The Swarm (1978)

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The Swarm

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The beginning of the downfall of the disaster film genre, especially the grace of Irwin Allen's disaster film series.
Genre: Disaster
Directed By: Irwin Allen
Produced By: Irwin Allen
Based On: The Swarm by Arthur Herzog
Starring: Michael Caine
Katharine Ross
Richard Widmark
Richard Chamberlain
Olivia de Havilland
Ben Johnson
Lee Grant
José Ferrer
Patty Duke Astin
Slim Pickens
Bradford Dillman
Fred MacMurray
Henry Fonda
Photography: Color
Cinematography: Fred J. Koenekamp
Distributed By: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: July 14, 1978
Runtime: 116 minutes (original cut)
156 minutes (extended cut)
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $11.5 million or $21 million
Box Office: $7.7 million (US and Canada rentals)
"Mr. Allen might just as well have devoted his talents to man-eating goldfish, poodles on the rampage or carniverous canaries."
Janet Maslin from The New York Times

The Swarm (Not to be confused of the 2020 film of the same name) (or fully known as Irwin Allen's Production of - The Swarm) is a 1978 American nautral disaster-horror film that was directed and produced by Irwin Allen, who was a producer of disaster movies as The Poseidon Adventure, and The Towering Inferno. It features all-star casts, Michael Caine (known for later starring as Hoagie Newcombe in Jaws: The Revenge, and some of Christopher Nolan's films like The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception and Tenet in 2020), Katharine Ross, Richard Widmark, Richard Chamberlain, Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson, Lee Grant, José Ferrer, Patty Duke, Slim Pickens, Bradford Dillman, Fred MacMurray, and Henry Fonda. In this movie, a group of characters, including Brad Crane teams up with General Slater to use military tactics to stop a swarm of bees from reaching and destroying their city with venom.

The movie was announced in 1974 at the peak of the disaster movie craze, and the movie went into production for over four years. The movie went into development hell several times, especially since Irwin Allen had left 20th Century Fox to go to Warner Bros. in order to keep production running. When the movie was finally released on July 14, 1978, it received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics and audiences alike. With a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it is widely considered to be one of the worst films ever made, if not the worst in Irwin Allen's line-up of disaster films ever. It was unable to get its budget back, and only made 7 million against its 11 million budget and was considered a box-office failure.


The movie opens with a group of soldiers led by Major Baker (Bradford Dillman) investigated the basement level of a missile base, when they got inside, all of the people were inside were already dead. They decided to take control of the basement, and scientist, Dr. Bradford Crane (Michael Caine) is found, and he's one of the few survivors of the attack, but not someone stationed at the base, meanwhile, the two helicopters were on their way to the base, but the two helicopters crashed by the swarm of killer bees, killing all of the pilots and their crew. At the picnic table, Paul and her family having a picnic, but the bees interrupt it and kill Paul's family. He gets away from the bees by driving his family car to get back to town and crashes into Marysville, Texas, where the citizens are preparing for the annual flower festival. Still, Paul tries to claim to everyone that the bees killed his family, and they're heading this way, leaving the citizens very puzzled. At the hospital, he had a nightmare about a big bee, and Crane goes over Paul to chill Paul out and reach Paul's hands out to make it go away, and it did, and hoping that be bee won't come back at all. At the scene where the bees killed Paul's parents, Dr. Bradford Crane, investigates the site over stuff on the ground, and looking for the bees, but finds the plastic cup, wondering if the bees had eaten the plastic. Back on the missile base, Richard Chamberlain visits the base about the bees, where he was at a hospital room where people are lying in bed, but seeing a lot of dead people covered in black bags. At the gate, Hawkins went over to the base, wanted to see his son to know if he's still alive. Meanwhile, Crane discusses the bees with Chamberlain. But when Hawkins goes over to see dead people, he finds his son stung to death, and he cries about this, and he leaves the room in tears.

