbergasted Thompson sighs.

Much to Slater’s chagrin, he’s ordered to give Crane his full cooperation for the duration of the crisis.

Let me get this straight: The President is giving full control over the armed forces to a civilian entomologist? Just let that sink in so that you can truly appreciate the depths of absurdity that this movie has attained in the first 24 minutes of run time. (Only 132 more minutes to go! I can do this!)

The Swarm

The President said what?! Baker and Slater react to the news that Crane has been put in charge.

Anyway, the first order of business is for Slater to summon the people listed in one of Crane’s files. Yes, Crane keeps a list of key personnel to contact in case of a killer bee attack. The second task: Return Crane’s pouch of sunflower seeds. (Hoo! Hoo! Such charming whimsy!)

"The file contains the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of everyone I want flown in," says Crane before taking a dramatic pause, "Just tell them…the war that I’ve always talked about has finally started." (!)

As Crane makes his way to the infirmary to speak with the survivors of the initial attack, Slater pulls aside his XO, Major Baker, and tells him to keep an eye on Crane because he can’t believe that Crane "just happened" to be at the silo just when the bees were attacking. Not only that, Slater also points out that Crane also "just happened" to have a list of personnel and equipment to be flown in. (To be fair, Slater has brought up several reasonable points during the film; all of which the script dutifully ignores.) To facilitate Baker’s ‘spying’ on Crane, Slater assigns him to be Crane’s ‘military liaison’ so that he can spend the maximum amount of time with him. (Oh joy, what fun that would be.)

Just as Crane gets to the infirmary, Dr. Helena receives a terrifying telephone call: the bees have killed the Durant family…"All except Paul", she says with relief. Without any hesitation, Helena tosses off her lab coat and drives off to Marysville with Dr. Crane in tow. (Umm, Helena, don’t you have duties to attend to? You know, like your patients?)

In case you’re wondering what Helena’s relationship is to Paul…well, I’m wondering too.

Now for one of the film’s more notorious moments…the infamous "There Is No Bee" scene.

At the hospital, Paul writhes in pain (he apparently received a few stings himself) as Crane and Helena enter his room. Paul, critically ill from the stings, begins to hallucinate and screams that there is a giant bee in the room. Crane calmly tells the attending physician to back away, as he softly says, "Paul…there is no bee. There is no bee." As the giant process-shot bee fades away, Paul calms down and collapses from exhaustion. (Dr. Bradford Crane: Entomologist and Psychologist! Boy, I guess he really did go in for some Advanced Study.)

One thing that is ridiculous about this scene, besides seeing Michael Caine repeat "There is no bee. There is no bee" as a giant bee licks his shoulder, is how Crane tells Paul to reach out and ‘touch’ the bee so he can see for himself that it’s just an illusion. Crane tells the delusional youth to reach out "further, further…" and just as the boy’s fingers touch the bee, Crane says,"There, you see Paul…no bee." But wait a minute…it was Paul’s hallucination! How could Crane possibly know how far Paul had to reach to ‘touch’ the bee, and how did Crane know the exact moment when the bee disappeared? Stupid movie.

The Swarm

"Paul…there is no bee."

With his work done for now, Super Crane, the Man Who Can Do Everything, stands up and simply states, "I’ve got to go." (?) Before he leaves, Helena takes Crane aside, peers into his eyes and gives her heart-felt thanks for helping Paul, a child that she obviously has feelings for…but for no clear reason. (Thanks, Mr. Screenwriter.)

Note From the Future: Later in the film Helena explains via a throw-away line that Paul was her first patient back when she was the town’s doctor (!). I’m pretty sure that this scene was cut from the film’s final release; thus anybody seeing the movie in the theater would never find out why she was so fond of Paul!

Soft, sappy, piano chords drip from the audio track just in case you don’t "get" that they are falling for each other.

Anyway, after taking care of business at the hospital, Crane and Baker drive to the site of the picnic attack. Meeting them there is General Slater (why is he there?), and a host of other military and police folk. (In the background of the shot you can glimpse a couple of soldiers still walking around in full bio-hazard suits and armed with flame-throwers. Boy, I guess they got their money’s worth out of those costumes…) As Slater and the others look on, Crane bends over and begins poking around the grass. "I’m looking for bees…unfortunately they washed the Durant car before I could get to it."

So, uh, the kid crashes into the lamppost and somebody shouts, "Quick! Get that kid to the hospital!…and wash his car!" You know, this is one of the things that really starts to annoy me after awhile: All these damn bogus plot devices and throw-away lines used to push the ‘mystery’ along. So we’re supposed to believe that they haven’t found a single dead bee yet? And they couldn’t get one from the Durant’s car because somebody washed it?! Ayeeeee!

Instead of bees, Crane discovers tiny bits of plastic scattered over the area and quickly points them out to Slater.

"What’s so significant about that?" Slater asks.

"I’m afraid to speculate…but I think the bees did this." (Didn’t you just say you were afraid to speculate?)

To make a long story short, Crane tries to convince Slater (i.e., the viewer) that the bees have been in America for a long time "spreading…increasing." (Whatever the hell he means by that.) Furthermore, the killer bees may be lining their hives with chewed up bits of plastic. Why this fact is so portentous is beyond me, but the film-makers thought it worthy of its own blast of ominous music on the sound track. Ooooooo! Bees that can chew plastic! Are you scared yet? Really though, I have no idea why this was brought up, and the film never touches on it again.

The SwarmBack at the silo now, we see that Dr. Krim (Henry Fonda), the country’s leading immunologist has arrived. We quickly realize that he and Crane are good buddies as Crane offers Krim a portion of his sunflower seeds. Slater steps forward to introduce himself and Krim gruffly says that time is short. Slater agrees and suggests that the best course of action is a "quick knock out." (In an insipid cut-away shot, Crane and Krim exchange a knowing look as if to say "Military guys…can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em…")

Crane reaches into the helicopter, lifts Krim out, and plops him down into his squeaking wheelchair. I don’t know why, but I had to chuckle when I saw Michael Caine carrying a sun-flower seed chewing Henry Fonda. Now there is something you don’t see everyday. (By the way, Krim’s squeaky wheelchair is the source of several groan-inducing characterization lines.) After a tour of the infirmary ("They don’t look too good, do they?" Krim says in a display of compassion and bedside manner), Crane, Krim, and a couple other doctors head over to the make-shift mortuary to examine the bodies.

Outside at the silo’s main gates, the County Engineer, Judd Hawkins (Slim Pickens! Was no star safe from Irwin Allen’s charms?) is trying to gain entry to the silo. When the gate guard refuses to let him in, Judd demands to see General Slater or else he’s going to shut off the silo’s water supply. (!) (To be honest, sometimes I feel like I’m in Alice’s Wonderland. I mean, I’m watching a movie where the County Engineer is threatening to shut off the water to an ICBM missile installation. I mean, wtf?!)

Yes, you heard correctly, an ICBM silo with a water supply directly connected to the local water main. Oh, and let’s just play along and forget that it’s probably illegal to threaten a military installation in such a manner. The whole point to this scene is that Judd wants to see his son who was stationed at the silo. (Gee…I wonder if his kid was killed by the bees. Wouldn’t that just be…<yawn>…terrible?)

Anyway, Slater comes to the gate and the guard tells him of Judd’s threat to the silo’s utilities.

"I don’t think you have the authority to do that," Slater says. (Gee General, do you really think Judd might be overstepping his authority?)

