The Satan Bug
|The Satan Bug|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Sturges|
|Produced by||John Sturges|
|Screenplay by||James Clavell
|Based on||the novel
by Alistair MacLean
|Editing by||Ferris Webster|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Running time||114 minutes|
|Budget||$6 million or $1.8 million|
The Satan Bug is a 1965 science fiction film directed by John Sturges that features George Maharis and Anne Francis. It was loosely adapted from Alistair MacLean's 1962 novel of the same name. It also features a soundtrack by the prolific composer of movie scores, Jerry Goldsmith.
Lee Barrett, a former intelligence agent, is asked by his former boss Eric Cavanaugh to investigate the murder of the security chief of Station Three — a top-secret bioweapons laboratory in the desert of Southern California — and the disappearance of its director, Dr. Baxter.
As they wait for a time lock on the sealed lab to open, they are advised by another lab scientist, Dr. Gregor Hoffman, to seal the lab using concrete. Hoffman informs them that there are two lethal bioweapons in the lab, a lethal strain of botulinus that oxidizes eight hours after its release, and a recently developed virus that he calls the "Satan Bug", and which could kill all life on Earth in a matter of months.
Determined to discover what happened in the room, Barrett enters to discover that Dr. Baxter is dead, and both vials containing the "Satan Bug" and 1200 grams of botulinus missing.
Barrett drives to a nearby hotel, where he meets Ann, the daughter of General Williams, who has flown in from Washington to supervise the investigation. Barrett's speculation that a lunatic is behind the theft is confirmed by a telegram threatening to release the viruses unless Station Three is destroyed.
Suspecting that the theft was aided by someone on the inside, Barrett discovers that another scientist is dead. A phone call reveals the name Charles Reynolds Ainsley, a millionaire crackpot who fits the profile and who quickly becomes the focus of the investigation.
After a demonstration incident in Florida proves the thieves' willingness to use the botulinus, General Williams receives a call threatening to release more of the toxin in Los Angeles County unless Station Three is closed.
Pursuing a report, Barrett and Ann visit the location where a car broke down during the evening of the theft. Barrett deduces that the driver was involved and locates a box containing the missing vials in a nearby stream, only to be confronted by two armed men. Barrett and Ann are taken to Dr. Hoffman, the other conspirator in the theft.
Hoffman decides to take them hostage, but they are followed by security agents. A flask containing the "Satan Bug" is separated from the others, who realize that they are being shadowed by two agents in a car.
After a confrontation in an abandoned gas station, the thugs working with Hoffman decide to lock Barrett and the two agents in a room and shatter one of the vials. Though both agents are killed, Barrett escapes by setting the room afire. He stops a passing car being driven by Hoffman and makes a deal to learn the location of the flask in Los Angeles in return for the closure of Station Three.
Barrett is aware that Hoffman is, in fact, Ainsley himself. They hear a radio announcement announcing the closure of Station Three. Hoffman's associates are killed at a roadblock while trying to escape. Barrett himself confronts Ainsley, who threatens to break the flask containing the "Satan Bug", telling Barrett that he waited to steal the virus until the vaccine could be isolated.
Now that the vaccine is in his blood, Ainsley is immune. He declares his willingness to destroy the world and then live on in it alone rather than give up the power he holds. A helicopter arrives, flown by another of Ainsley's men. They fly above Los Angeles as it is being evacuated.
Barrett fights with the pilot and succeeds in taking the vial from Ainsley, who falls from the helicopter rather than reveal the location of the missing vial, unaware that it had already been located by the authorities and disarmed.
- Glenn Lovell, Escape Artist: The Life and Films of John Sturges, University of Wisconsin Press, 2008, p. 243.
- Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company The Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987, p. 185.
- Clemmensen, Christian. Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004) tribute at Filmtracks.com. Accessed: August 18, 2013.
- The Satan Bug at the American Film Institute Catalog}
- The Satan Bug at the Internet Movie Database
- The Satan Bug at allmovie
- The Satan Bug at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Satan Bug film review at AlistairMacLean.com