In the base, Crane hears on the radio that the swarm attacks everyone, and Jerry and the workers are attacked, and communication is cut. In the theater room, Crane talks about how the multitude of killer bees invaded them. Most people have a discussion about the deadly bees about the stain to kill the average person, and he showed many tests about the dead bee that he found and showing the wing from one bee. It was the only one killer bee, they'll be charged at any place, to save everyone from the bees, who launch another attack, and one of the people will warn their sirens about the attack until they kill all the bees. Back in Marysville, Paul leaves the hospital to go out with his friends. At the harris cafe, they had a discussion what their preparation for the killer bees, and Ms. Maureen, has a friendly chat before she leaves for her car to her school with her flowers. In the basement, they realized that the bees might go to Houston, which is only two hundred miles away and kill many, arguing with the general. Crane uses his recorder to record the sound of the killer bees again. The kids go over to the beehive on the falling tree. They use their Molotov cocktails (firebombs) to burn the tree with bees, including the beehives, which results only in angered the killer bees, who make their way to Marysville and kill hundreds. They quickly hide in the three trash cans to take cover to avoid getting killed, and the kids run away into the distance. At the open road, Crane talks with Anderson in his van, but they see cloud-like killer bees heading to Marysville and they quickly turn around back to the town of Maryville to warn everyone that the killer bees are coming. Back at Marysville, inside of the school, Tuttle goes to Ms. Maureen with his flowers, wanting to marry her as Crane returns, and he quickly comes back to tell everyone to get inside to take cover, siring everyone to get inside due to bees coming to kill them. They go into churches, buildings, and apartments, but the bees started to kill most of the Maryville's population, including the students outside, horrified/upsetting Maureen so much that she realized she was too late to warn the kids to get inside before the killer bee started to kill the students. Crane and Anderson quickly run go into a restruant, but a killer bee stands Anderson, and they went into a freezer room, seeing Anderson has a bee on the eye and passes out.

Back in the base, while news reports talk about killer bees occurring in Texas, Dr. Richard gives a phone to how bad the people were. Outside, the general tells Crane to tell everyone to evacuate the area by using the train, at the news report, Crane goes to the bee room. He used the bee suit to look at the bees and spread them in the grid. Dr. Anderson has a private talk about the socialization is natural, and Anderson that Crane is the highest scientist, and she has her own business. At the train station, people are ready to be on board to evacuate the area, and they went on the train, but one woman was pregnant, and they went back to the hospital. At night, Crane and Anderson had a talking discussion in the street, Anderson knew that Maysville is a happy place in Texas. The next day, The train is still on the move and went into the mountains, but the killer bees suddenly come back. The drivers didn't even close the window, resulting in the driver accidentally moving the train way too fast, and derailing the train off the hill, destroying the train and killing all but 17 people. At the base, the doctors realized that they're three days away from Houston, and they planned to use the pellets from the helicopters. Still, they're not touching the pellets. (In the extended cut, Paul suddenly dies in his hospital bed, upsetting Anderson and blames Crane for what good he was.) The next day, Crane and Anderson were on the road again, tells him that Paul was here the first case that he would have been terrific one, and tells him about that didn't the three of force had died.

In the base, they tell everybody to evacuate over forty-six towns in Texas and close the factories, including, nut if they don't, the bees would attack them and destroy them. Richard went on a speech, attending the exact what he had developed, telling him a fool, saying that he's going to eject with six toxic bees. Richard took the test with shots on his arm a few times, but as his heart goes fast, the bee suddenly pops out from nowhere, attacking and killing him. Crane goes over and looks at Richard, and he cries for him over his loss. At the nuclear powerplant, the alarm sounds that the bees suddenly came inside killing a lot of workers. Andrews and Hubbard try to escape, but it's too late, resulting in the bees destroying the nuclear powerplant with a massive explosion, especially, destroying a town in Texas, with over 36,000,422 dead, Commander, goes to Crane to tell him that he wants to close down his operation. The war against the African would be a military direction, and the computer stated that the swarm of killer bees could be arrive in Houston in seventeen hours. They went over to airforce quarters in Houston, and they go to the General's room, and the three went to the computer room. The siren comes on, The battle of Houston, has just begun. The Flamethrowers start to burns the bees but destroying a lot of cars and burning a lot of buildings. Most of them were killed either by the killer bees, or the fire, at that point, and the flamethrowers destroyed the flameflower truck, killing the flamethrowers. The Commander looks at the view of now burning city of Houston is on fire, wondering if he would be blamed on him or themselves. In the computer room, the doctors are ready for a final experiment, they asked about the sonic alarm system, and they knew that the alarm would detect the bee would go over the sonic signals. They have a plan to put the sonic alarms on the Gulf of Mexico.