"Well, while your a-checking…I’ll be a-throwing them valves!" Judd shouts, making it perfectly clear that he a-means business.

Faced with the possibility of not being able to flush the silo’s toilets for 10 minutes (the time needed to call the police, arrest Judd, and restore the water), Slater relents and lets Judd into the silo to see if his son is among the dead.

Yea verily, I have walked to the edge and peered into the Abyss of Stupidity…and it’s name was The Swarm.

Meanwhile, Krim has been analyzing the venom from the dead soldiers’ bodies.

"It’s more virulent than the Australian brown-box jellyfish," Krim says.

Crane turns and says with a sigh, "Well, I guess that’s it then."

"Yup," Krim replies, "It looks like your nightmare has finally arrived." (The Brown-Box Jellyfish nightmare? Oh, he means the bees. Never mind.)

Crane continues, "We’ve been fighting a losing battle against the insects for 15 years [?], but I never thought I’d see the final face off in my lifetime." (Yes, the 15 Year Battle of the Insects that started in 1963.)

Crane takes a deep breath and with a completely straight face says, "I never dreamed it would turn out to be the bees…they’ve always been our friends."

In a way you have to admire an actor who would agree to stand in front of a camera and deliver a line like that. Kudos, Mr. Caine, kudos.

The SwarmAnyway, in comes Judd and General Slater. As the Ominous Music fades into Heartstring-Tugging Music, Judd and Slater solemnly check the names on the body bags. Well, big surprise, one of the stiffs is Judd’s son. In a wild display of over acting, Judd, weeping, tries to walk out of the morgue with his bagged son slung over his shoulder.

"I’m afraid you can’t take him," Slater says as he gently puts his hand on Judd’s arm.

"The only way you can stop me….<sniff>…is to shoot me!…and I’d thank ya if ya would!"

General Slater casts a glance to Crane, who gives his silent consent to let Judd take his boy home. Weeping, sobbing, shaking, and gasping, Judd lugs his burden out of the morgue and out of the film. (I wish somebody could tell me how many Air Force regulations have been broken in this one scene alone.)

Now for the arrival of our next embarrassed star: Richard Chamberlain, who has been swindled into portraying Dr. Hubbard. It turns out that Hubbard was sent by the President "to help out" (?!). It quickly becomes apparent that Hubbard’s sole purpose in the film is to argue with Crane. (Oh, and get blown up…blown up real good.)

"I want you to know that I came here reluctantly," Hubbard immediately snarls to Crane. (Hoo-boy! This is going to be a fun movie!)

As Crane leads Hubbard and the others down to the meeting room, Slater and Baker watch them depart.

"He’s a rude son-of-a-bitch…didn’t even introduce us," General Slater complains, "You’d think he was a General." (Har. Dee. Har.)

After a small chuckle from the previous bon mot, Baker says that Crane wants to listen to the tapes taken just before the bee attack. Slater, with token resistance, sighs and tells Baker to give Crane access to the tapes, even though there’s "not a damn thing on them that will help us." (As pointed out before, whether Crane makes a reasonable request or not, Slater is bound to resist, argue, and complain.)

Cut to some sort of computer room (lots of blinking lights, and furiously spinning reel-to-reel tape drives). A tape is playing over a loudspeaker:

"So what are you going to do about Rita?" Disembodied Voice #1 asks.

"I’m gonna marry her!" Disembodied Voice #2 cheerfully responds,"Hey man, I love Rita…I’d marry her whether we were gonna have a kid or not." (I remember from my days in the military that if anybody were to say something like that he would promptly get his ass kicked.)

The next conversation on the tape reveals that a test of the backup alarm system was performed the same morning the bees attacked. (Plot Point!) Caine jots this interesting tidbit down on a scrap of paper before hurrying out to speak to the group of people that have gathered in a meeting room to hear his announcement.

Once everyone has been seated in the auditorium, Caine begins, "We have been attacked by a mutant strain of African killer bee."

Hubbard naturally disagrees: He’s seen no proof that the African killer bees have reached America. Admittedly, Hubbard has a point: Since nobody can find a single f"#¤"¤"ing bee anywhere, so how does Crane know that they are African? In response to Hubbard’s objections, Crane suggests that a hurricane may have "swept the bees in" over the Caribbean ocean via Venezuela. (Following all this? No? Good.)

Crane’s faithful ally, and fellow sunflower seed eater, Dr. Krim, backs up his theory by spewing off some nonsense about the toxicity of the venom found in the stings, and how the venom matches only the African bee. Hubbard’s still not convinced, so Crane turns on an overhead projector and shows some slides.

The Swarm"You are now looking at the final test we made this morning of the one dead bee that we found," Crane says as he stands before the first slide. If you look at the slide you can easily see that the so-called picture is a drawing of a bee wing with honeycomb in the background! It’s from a freakin’ biology text book!(I increased the brightness on the screenshot so that you can plainly see that this is a hand-drawn illustration from a book…I mean, look, there’s a honeycomb in the background! Egads!)

Anyway, Crane points out a few features of the wing that are inherent only to the African killer bee and blah blah blah. Can we get on with it already? Crane places Hubbard in charge of the "Environmental Team"…whatever the hell that means and Krim, naturally, is put in charge of finding an antidote. Oh, and also in attendance is Mayor Tuttle of Marysville who glibly says that he’ll fix the air raid siren so the residents of Marysville can be warned if the swarm approaches. (Good idea, genius.)

You know, why don’t they just evacuate the damn town. Oh, and Mayor Tuttle: Cancel the freakin’ Flower Festival…you idiot!!!

Back at the hospital, Paul has surreptitiously contacted a couple of his friends who are now waiting for him outside on their bikes. Paul, still feverish from the venom, sneaks out of the hospital, hops on his bike, and the brave trio madly pedal off to deal with the bees mano a mano. (mano a wingo?)

As the boys ride off to meet their fate, we see the ever-amorous Felix walking over to the local cafe with a bundle of roses tucked under his arm. Once inside he takes a seat and orders a cup of coffee from the waitress, Rita.

Hey! Could it be the same Rita that the guys on the tape were talking about on the tapes back at the silo? Wow! What an intricate tapestry the threads of this plot doth weave.

The cafe’s owner, Mr. Harris, realizes that Rita is a bit depressed because, you know, her fiancé and father of her unborn child was stung to death by killer bees the day before, tells her go in back and take a break. (He didn’t even give her the day off?) Anyway, it’s a slow day at the Marysville Cafe, so Harris pulls up a chair and has a cup of coffee with Felix. Felix deftly turns the conversation to Maureen and the ongoing conflict with Mayor Tuttle and who she likes more and blah diddy blah diddy blah blah blah. Hilariously, you see Felix sipping coffee but when puts down his cup you can plainly see that it’s merely an empty prop.

The Swarm

Having a cup of Air-coffee

Anyway, Felix pays for his cup of air, takes his leave, and happens to meet Maureen coming out of a local street-side store. To the strains of romantic violin music, Felix offers the roses to Maureen, and in so many words, proposes has hand in marriage to the shocked schoolmarm. Maureen promises to think about it and heads off to school. (If this romance continues for much longer, I’m heading off to the toilet and puke.)

Back in the silo, Slater and Crane are squaring off yet again. A radar-operator has spotted the swarm heading towards Houston. Slater wisely suggests intercepting the swarm with attack helicopters. But does Crane agree? Noooooooo….not that. Slater’s suggestion of using "air-borne chemical agents" drives Crane into yet another frenzy. You see, by using chemical weapons, (giant cans of Raid?) the "native insect life" would also be killed.

