Every once in a while, the major networks still have a go at the disaster movie with an all-star cast, most recently with that one- whatever it was called- about the hurricane and the tornado having a baby which becomes a Category 54635736723147 storm and will it be the end of the world? Of course, "all-star cast" doesn't really apply to these films- not the way it used to. I understand budgetary constraints (particularly in the made-for-TV realm), but now we have to settle for Kim Delaney, someone from CSI who's not William Petersen or Marg Helgenberger, and if we're lucky, Richard Masur. But look at the names attached to The Swarm! Look at them, I say!
- Michael Caine
- Henry Fonda
- Richard Widmark
- Olivia DeHavilland
- Katharine Ross
- Patty Duke...ASTIN!
- Fred MacMurray...in a bowtie!
- Jose Ferrer (yes, I just saw him in Zoltan!)
- Richard Chamberlain
- Bradford Dillman (yes, I just saw him in Bug!)
- Ben Johnson
- Slim Pickens
- Lee Grant (stern and cranky as always)
Now that's mega-watt star power!
A massive swarm of African Killer Bees has finally made good on all its promises and started attacking the United States. The bees begin their assault in Texas by killing virtually everyone inside an ICBM base. They move on to attack picnickers and citizens of quaint little Marysville- a town whose annual flower festival is about to start. Of all the rotten luck! After kicking Marysville's ass, the swarm decides to take over Houston. Can Super Entomologist Michael Caine and his crack team of scientists defeat the bees? CAN THEY?
That's the story of The Swarm in a nutshell. Now then, let's take a closer look and examine all the things that make this film so lovably awful, shall we?
- The venom of the African Killer Bee is so powerful that a mere 4 stings is enough to kill a man...to kill a man DEAD! Should one be fortunate enough to survive, however, one must then battle one's own mind as one is beset by hallucinations of giant bees.
- Katharine Ross is simply the worst doctor ever. In one instance, she sits next to a patient's bed and the patient flatlines. Instead of actually doing anything, Katharine Ross leaves and fetches another doctor, who uses a stethoscope and that's that. In another instance of someone flatlining in her presence, she again leaves the room. She comes back with an oxygen mask- which would work swell if the person was breathing. When the hell was CPR invented? Probably before 1978.
- The most hilarious because it's supposed to be tragic and touching sequence occurs when the bees invade Marysville, particularly when they attack the school. Before the attack, we see a kid with an oversized lollipop annoy both Fred MacMurray and the audience:
Later, the camera zooms in slowly on the same kid- now dead!- and his bee-covered lollipop. We all shed a tear...of laughter.
- Someone who's not laughing, however, is Olivia DeHavilland- the bees and the dead children sprinkled all over the schoolyard cause her to lose her shit, overact, and let out a melodramatic "NOOO!" that remained unparalleled in cinema until Darth Vader's "NOOO!" in Revenge of the Sith:
- Michael Caine, entomologist, and Richard Widmark, Air Force general, shout through every single conversation they have together. In fact, Michael Caine goes crazy quite often and yells most of his lines in an odd, halting fashion.
WIDMARK: Better a few American bees than a lot of American people!
CAINE: The honeybee is vital to the environment! Every year in America! They pollinate 6 billion dollars worth of CROPS!
- I have never seen a romance as straight from nowhere as in The Swarm. We see absolutely no indications that Michael Caine and Katharine Ross are falling in love, yet on the second day of the proceedings, Michael Caine quips "You're the best thing that's happened to me in all this"- as opposed to the thousands and thousands of fatalities, I suppose. Even more ludicrous, however, is that Patty Duke- who lost her fiance mere days ago in the initial bee attack- gives birth to their child and falls in love with her doctor as she's being wheeled out of the delivery room.
- A great moment to look out for: as the swarm approaches, Michael Caine casually glances at his watch before calmly telling Katharine Ross to run.
- Richard Chamberlain heads to a nuclear power plant to warn them of the imminent bee attack. The bees do attack the plant- Richard Chamberlain is covered in bees, flailing around, and then the plant explodes. However, the editing makes it seem that Richard Chamberlain himself has exploded, causing the building to go.
- There are so many awesome AWESOME lines of dialogue in the movie...
"I never dreamed it would be the bees. They've always been our friend."
"I always credit my enemy- no matter what he may be- with equal intelligence"
"Who would have thought bees would be the first alien force to invade America?"
"Houston on fire...will history blame me? Or the BEES?"
- Evacuees from Marysville are being taken out of town via train. The bees attack the train- which derails. And rolls down a hillside. And explodes. And is very much a model train.
- Michael Caine is reluctant to use pesticides or poisons on the swarm, fearing the effect it will have on the environment. His final solution? Cover the Gulf of Mexico with a humongous oil slick. Lure the bees out to the Gulf with sound, then set the Gulf of Mexico on fire. He and Katharine Ross watch it burn...aww, how romantic.
- The film ends with a wonderfully patriotic and xenophobic disclaimer:
The African Killer Bee portrayed in this film bears absolutely no relationship to the industrious, hardworking American Honeybee to which we are indebted for pollinating vital crops that feed our nation.In your face, African Killer Bee! USA! USA! USA!
- The DVD contains a 1978 documentary about the making of the film, which is incredibly fearmongering. The Swarm isn't fiction- it's a prediction! The bees are coming! They're coming to kill us all! Patty Duke is the sole voice of dissent- she doesn't think the bees are coming at all, but if they do show up, she'll take a vacation somewhere else. I love Patty Duke.
The Swarm is 2-and-a-half hours of all-star, all-bee fun and excitement. It's like a birthday wish come true! USA! USA! USA!