More amount of african killer bees suddenly break into the headquarters, Crane and Helena Anderson were able to escape the fire, but the general and the officers didn't even make it, leaving them to die. The movie suddenly cuts to daytime at the airport where Crane and Helen went into the helicopters to spread the oil, and use the sonic alarms to destroy the bees. At the Gulf of Mexico, They put the Sonic alarms to make the swarm of killer bees hear it. All of the bees go into the sea of oil, as well as the sonic signals, and they went into the shore, and the military launch missiles into the scene, killing the African killer bees. At the very end of the film, 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."

Why It Can Sting Your Sanity

  1. The main problem is that the movie tries to balance the tone between up with a disaster, and a horror film, but however, it didn't work, as it feels more like a comedy-disaster parody film, which ruined the tone, and the movie itself at the very end as a result.
  2. It pretty much heavily lacks what made Irwin Allen's previous disaster films, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, so great, lacking their charm or charisma, and just doing whatever it can to exist. Irwin Allen's previous disaster films had more effort, and were memorable with a lot of charm.
    • In fact, it completely misses the spirit from the previous two disaster films that were both produced by Irwin Allen; The first two disaster films, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, while a bit campy, both managed to have a darker, more serious and emotional tone. With this film, it has tons of campy moments that make for unintentional comedy throughout the entire 116-minute (or 155-minute, depending on the version you watch the) film, despite trying too hard to take itself seriously at the same time.
  3. Very weak storyline. The idea of a killer animal has already been done several times (The Deadly Bees, despite being poorly-received, is another film with killer bees done before); it's preposterous and makes for an uninteresting and unoriginal story, and also heavily contrasts with the previous style Allen's first two disaster movies had.
  4. It can't decide whatever it's a horror film or a disaster film at all. For most of the film, it feels more like a killer bee version of The Birds than being a "disaster" movie.
  5. Sub-par and very cheap special effects for the killer bees, especially the green screen effects.
  6. Despite having an all-star cast, the actors give terrible performances, such as Michael Caine, who was especially not good as Dr. Crane, because he had little knowledge of bees and rarely got any character development because of it. Worst of all, it nearly killed Olivia de Havilland's acting career.
    • Katharine Ross wasn't good as Helena Anderson either, her relationship with Dr. Crane is completely pointless and feels forced.
  7. As said on WIS#1, It completely misses the spirit from the previous two disaster films that were both produced by Irwin Allen; The first two disaster films, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, while a bit campy, both managed to have a darker, more serious and emotional tone. With this film, it has tons of campy moments that make for unintentional comedy throughout the entire 116-minute (or 155-minute, depending on the version you watch) film, despite trying too hard to take itself seriously at the same time.
  8. The film focuses on establishing Allen's disaster movies more, rather than being it's own story.
  9. The pacing is extremely poor, which is inexcusable for a disaster-horror film.
  10. The film feels rather tame as it was rated PG. It would probably make sense if the film was rated R, since it's a disaster-horror film.
  11. While the filmed settings in this movie were decent (despite most of them not being in Texas as it's supposed to be), most of the shots in the first two acts don't exactly give the impression that the film took place in the state of Texas at all. It wasn't until the third act when they actually filmed in the city of Houston, Texas.
    • Marysville is an unincorporated community in real-life at near the border states of Texas and Oklahoma. In the movie, Marysville has a town square, a train station, and an incredibly tall mountain. In reality, it doesn't have a train station, nor does it have a tall mountain nearby at all. It doesn't help that it was actually filmed at Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Hollywood, California,
