The Swarm (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Swarm
The Swarm.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Irwin Allen
Produced by Irwin Allen
Screenplay by Stirling Silliphant
Based on The Swarm 
by Arthur Herzog
Starring Michael Caine
Katharine Ross
Richard Widmark
Richard Chamberlain
Olivia de Havilland
Ben Johnson
Lee Grant
Jose Ferrer
Patty Duke
Slim Pickens
Bradford Dillman
Fred MacMurray
Henry Fonda
Cameron Mitchell
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Fred J. Koenkamp
Edited by Harold F. Kress
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • July 14, 1978 (1978-07-14)
Running time
116 minutes
156 minutes (extended cut)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $21 million[1] or $11.5 million[2]
Box office $7.6 million[3]

The Swarm is a 1978 science fiction monster horror film about a killer bee invasion of Texas. It was adapted from a novel of the same name by Arthur Herzog.

The director was Irwin Allen, and the cast included Michael Caine, Katharine Ross, Richard Widmark, Richard Chamberlain, Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson, Lee Grant, Patty Duke, Slim Pickens, Bradford Dillman, Fred MacMurray (in his final film appearance), and Henry Fonda. Despite negative reviews and being a box office failure,[4] the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design. This is the last film to be edited by Harold F. Kress.


A group of soldiers led by Maj. Baker (Bradford Dillman) is ordered to investigate a basement level station which they believed was attacked. After Baker contacts his commander, Gen. Slater (Richard Widmark), they begin to investigate who drove a civilian van into the base. It is revealed to be owned by a scientist named Dr. Bradford Crane (Michael Caine), the only survivor of the attack. Slater orders two helicopters to check for a black mass (revealed to be bees), but the two helicopters are swarmed by the bees and crash, killing the pilots inside. Crane insists to Slater that the base was attacked by the same African killer bees that destroyed the helicopters. Helena Anderson (Katharine Ross), one of the base's doctors, supports Crane's story.

Meanwhile, in the countryside, a family is attacked by a swarm of the bees. Paul, their teenaged son manages to escape in a Mustang, although he is also stung, and crashes into the Marysville town square, where the citizens are preparing for the annual flower festival. The boy is brought into the hands of military personnel, where he hallucinates a vision of giant bees attacking him, due to the aftereffects of the bee sting. Wheelchair bound Dr. Walter Krim (Henry Fonda) confirms to Crane that the very war they have feared for a long time has started against the bees. At the gates of the base, Slater must confront angry country bumpkin Jed Hawkins (Slim Pickens) who demands to see the dead body of his son, who was killed by the bees. Hawkins takes the body bag and departs, leaving the entire watching crowd silent over the loss. Slater suggests airdropping poison on the swarm, but Crane considers the ecological possibilities of the situation.

Recovering from his earlier bee attack, the stung son and some friends go in search of the hive to firebomb it, which results only in angering the bees, who head to Marysville. The bees reach Marysville and kill hundreds, including some children at the local school. Crane and Helena take shelter at the local diner, with pregnant café waitress Rita (Patty Duke Astin). Reporter Anne McGregor (Lee Grant) watches from the safety of her news van, hoping to get some exciting footage about the siege. After this most recent attack, Slater suggests evacuating many of the townsfolk in a train. However, the bees manage to besiege the train as well, killing several evacuees, including a love triangle made up of schoolteacher Maureen Scheuster (Olivia de Havilland), retiree Felix Austin (Ben Johnson), and town Mayor Clarence Tuttle (Fred MacMurray), who also runs the town's drug store.

Rita, confined to a hospital bed, gives birth to her child, falling in love with the doctor in the process; but Paul, who was stung earlier, succumbed to the stings and died, devastating Helena. The savage swarm heads for Houston, so Crane drops eco-friendly bombs on them, hoping that the swarm senses will harm them and stay away from the city. The plan fails, and the young boy who released the swarm onto Marysville dies after once more visiting the hospital, which sends Helena into a rage about why the children have to die. Dr. Krim self-injects an experimental bee venom antidote to keep track of the results, although the trial proves fatal, and Krim dies from the effects of the venom. Meanwhile, nuclear power plant manager Dr. Andrews (Jose Ferrer) is convinced that his plant can withstand the attacks of the bees, ignoring the warnings of Dr. Hubbard (Richard Chamberlain). However, at that moment, the alarm sounds and the bees invade the plant, killing both Andrews and Hubbard, as well as completely destroying the plant and wiping out an entire town.

Crane and Slater analyze tapes from the original bee invasion and come to the possible conclusion that their alarm system attracted the swarm into the base. The bees invade once more, so Slater uses a flame-thrower to allow Crane and Helena to escape. Sonically altered helicopters successfully manage to lure the bees out to sea, where they douse the water with oil and set the swarm ablaze. Crane wonders if their victory was overall successful or just temporary, then decides that "if we use our time wisely, the world just might survive."



It was one of two disaster films (the other being 1979's Beyond the Poseidon Adventure), directed solely by the "master of disaster" Allen, who had experience directing several films and many episodes of his TV shows. The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.[5] On its release, The Sunday Times described The Swarm as "simply the worst film ever made".[6] Time Out magazine called The Swarm a "risibly inadequate disaster movie".[7] Leslie Halliwell called The Swarm a "very obvious disaster movie with risible dialogue", and suggested its commercial failure was partly due to the fact that prior to its release, several American television movies with similar plots had been broadcast.[4] Richard Velt in the Wilmington Morning Star stated "The Swarm may not be the worst movie ever made. I'd have to see them all to be sure. It's certainly as bad as any I've seen." Velt also stated "All the actors involved in this fiasco should be ashamed".[8]

The film was a notorious box office bomb upon its release in 1978,[4] barely making it two weeks in theaters.[citation needed] Michael Caine, despite his other film failures, claims it is the worst film he ever made (along with his decade-earlier film The Magus and his later film Ashanti): "It wasn't just me, Hank Fonda was in it too, but I got the blame for it" he claimed in an interview with Michael Parkinson.[citation needed]


The musical score was composed by Academy Award winner Jerry Goldsmith and used French horns and such to sound like the humming of bees.

The score was originally released on LP on Warner Bros. Records in 1978 at the same time of the film's release, but has long since gone out of print. An expanded, remastered score was released in 2002 in a limited edition by Prometheus Records and contained over 40 minutes of previously unreleased material. It has also gone out of print.

Alternate versions[edit]

The film was released initially at 116 minutes. When released on laserdisc in the 1980s, it was expanded to 156 minutes, and this version is what is used on the DVD release.


In 2010, the film was said to be in negotiations for a remake, with Roy Lee of Vertigo Entertainment producing.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Christopher T Koetting, Mind Warp!: The Fantastic True Story of Roger Corman's New World Pictures, Hemlock Books. 2009 p 150-151
  2. ^ THE OVERSEAS CONNECTION: TAKING STARS TO MARKET Wilson, John M. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 18 Mar 1979: o3.
  3. ^ Richard Nowell, Blood Money: A History of the First Teen Slasher Film Cycle Continuum, 2011 p 257
  4. ^ a b c Halliwell's film and video guide 2002 edited by John Walker. London. HarperCollins Entertainment, 2001. ISBN 0007122659 (p. 804).
  5. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0. 
  6. ^ The worst movie ever? The Guardian, 26 April 2001. Retrieved 4 February 2014.
  7. ^ "The Swarm" Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  8. ^ Richard Velt ""Swarm" Not Recommended". July 21, 1978. Retrieved April 6 2014.
  9. ^ Beware The Swarm! Again!

External links[edit]