Ahhh, yes, how would we ever survive if Houston were to lose some of its native insect life?

Crane shouts and rants about the bees, and how they are crucial to America, and blah blah blah. But hey, we’re talking about wiping out a swarm of bees near Houston, not every bee in the world. Seriously, does anybody have any common sense here?

Crane wraps up his tirade, "No! No, General! There will be no airdrop until we know exactly what we are dropping, and where, and how!"

Well, if I may be allowed to answer your questions, Dr. Crane,

1) We are dropping poison.

2) Around Houston.

3) By helicopter.

Crane, you eeeeeediot!

Oh, gee, back to Paul and his friends who have found the killer bees’ hive. (You know, isn’t it strange how the scientists have managed to find just a single bee (except for Crane’s cartoon textbook bee), yet Paul and his buddies find an entire hive while riding their bikes in a public park!? Very, very strange.

The SwarmAnyway, Paul and his pals have made a few Molotov cocktails. (Now, I’m no expert in insect extermination, but this really can’t be such a great idea.) To my great non-surprise, the youth’s barrage of 3, count ’em: 3, soda-bottle Molotov cocktails does little more than enrage the millions of killer bees. Seeing the swarm of brown pellets blowing out of the hive, the boys run back to their rally point and take cover under trash cans.

The three kids, each one hiding underneath his respective can, cower with fear as the bees swarm on the outside. After a few seconds, through the magic of playing the previous scene in reverse, the bees "un-swarm", and being severely pissed off, fly off to lay waste to Marysville. (Way to go, you morons!)

Cut to another boring "characterization" scene between Crane and Helena as they drive along a road in his van. (Um, and where might they driving to?) As the seconds drag by, Crane professes that he "likes being around" Helena. (Yup, now that was a powerful scene.) Suddenly, Crane spots the bee swarm high in the sky. "Look, they’re heading towards Marysville," Crane perceptively notes. Instead of, you know, radioing Marysville to warn them that the bees are approaching, Crane turns the van around and burns rubber. (You would think that since the President of the United States
has given him limitless powers, that Crane might have been issued a radio. Oh well.)

Back at the Marysville Elementary School we see Mayor Tuttle, a bouquet of flowers in his hand, sitting in the lobby waiting to see Maureen. After a few moments Tuttle is allowed in to see her where he proposes to Maureen and… C’mon already! Blah! Blah! Blah! Taken aback by Tuttle’s unexpected marriage proposal, Maureen promises to give both Mayor Tuttle and Felix her final answer "before the end of this school term." (Oh…no you won’t! Mwu-ha-ha-ha!)

Meanwhile out in the town’s plaza, we meet Character #56a: Hard-boiled journalist Anne MacGregor. She knows that the current events are more than "just [!] a story about a family killed by bees." She suspects that there’s "2omething going on. " (Yeah, like what? What the hell is she talking about?) Well, Anne’s hunch proves correct as Just At That Moment© Dr. Crane’s van comes tearing down main street with horn a-blowin’ and tires a-squealin’. Crane screeches to a halt in front of the Sheriff’s office, runs in, and breathlessly informs him that the bees are on the way. After having informed the Sheriff, Crane runs up and down main street like a madman shouting, "Get inside! The killer bees are coming! Get inside!"

The Sheriff calls Maureen to tell her to get all the children inside and off the playground. (In an uncharacteristically subtle bit of humor, you can see that Maureen has mixed the flowers from Felix and Mayor Tuttle into a single arrangement on her desk. Well, I thought it was funny. Ok, forget it.)

"Attention! Attention!" Maureen says into the school’s PA system, "A swarm of killer bees is on the way!" Alas, her warning comes too late as we see children writhing, screaming, and running blindly about the playground as the bees attack. (How did the bees get there that fast?) Once again, re-confirming this film’s distinct lack of subtlety, the camera zooms in on the body of a child holding a bee-covered lollipop. Why, yes, it’s the same kid that was comically staring at Mayor Tuttle in the waiting room.

The SwarmThe Swarm

The bees are no longer our friends.

Maureen watches helplessly from a classroom window as the kids are stung to death. Turning from the window, Maureen wails, "Nooooooooooooo,"…in slow-motion (!!).

"Get it all on tape," reporter MacGregor says with journalistic glee as she and her assistants jump into the news van. For some reason, there are a couple of cameramen filming from on top of the van. Needless to say, these idiots are quickly attacked by bees. (I’m at a loss for words here. Can anybody not comprehend that you need to be inside something when a swarm of killer bees is on the rampage?)

Anyway, Crane and Helena take refuge in the local diner, but Helena is stung on the neck before they can get safely inside. Hey, guess who’s working at the diner: Rita, the pregnant girlfriend of the soldier that was stung to death. Small world. In an incredibly stupid bit, the diner’s front door was locked (in the middle of the day?), so Crane breaks a window so he can reach in and unlock it. (Um, Crane, you realize that the bees can now come inside?)

Luckily for Crane and Helena, none of the gazillions of bees seem to notice the broken window and they all stay outside.

And you know, the same damned thing just happened when the 2 cameramen on top of the news van jumped from the roof, pulled open the van’s side doors, and jumped in: Not a single bee followed them inside! Maybe journalists and bees have a tacit professional courtesy since they’re both swarming, annoying pests.

Well, all isn’t going so well back in the diner. One of the locals, stumbling around covered in bees, staggers and tumbles through the diner’s main front window. Now the bees notice this missing window, and immediately fly into the eatery. Crane, Helena, Rita, and Mr. Harris run into the back pantry in order to take refuge in the freezer. Harris panics, pushes his way into the freezer alone, and locks the freezer door…from the inside (!).

Wait just a minute? There’s a lock inside the freezer?! Why the hell would anybody need to lock a freezer from the inside?

Anyway, Helena, Rita, and Crane end up hiding in the adjoining pantry, where it’s cool enough that the bees won’t want to come in (or something). As expected, Helena collapses from the bee sting she received earlier.

After the bee raid, the Marysville hospital is filled to capacity with sting victims. (Soldiers oh-so-discreetly simply pile up the body bags on the hospital’s front lawn!) Inside Helena’s (private!) hospital room Crane gets a phone call from Krim, who is still rolling around back at the missile silo doing God knows what. (In order that the viewer will ‘get’ that this scene takes place in a hospital, the table next to the phone has a bottle of "Alcohol" and a bed pan…hmmmm.) Krim has heard about Helena’s unfortunate bee sting and has called to check on her status. Well, she’s unconscious. ("Not good," Krim notes.)

"How are things there?" Crane asks.

"Damn unsettling developments," Krim replies. (Why are there so many "damn" things in this movie?) It turns out that one of the soldiers stung in the initial attack had nearly recovered before taking a sudden turn for the worse and dying. (I now dub thee ‘False Hope Venom’…since a victim will appear to recover before tragically dying for no reason except for dramatic effect.)

The situation in Marysville? Glad you asked: 216 dead, 33 stung.

The SwarmHey,look who just Happens to Show Up: Paul, looking a little sheepish since, you know, he’s directly responsible for 216 deaths. Up in Helena’s room, Paul confesses that "It’s all my fault, I threw fireballs at the swarm." (Once again, what is their relationship?)

Moving right along, Crane sees Slater in front of the hospital yakking into his car phone to "Warsh-ington". Yep, right on schedule: Another shouting match between Crane and Slater.

"Well Crane, it’s panic time from coast to coast!" Slater shrewdly begins, "If we’d gone after the bees right at the beginning…we wouldn’t be in this damn mess!"

Slater continues by saying that Hubbard has collected thousands of bee specimens from a nearby lake.

"Hmmm, thirsty and exhausted…well that’s good news," says Crane. (Thirsty and exhausted is how I feel as well.)

"Well I don’t see it that way," Slater counters, "When that swarm finds out that some of its friends have been taken captive [!], they might come back to Marysville."

"Are you endowing these bees with human motives?" Crane asks, "Like saving their fellow bees from captivity?" (Isn’t "fellow bees" contradictory?)

Slater straightens his shoulders and says, "I always credit my enemy, no matter what he may be, with equal intelligence." (That’s got to be one of my favorite lines of the film. Oh Lord, is this great stuff here. Yes, this is Air Force General Slater in a battle of wits with honey bees.)

Anyway, Slater wants to spray "every bush and tree from here to the gulf." (The Texas desert is pretty sparse, but every bush and tree?) As usual, Crane refuses to approve Slater’s plans calling for the spraying massive amounts of insecticide into the air. Overruled yet again, Slater grits his teeth in frustration as they continue to give Crane’s plan a chance to succeed. (I’m still not sure what "plan" Crane has proposed, but, oh well, as long as he continues to butt heads with Slater…)

Out of the hospital runs Paul, looking really crappy to be honest; Pale, sweating, panting for breath. Why he hasn’t been re-admitted into the hospital is anybody’s guess since he was never officially discharged. All that aside, Paul stops Crane and confesses his role in the bee attack, i.e., it’s all his damned fault. (Damn! Now the movie has me saying "damn" all the time! Bastards!) Crane consoles him and tells him he would have done the same (?!). "Why don’t you go back upstairs and keep on eye on [Helena] for me," Crane says as he sends Paul back inside the hospital with a fatherly pat on the shoulder.

The SwarmLater that day we see that Crane has returned to the silo and donned a white lab coat (He is a Scientist, ya know). The good doctor is examining the new research area that has been specially constructed for the crisis. Inside the new lab, Krim and Hubbard, dressed in white rain coats and motorcycle helmets (!), are experimenting with the bees and trying to discover an antidote for the False Hope Venom.

Crane puts on a white rain coat and motorcycle helmet and enters the room as well.

Upon Krim’s command, a large number of bees are released from jars and spread upon a metal grid that holds a small electric current. The electricity causes the bees to ‘sting’, thus Krim can collect the venom for further experiments. "Pesky devils!" Krim sourly notes.

Anyway, they collect a bunch of venom on a glass plate and exit the lab. By following the tight security precautions consisting solely of looking at each other’s back and using a hand-held brush to remove any "pesky" bees, the killer insects are contained in the unlocked research room instead of, say, escaping and killing everybody in the silo again.

Cut to another scene that I suspect was edited from the final release: It looks like Helena has been discharged from the hospital and has returned to work back in the silo’s infirmary. Maj. Baker, always on the look-out for something suspicious in Crane’s behavior, asks Helena if Crane has been acting suspicious.

"What I do in my spare time is none of the Air Force’s business," says Helena. (I don’t know if the "None Of Your Business Exemption" applies when you work in a ICBM silo, but, oh well.)

We return to the Marysville hospital to see Dr. Andrews (Character #62b) clumsily saying good-bye to Rita; whom he is deeply in love with. According to Rita, the town is being evacuated. Hey, thanks for telling us this before! (Stupid Swarm movie.) Anyway, Rita deftly deflects Dr. Andrew’s clumsy come-on’s and heads outside to take the bus to the train station. Yes, yet another relationship that doesn’t make a bit of difference.

The SwarmOh gee: The evacuation of Marysville. Seriously, what could have been an exciting, tense scene showing families fleeing their homes under threat of a deadly airborne attack, is reduced by Irvin Allen’s heavy hand into a banal shouting match between Felix and Mayor Tuttle as to who gets to carry Maureen’s suitcase.

After the Suitcase Drama plays itself out, we cut to see that Rita has arrived at the trains station. She immediately goes into labor and is driven back to the hospital. Well, look on the bright side: she won’t be riding on the Train of Death! Mwu-ha-ha!

"Let’s get the train outta here," Slater grumbles to Baker, "Those damn [!] bees could be back any minute."

Cut to see Crane and Helena strolling through the abandoned streets of Marysville. (I think it’s strange that it’s suddenly night time since it was noon in the last shot, but, ach! Forget it.) With nary a policeman in sight to prevent looting and vandalism, the quiet couple hold hands and wistfully peer into the empty buildings of the once bustling town.

"How sad," Helena observed, "How very, very sad." Why yes, Helena, the death of 230 adults, including 24 kids is a bummer. Helena continues to reminisce about growing up in Marysville and bladdy-bladdy-blah. A horrible scene which I’m pretty sure was cut out of the final cut, so let’s just skip to the action.

Return to the Train of Death. Sitting in their seats, Felix and Tuttle are still arguing and jibing each other, as Maureen stares quietly out the train window at the blue-screen projection of the desert landscape. Maureen suddenly turns and says that she has the feeling she’ll never see Marysville again. (Like I said, subtlety is not one of this movie’s strong points.)

The SwarmAs luck would have it, the 2 locomotive engineers must have been trained at the Marysville Home for Idiots. Despite the fact that there are swarms of killer bees marauding about the countryside, these two morons are driving the train with their windows open. A single bee lands on the driver’s hand and causes him to panic. Suddenly, through the magic of bad editing, the entire engine compartment is aswarm (is that a word? Dunno, but I like it) with killer bees. One of the engineers stumbles and falls against the accelerator causing the train to race along the windy mountain tracks at dangerous speeds.

Anyway the doomed train derails and plunges off a cliff. (Huh? I didn’t know there were mountains outside of Houston? Man, the things you learn.) For some reason, the train turns into an HO scale model, tumbles down a pile of dirt, and…Surprise!, bursts into a giant fireball.

So, yup, there goes Felix, Mayor Tuttle, and Maureen. I’m sure glad we spent so much time developing those characters.

Ok, I just want to think about all this for a minute. You have a train full of evacuees, fine. In addition, there is a very real threat that a swarm of bees may attack the train. Ok, I can believe that. How to get the train safely from point A to point B?

1) All windows, and I mean ALL windows, on the train will be locked and sealed. (That includes you, Mr. Train Engineer!)

2) An escort helicopter will scout the area in front of the train and give warning if a bee swarm is in the vicinity.

3) On a side note: bees fly at around 12 mph, maybe even slower when they are in a swarm…so couldn’t the train just outrun the damn things?

4) Once again Mr. Engineer: KEEP YOUR DAMN WINDOW CLOSED! You eeeeeediot!

Back at the silo, Crane and Slater get the news that only 17 of the train’s passengers survived. (Thank God that Felix, Tuttle, and Maureen were NOT among them.) As Hubbard and Krim look on (shouldn’t they be in the lab trying to find an antidote?), Crane and Slater start shouting again. This time Crane plans to drop poison pellets onto the ground that the bees will presumably eat. Or some such nonsense.

"Those damn[!] poison pellets of yours won’t get us anywhere!" Slater shouts for no other reason than to maintain dramatic conflict.

"Excuse me General," Hubbard butts in, "Those are my damn poison pellets and I think they’ll work!" (Ahh, yes, Hubbard’s Poison Pellet Project.)

To get to the point, the Preposterous Poison Pellet Project is to kick off in 30 minutes. I bet you can’t wait, can you?

Crane leans over to a computer operator and says, "Feed this into the computer: African bees attack a train seventy miles North West of Houston…Now give me a revised time fix." While the data entry technician tries to figure out just how in the hell he’s going to get that into a computer, Crane turns back to Slater and continues, "Right now we are ready to drop millions of lethal pellets without harming either the population or the plant life."

"I’ll support that," coos Dr. Krim.

"So will I," Hubbard chimes in.

(Ass kissers! Sheesh! Why don’t you guys just get a room?!)

The SwarmAs Slater once again swallows his pride and grants Crane the use of "every helicopter he has", the revised time estimate comes clattering in over the computer screen (A computer that ‘ratta-tatt-tatts’ as letters scroll across the screen?!). It looks like the bees will reach Houston in a little over 3 days. Oh dear.

Cut to see Crane directing operations from a command helicopter. As the vast force of 2, count ’em, 2 helicopters fly around, soldiers are seen dumping white pellets from plastic bags. Since it looks like each bag holds enough pellets to cover an area of my backyard, I think it’s safe to say that it’s going to be a while before the entire desert is saturated with poison.

(In a funny bit, Crane peers down through a pair of binoculars and actually sees individual bees and pellets on the ground…all this from a height of several hundred feet. Absurd!)

"They’re not touching the pellets!" Crane radios back to headquarters in despair. As Krim and the others shake their heads in frustration, Crane continues, "They seem to sense that it’s something that will kill them."

Hey, why don’t you make flower-flavored pellets instead? Yummy! No killer bee could resist that! Seriously, how dumb can a movie get: The bees sense that something is fishy with the pellets?

"They’re brighter than I thought," Hubbard says.

"They always are," Krim sighs. (Huh? Who is ‘They’? The viewer who can spot all these plot holes?)

Back at Marysville hospital, Paul has had a relapse and lies unconscious in his bed. Helena sits at his side and watches over him because, hey, she doesn’t have anything else to do, like, oh I don’t know, take care of her patients back at the silo! Without warning, Paul flat-lines and all the little computers and monitors in his room begin beeping and all that cool medical stuff.

Oh gee. Paul’s dead. That’s sad. Add him to the list of ‘Dead Characters We Never Cared About’ along with Tuttle, Felix, and what’s her name. As expected, Helena has a conniption fit at Paul’s demise and falls into the arms of…Ta-Da! Dr. Crane, who just happened to walk into the room Just At That Moment.

Another scene with Crane and Helena driving around the desert gives us some back-story tidbits: Paul was Helena’s first patient way back when she was the town doctor. (So she was what, 18 years old back then? She can’t be more than 25 as it is.) What else happens in this exciting driving scene: Crane confesses that 3 out of 4 sting victims die; the others tend to fall victim to the False Hope Venom Syndrome. (When Crane spills the beans about the FHVS, Helena gets a bit upset. However, she does seem pretty plucky seeing that she’s been on night-time strolls, and has traveled back and forth to the silo several times in the past few days.)

Oh, and I want to thank the screen writers for clearing up Helena and Paul’s relationship…after he’s dead! Thanks!

Back in the silo Slater stares at a map of the Houston metro area. Bunches of lights flicker at various location on the map: What they indicate is anybody’s guess. (Bees? Swarms? Pellets? Porn stores? Somebody want to give me a hint? Anybody?) As Crane stares morosely at the Board of Little Lights, Slater can’t resist taking the opportunity to gloat over the failure of the Preposterous Poison Pellet Project, "Well, you dropped your poison pellets and the Africans spit at them…now they’re moving towards Houston faster than expected." (The pellets are moving towards Houston? Oh, the bees…)

The Swarm

The lights on this map indicate something very important.

A somber report from Major Baker reveals what lies in the path of the deadly swarm: Numerous towns, factories, steel mills, and…<BUM><BUM><BUM>…a nuclear power plant. Crane states that they all have to shut down and be evacuated…even the <BUM><BUM><BUM>… nuclear power plant. (Was that too subtle for you?)

"I can tell you right now we’ll have problems with that nuclear power plant," says Slater, "No way they’ll shut down voluntarily." Not to point out something obvious here, but wasn’t Crane granted unlimited powers by authority of the President? Can’t Crane just call and say, "Hey, Mr. Power Plant Manager: Shut down!" Oh well, I guess they forgot he can do whatever he wants. No problem though, Hubbard volunteers to visit the power plant and talk to the guys in charge:

"I know most of the key executives at that plant," Hubbard says with a smug look on his face, "I’ve fought them in court often enough on environmental issues." (Yes, the big BUG-A-BOO of nuclear power. We all remember how the West coast was turned into a nuclear slag heap because of all the reactor accidents in the 80’s right? You don’t? Oh, that must be because it’s never happened. I care for the environment as much as the next guy/gal, but don’t tell me about all the horrors of nuclear power while we strip mine the Earth looking for coal so we can burn it and fill the skies with poison fumes.) With Crane’s blessing, Hubbard scurries off to "jaw-bone some sense" into the guys at the power plant. (Nobody has yet explained just what kind of threat bees, I repeat…bees, pose to a nuclear power plant.)

The SwarmCrane takes advantage of this pause in the action to take a stroll down to Krim’s lab.

"Everything we tried has failed," Crane confesses, "our last hope is your mass antidote." (Well, Dr. Crane, you haven’t tried any of General Slater’s ideas, now have you? Jerk.)

Krim, scooting around in his wheel chair, informs Crane that he’s tried the antidote on some rabbits but the venom "knocks hell out of them." (Is that a medical term?)

Krim insists that he needs just a little more time to work out an antidote, in fact, he’ll be ready to perform tests on humans the next day. Crane volunteers to be the first guinea pig.

"Forget it!" Krim says, emphatically poo-poo’ing Crane’s suggestion. Crane insists the first test should be performed on him since it will take too long to convince others of the need for human volunteers. (Huh?) Anyway, Crane goes off to…do something…leaving Krim alone to ponder the problem.

Ahhh, at last. Time for Krim’s moment of Heroic Self-Sacrifice©. Since time is short, Krim decides to inject a dose of False Hope Venom into himself in order to test his antidote. This plan is so idiotic it boggles the mind.

First: He’s an old man…shouldn’t he inject it into a younger person with a more robust immune system?

Second: Crane has Presidential authority to do whatever the hell he wants. Can’t he just order Private Pyle to roll up his sleeve and take one for the team?

Third: Krim is the only one smart enough to work on an antidote, so if this test fails and he dies: Who the hell will be left to find an antidote! GIVE ME A BREAK!


Krim leans over and speaks into a tape recorder so that Crane will have a record of what happens should events go awry. "I’m going to test the serum on myself," Krim recites, "Why? Because you’re just damn [!] fool enough to make me try it on you!"

"It’s my antidote, so it will be my risk," Krim solemnly concludes before beginning the test.

Krim begins by injecting himself with the same amount of venom a person would receive from 6 bee stings. Six?! Why the hell doesn’t he just start out with one dose and go up from there? What the hell is he thinking?! Argh!

As I said, Krim plans to inject himself with a dose of False Hope Venom equivalent to 6 stings, then, after 60 seconds, he will see if he still has the mental acuity and physical strength to utilize the "self-injector" and inject the antidote. (My head hurts. Why not just see if the damn antidote works first…before you start goofing around with injectors and all that nonsense. Why introduce so many unknowns into the first iteration of the experiment?)

The SwarmOK, I’m going to make this short…Krim hooks himself up to an EKG machine and injects the venom. His heart starts fluttering and his muscles begin cramping as the venom courses through his veins. Somehow he figures an average person would need 60 seconds to be able to administer the antidote via the "self-injector", sooooo….we sit and watch Krim suffer from the poison for a full minute, but really, can’t we just move this along? And another thing, why couldn’t he have an assistant in the room in case he couldn’t use the self-injector? Then the guy could administer it for him and at least save Krim’s life so he can work on the antidote some more…Oh, dear reader, how I hate this crap.

Anyhoo, Krim struggles to reach the injector, and after a dramatic struggle laden with tension (sort of), he manages to inject the drug. After a short pause, his vital signs return to normal levels as the experimental antidote takes effect.

For some reason Helena enters the lab and sees Krim gasping for breath…"The antidote works," he proudly says after explaining to Helena the nature of his experiment, "My God…it works!"

As you know by now, it’s not called False Hope Venom for nothing. After a few seconds of respite, Krim’s vital signs turn abnormal again, even reaching some "spooky levels." (Another medical term, I suppose.) Helena watches helplessly as Krim’s heart poops out and he croaks. (How’s that for medical terminology?) Of course, Krim sees a giant bee in the room before kicking the bucket. (Do people that get stung by jelly-fish see giant jelly-fishes? Do people that get stung by scorpions see giant scorpions? Just curious, but I think you get my point.)

Well, with the country’s foremost immunologist out of the way, I guess we’re all screwed now. Thank you very much, Doctor Krim.

As an added bonus, Krim’s death gives Michael Caine a chance to ham it up some more…"Walter…oh….Walter," Crane says as he grasps Krim’s lifeless hand and weeps at his side.

Meanwhile, at the nuclear power plant, Hubbard tries to convince the plant’s Director that he has to shut ‘er down.

"Look at all this," The plant Director says, indicating a huge, pulsating, glowing red ball in the reactor’s floor.

The SwarmIs that the reactor’s core?! I confess I don’t know everything nuclear reactors, but the lack of credibility shown here is stunning. I really wish there was a deleted scene on the DVD where the plant Director had said, "Look at all this hokey bullshit!"

When Hubbard insists that the power plant be shut down post-haste, the Director points out that "…we provide power over a five-hundred mile area…" The plant Director also intelligently points out that there is nothing about the reactor that would attract the bees in the first place. (True.)

"I wouldn’t be so sure of that," Hubbard smugly retorts, "the infrared rays could signal them…act like a beacon." (?!)

"No, no, no…see this," the Director continues gesturing towards the massive steel structures, "billions of dollars have been spent to make these nuclear reactors safe…fail-safe!"

"Let me ask you," Hubbard growls, "in all your fail-safe techniques, is there any provision against an attack by killer bees?"

Why no, there probably wouldn’t be a provision for such a thing…because it’s so moronic!!! How about a provision against an attack by killer water buffalos? That could happen too, right? How would we ever deal with that eventuality?

At that very moment, and I mean At That Very Moment, an alarm siren begins wailing. As the plant Director desperately tries to get a situation report, Hubbard looks down into the plant’s control room to see the entire chamber full of killer bees. (!)

Excuse me for a moment…


The SwarmWe are now treated to a scene showing Hubbard and the Director running through a control room followed by a massive swarm of black and brown pellets. (Hmmm, the nuclear power plant’s control room looks suspiciously similar to the missile silo’s control room, if you get my drift.) As Hubbard and the other guy lumber around, in slow motion naturally, the bees do them in and, yes, the nuclear power plant explodes (!!!).

Back at the silo, the death toll from the nuclear meltdown scrolls across that inexplicably clattering computer screen: 36,422 deaths. (Proofreader Sean Ledden wondered why the nuclear blast didn’t wipe out the swarm of bees as well. Good point! However, the characters occasionally mention that there are in fact several swarms…yet another contrivance employeed to cover plot holes ‘on the fly’. So I must assume that one of the remaining swarms (or all of them? How many are there?) survived the blast and went on to attack Houston. Or something. You know just as much as I do.)

As Crane mutely stares at the screen, in stroll Slater and Baker. In his hand Slater holds a piece of paper which he contemptuously waves in Crane’s face. "I’ve been authorized by the President to close down your operation!" Crane announces with glee.

I have just one word to say: FINALLY!

Gee, ya think we should maybe go with Slater’s plans? Ya think?! After Crane’s plans have resulted in nearly 40,000 deaths, a train wreck, a destroyed town, and a nuclear meltdown…do you really think that maybe it’s about time we should give Slater a chance?

Although Crane is forced to relinquish command, he won’t give up. Oh no. Not Doctor Bradford Crane. Upon hearing that the bees will reach Houston in 17 hours, Crane says that he’ll fly there in order to continue the struggle. Hurrah.

Oddly, we next see Crane driving an official Air Force car towards Houston (wasn’t he going to fly?), with Helena in the passenger seat. Who on Earth gave Helena permission to abandon the silo and ride along with him? Who the hell gave Crane a government car…and, hey, where’s his van? I’m not trying to nit-pick this movie to death, but such displays of contempt for the viewer must be pointed out. Hey, don’t fool yourself: watching "The Swarm" is a battle between the viewer and the movie.

As they make their way towards Houston, Crane turns to Helena and says, "Who would have thought that bees would be the first alien force to invade America." (There are so many things wrong with that line…but I just don’t have the energy to begin…)

Crane and Helena eventually arrive at Air Force headquarters. For some reason Houston appears to be solely populated by soldiers walking around with M-16s and wearing either white bio-hazard suits or orange jumpers with matching motorcycle helmets. (I don’t recall anybody mentioning that Houston was evacuated, but this late in the movie nobody seems to care who-said-what anyway.)

At the top of an office building…sorry, Air Force headquarters <cough>, Crane and Helena meet General Slater who is now running the show. Slater proudly exhibits his new command center full of beeping computers and blinking lights.

"By tomorrow there will be no more Africans," Slater proudly states, "at least not in the Houston sector."

(The script has a tendency to refer to the African bees as simply "Africans", which results in some amusing lines to say the least.)

"This is really a dress rehearsal, a set procedure for any future African challenges." (?)

Slater guides Crane and Helena over to a display board. "This is Houston computerized," Slater explains as he shows off the display of about 40 lights and some random lines.

The Swarm

"Houston computerized"…uh-huh. Sure it is.

"The battle plan is to get them all into one area," Slater explains, "…and zap ’em!"

(Excuse me, General, did you say…"Zap ’em"?)

"You planned your arrival perfectly," Slater says to Crane as he watches the bees on a TV screen,"…here they come!"

"Prepare to use the Neutra-Cide!" Slater orders.

As usual, Crane objects on the grounds that the "Neutra-Cide" will render the ground barren for years to come. Of course this time Crane is all bark and no bite since he has no authority to stop Slater, so the plan proceeds. Cut to a computer display showing Vietnam era footage of airplanes spraying Agent Orange over the jungles. (I’m not an expert in geography, but I don’t recall Houston as being surrounded by jungles. But hey, the footage was free so why not use it?)

As Slater and Crane watch the screen and eagerly await the outcome of the poison gas, they are shocked to see the bees fly through it unharmed.

"They learned to live with it," Major Baker says.

"I was afraid of this…they’ve become immune to any pesticide [!!]," Crane adds.

They’ve become immune to all pesticides? When did this happen? Huh?! I feel that we’ve crossed over into the realm of the supernatural…these bees seem capable of just about anything! (As long as the plot requires it, I suppose.)

Slater and Crane plop into a pair of chairs and resignedly await their fate as air raid sirens begin to wail and the bees begin swarming into the city proper.

The Swarm"So…the occupation of Houston has begun," Slater says, "and General Thalious Slater is your first officer in history to get his butt kicked by a mess of bugs!" (It’s not really Slater’s fault. Who knows what might have happened if they had followed Slater’s suggestions from the beginning instead of being forced to comply with Crane’s ridiculous, albeit environmentally friendly, ‘plans’.)

Faced with inevitable doom, Slater makes an effort to bury the hatchet between himself and Slater as he asks for some of Crane’s sunflower seeds. Cute. Very cute. You know, when push comes to shove, I guess we’re all cut from the same cloth.

A news bulletin breaks the silence: "The city of Houston will suffer massive man-made burning". Yes, you read that correctly: The plan is to burn Houston to the ground…using individual soldiers armed with flame throwers! Now, I’ve never been to Houston, but I have been to big cities before, and to think that they will attempt to literally burn down the city using flamethrowers (!) is…is…oh man, I’m getting a beer.

Cut to soldiers, dressed in white jumpers and matching motorcycle helmets (sound familiar?), taking to the streets of Houston armed with their hand-held flame throwers.

This is so stupid I just have to break in and ask: Why can’t they carpet-bomb the city with incendiary bombs? Why not just nuke it?

Anyway, we see that the squad in charge of burning Houston to the ground numbers 9 men, so given the size of Houston, I think it’s safe to say that this could take a while.

The Swarm"Light ’em up!" the Commanding Officer shouts into the radio as all the guys fire the flame-throwers into the sky. Although I’m sure Irwin Allen thought this looked cool, I don’t see how firing flames into the air is going to actually, you know, set anything on fire.

Obviously this whole sequence was filmed in some back lot (and I suspect it was the same set as used for the Marysville shots, just darkened so we can’t see it), so the guys obviously couldn’t actually burn the set up. Still, these guys are supposed to be burning down the city, so when nothing is actually, you know, on fire, it takes away some of the excitement.

To be fair, there are several shots of these flame-thrower guys walking in tight formation and shooting flames every which way; so kudos to those dudes for performing some potentially dangerous stunt work.

We cut to a control room somewhere in Air Force headquarters. (Oh, and by the way, isn’t the Air Force headquarters in Houston…i.e., the city that is currently being burned to the ground? Oh, never mind.) Crane helpfully exposits that the flame thrower teams have been at it for 24 hours now. As Crane rambles on about the superiority of the bees ("…they are the true inheritors of the Earth." Uh-huh.), Helena sits quietly beside a computer terminal, now inexplicitly dressed in civilian clothes.

As Crane listens to the drone of the bees over a loudspeaker, he is struck by a thought: What if he could electronically create a sound that could lure the bees to their doom? Crane’s excitement is quickly dampened as the False Hope Venom strikes Helena and she collapses to the floor.

OK, back with the flame thrower squads. Although they ostensibly have been working all night, it appears that they are still working on the same street that they started on. (Like I said, this could take a while.) Then for no other reason than to add "action" to this already bloated flick, an ambulance careens down the street with the driver madly swatting at bees that have managed to get inside the driver’s compartment. (Even though the previous scene was filmed at night, the editors spliced in ambulance stock-footage taken during day time. Bravo! You’d think that the filmmakers would have been able to manage the oh-so-complicated task of maintaining day-night continuity; but obviously not. On second thought, given the film’s budget, I’m sure capable editors were hired; they just didn’t give a damn.)

Blah blah, the ambulance crashes into a plate-glass window and, yes, explodes. (Ahhhh, a car exploding. I never tire of seeing that.)

Meanwhile, Helena isn’t doing so hot. Crane sits at her side and offers a quick prayer to the powers above. Slater and Baker happen to overhear Crane’s plea.

"Can we really count on a scientist that…prays?" Baker whispers.

"I wouldn’t count on one that doesn’t," Slater sagely responds. (Oh brother!)

Back outside things are also going from bad to worse for the flame-thrower crews. One soldier desperately tries to radio for reinforcements but he can’t get through because "…there’s too much interference from the damn bees!"

Yup, the bees can jam radio signals as well.

A couple of grunts are ordered to get back to headquarters and inform Slater of the dire situation. (I couldn’t help but notice a couple dead soldiers laying about. Since they’re wearing ‘bee proof’ suits, I’m not too sure how they died. I mean, if the suits aren’t bee proof, why isn’t everybody dead? Ack.)

The SwarmMeanwhile Helena has become critically ill from the False Hope Venom. In her delirium, Helena hears a scratching at the door. When she opens it she sees, Ta-Da!, a giant bee. (Boy, I never get tired of seeing that special effect.) Helena screams "AHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhh" and falls to the floor, all in slow-motion of course.

Returning, again, to the flame throwers, we see that the soldiers are making their way down the same damn street. Oh wait, it’s not the same street, this time there is a broken down fuel tanker parked by the curb.

<sigh> I wonder what this is going to lead to.

I’m not going to tell you whether or not the tanker explodes and kills a bunch of flame thrower dudes, I’ll leave that as homework. (Hint: See screenshot to the left.)

I hate beating dead horses, but I just want to ask again: Are hand-held flame throwers really the most efficient way to destroy an entire city?

Back at Air Force headquarters, we see Slater pensively staring out of a top floor window as the flames slowly engulf Houston. (Once again, General, shouldn’t you relocate to a city that you’re not in the process of burning down?)

"It makes you wonder…Houston on fire," Slater muses, "Will history blame me or the bees?" (!)

Well, if you want to know who I’m blaming, it’s Irwin Allen.

Although General Slater seems ready to throw in the towel, Crane reassures him that he’s working on a new plan. In fact, down in the computer room, Crane and a technician have managed to duplicate the bees "mating" sound. ("Sound Patterns Identical" a computer monitor helpfully displays in case you didn’t "get it".)

"What you are hearing now is the African bees’ mating sound," Crane explains. Thanks for clearing that up. Crane proceeds to explain why the bees attacked the missile silo (as if anybody still gives a shit by now). You see, the silo’s alarm sounded exactly like the African bee’s mating call, thus when the alarm system was tested, a swarm of horny African bees approached the base and killed everybody out of sexual frustration when they found out they wouldn’t be getting any.

Crane enthusiastically tells the others that he might be able to lure the bees out of Houston by recreating the mating call via loudspeakers. (This same idea was used a long time ago in Burt Gordon’s 1957 giant grasshopper ‘classic’, The Beginning of the End.) Slater takes a few moments to silently consider the plausibility of the plan (Tension!), but in the end he gives Crane the green light.

The SwarmCut to a hallway somewhere in Air Force headquarters (I think) where we see a couple of guys walking around with flame throwers. An elevator door opens and out tumbles a couple guys covered in bees. (Once again, the bees seem to have quite a knack for getting into elevators.) Since no disaster film is complete without showing somebody on fire running around and screaming "Ayyeeeeeee", one guy gets set on fire and runs around screaming "Ayyeeeeee". Staying faithful to the Disaster Movie Maker’s Template©, the burning guy tosses himself out of a top floor window and plummets to the ground. (Hilariously, you can see that there is a hanging plant on the wall outside the building…hmmm, I’d hate to be the guy who has to water that one. Way to pay attention to detail there, guys.)

Ah, yes, guys running around willy-nilly frying everything in sight, including Slater’s fancy-smancy control room. The idiocy of this whole scene is beyond description. They are just so many, many things wrong here…More homework for you.

Back in the computer room, Baker rushes inside and breathlessly informs the others, "The bees!…they’ve broken inside!" (How, exactly, do bees "break into" a building? I think a more likely explanation would be that some idiot soldier left the back door open after he came in from his smoke break…oh, or somebody probably left a window open as usual.) Anyway, Slater orders Crane to get the hell out of there and get his new sonic lure system up and running. Crane of course has to first rescue Helena.

All this nonsense leads to scenes showing Crane running down flaming corridors full of bees, yet he somehow avoids getting even a single sting. Amazing. Meanwhile, Slater and Baker try to make it down the very same hallway, but are quickly overcome by bees. Go figure. Reflecting on past experience, maybe the bees regard Crane as more of an ally than a threat.

The Swarm

R.I.P. Slater. We hardly knew ye.

Since there is no way in hell Crane and Helena could ever make it out alive from the flaming, bee-filled ruins of Houston, the director simply jump cuts to show Crane and Helena pulling up to an airplane at a local airport. (!) (You lazy, lazy bastards! They didn’t even try to come up with a suspenseful escape sequence. Were they worried about plausibility now…after all the crap we’ve already seen?)

From the control tower, Crane radios Airfield Whatchamacallit and orders them to load helicopters with loudspeakers and "spread the oil over the Gulf." (All that freakin’ time nixing Slater’s plans because of possible damage to the environment and now Crane is going to ignite a gigantic oil slick on the Gulf of Mexico??!!)

"To all Air Force tankers…spread your oil over the Gulf of Mexico!" a stern voice commands over the radio. (Air Force oil tankers? Wouldn’t the Navy be responsible for that? Ahhh, yes. I’ve just received confirmation from a secret source (ok, my proofreader), that the Air Force does not maintain a fleet of oil tankers.)

A jeep rushes Crane and Helena to an awaiting helicopter. When Helena notices the diminutive speakers being fastened to the sides of the choppers she looks worried and asks, "Won’t the noise of the helicopter drown out your sound?"

"No, it’s an entirely different sonic level [??]," Crane answers. Yeah. Whatever, dude. Let’s just get this over with.

From his command chopper, Crane coordinates the distribution of the sound buoys as Air Force helicopters fly around and drop them onto the so-called oil slick.

Once the loudspeakers begin blaring Crane’s "sonic signals", the bees quickly abandon Houston, fly out over the Gulf, and land on the water’s oily surface. Seeing that this may be humanity’s only chance for a victory, Crane hurries to the "firing point" in order to give the signal to ignite the oil slick. At Crane’s command (Crane gives the order to fire, naturally, because he is the hero), an Army rocket launcher fires a salvo onto the oil slick which results in an enormous explosion of billowing fire balls and thick black smoke.

As Crane and Helena stand on the beach and stare and the gigantic conflagration, Helena looks up and asks, "Did we finally beat them or is this just a temporary victory?"

"I don’t know," Crane says, "But we did gain time. If we use it wisely, and if we’re lucky, the world might just survive."

The Swarm

Crane and his environmentally friendly solution.

Crane and Helena embrace, turn to stare out over the flames and smoke, and ponder the future of the world.

Fade to black and…

The End.

Dennis Grisbeck (August 2006)

aye caramba! Truly is this web site a labor of love.

As mentioned way, way back in my introduction, The Swarm is a perfect example of an ego-driven, bloated, star-laden project with a story-line that meanders all over the map. Oh, and let’s not forget the maddening and absurd plot devices employed to help the story limp along. For example:

They try to get a living bee: Somebody has washed Paul’s car.

They try poison pellets: The bees won’t eat it because they "sense" something suspicious.

They try insecticide: The bees are magically immune to it. (And all other insecticides!)

They try to radio for help: The bees jam the radio signals (!).

They try to burn them out: The bees somehow sting through the bee-proof suits and kill everybody.

And on…

And on…

And on…

According to IMDB the theatrical release was a ‘trim’ 116 minutes, so you do the math: There are 40 minutes of extra scenes in the director’s cut. 40 minutes! All in all it’s not difficult to spot the scenes that were cut out due to their excessive dialog and pointless sub-plots. When I think about it, I can’t really recommend the director’s cut unless you just want to wallow in the guilty pleasure of seeing this film in its awful entirety.

I’m really wiped out after all this, so in what will probably turn out to be a futile effort to perk myself up, I’m watching the embarrassingly smarmy documentary "The making of ‘The Swarm’" that was included on the DVD.

About halfway through the documentary, Katherine Ross, the actress who plays Helena, inadvertently (and ironically) sums up the whole problem with this movie:

"I think that one of Irwin [Allen’s] trademarks is a ‘big’ picture that has…everything in it."

I couldn’t have said it better myself.”);


7 comments to The Swarm (1978)

  • monoceros4

    Crane continues, “We’ve been fighting a losing battle against the insects for 15 years [?], but I never thought I’d see the final face off in my lifetime.” (Yes, the 15 Year Battle of the Insects that started in 1963.)

    Well, 1962 or 1963 is about when Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring came out and helped kick off the war on DDT…so, maybe we’ve been losing the battle against bugs since then. Har har.

    I’ve yet to see this; generally when watching movies this bad I need a bit of help. I keep on hoping that Mike Nelson and Rifftrax will give it the treatment but since they seem to focus almost all of their attention on recent movies these days I’m not holding my breath.

  • derek

    in the scene where the boy dies (sorry no name it was 3 in the morning) the doctor comes in takes out his stethiscope listens to the boys heartbeat for 2 seconds and than proclames him dead

    im not a emploiye of a er but i think at least he would have tryed to do something to save his life….. like i dont know CPR…. just mabie

  • guts3d

    I vaguely remember this stinker… I think you are right, there was a period where Michael Caine was in everything that came out of Hollywood! Nice review, but really, how could you survive intact after that much Irwin Allen? Kudos!

  • Red Admiral

    Just to say thanks for the review. I read it simultaneously with watching the movie. I haven’t laughed so much in ages.

    My evil son is threatening to buy me the DVD for Christmas.

  • guts3d

    Get him back and buy him a copy of “Ishtar” or “Battlefield Earth”.

  • Happenstance

    You picked up on a lot of goofs, but also note that the “dead” child with the lollipop is wearing a different shirt than when he was staring at Mayor Tuttle.

    I got an early-draft copy of the script, and the differences are sometimes pretty wild. Originally, the Durants were supposed to have a little daughter as well; Paul is forced to leave her when she does the Hollywood Female Trip-and-Faceplant on the way to the car. The train crash was going to be survived by Paul’s fellow fire-bombers AND Maureen and Mayor Tuttle, but Felix would perish saving them from the burning wreck. There was to be no “Towering Inferno” climax or blasting the Gulf of Mexico: General Slater, and Brad would all don scuba gear (!!) and dive through the “herded” swarm (!!!) into the Gulf with personal sonic devices to draw the bees into the water (!!!!!!!). They, Major Baker, and Dr. Newman all survive.

  • B. Thomas Diener

    This movie would have been a lot better if some of the Houston (the city I was born closest to) scenes involved not only the mayor of that southeastern Texas metropolis and some of Houston’s finest, but a blue and white Houston police unit crashed into the flower shop instead of the 1971 Dodge ambulance.

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