    • Also, when Crane and Helena are standing in front of a cliff on the Gulf of Mexico shores, yet there are no cliffs on the upper Texas coast, where the film supposedly takes place at.
    • Most of the location for Texas feel more like they're filmed in New Mexico, Nevada, or California instead of Texas. In reality, Texas has fewer mountains in real life, but in this movie, there's a scene where a train is still on it's way to Houston, but with tall mountains in the background, which Texas doesn't even have that tall of mountains in real-life.
  12. The film only involves a group of characters trying to find a way to stop this killer bee invasion in the state of Texas but after the cinemax, the rest of the movie (in the director's cut at least) boils down into more than two-hours of filler in which barely anything goes on in this movie at all.
  13. Numerous plot-holes, severe plot points, errors, corny dialogue, bad writing, and unexplained details everywhere, but not limited to:
    • At the beginning of the movie, how did the African killer bees manage to kill everybody on the underground base center if they don't have any stairs to go through?
    • When the large group of soldiers enter the compound near the beginning of the movie, the door to the compound building opens to let them inside in one shot and somehow opens again in the very next shot.
    • In the shorter version, it is never explained what happened to Paul Durant after he had a chat with Dr. Crane, and went back to the hospital in Marysville before the population of Marysville is evacuated.
      • However, The extended cut did fix the problem, he was at the hospital, but he suddenly died for an unexplained reason.
    • The killer bees somehow destroy a helicopter, with it losing all of it's power and crashing into a mountain.
    • Dr. Bradford Crane tells Paul (who's in a hospital bed) to reach out to make the bee go away, and he states that the bee is not real, which is confusing because the bees are real.
    • The train scene has a huge amount of flaws:
      • When the train crashes off the railway track, a carriage explodes. Whether the locomotive was powered by electricity or diesel, the passenger carriages would have carried no fuel and would not have exploded. Although since only one carriage car exploded and spread fire to the rest, it could be conceivable (although unlikely) this was a dining car and contained bottled gas.
      • When the passenger train is attacked by the swarm, Engineer Ned leans on the (mock-up) automatically pulls the brake handle, which should have applied the emergency brakes, but instead the train accelerates.
      • Why didn't the train drivers even shut the windows as soon as the African killer bees got towards the train? Also, it makes the bees enter the cab and kill both of the drivers. The sting from the bee also makes one engineer accidentally pull the lever, which results in the train going way too fast and then crashing off the railway track, and a carriage exploding. Whether the locomotive was powered by electricity or diesel, the passenger carriages would have carried no fuel and would not have exploded.
      • When the train accelerates out of control and tips over on the cliff, the exterior shot shows that the locomotive at the front leans to it's right side. However, the interior shot appears as if the locomotive is tilting to it's left side.
      • When Engineer Ned leans on the (mock-up) automatic brake handle, which should have applied the emergency brakes, the train instead accelerates.
    • During the war against the killer bees in the city of Austin, there is literally a scene where the ambulance driver loses control because of the bees and suddenly it's night time during the crashing sequence. When the ambulance crashes into the building at this shot, you can see it's daytime, while it was supposed to be night time.
    • When testing the anti-venom on himself, the scientist places only one chest wire on himself which would make it impossible to monitor his "z-score" as stated because at least 3 leads would be needed. In addition, the compound is stated to be administered in an "auto-injector" when the instrument shown on screen was nothing more than a 1930's vintage hypodermic needle and syringe.
  14. The movie permanently killed Harold F. Kress's editing career.
  15. The final act of the entire film. During the war against the killer bees, Dr. Crane and Sally Helena escape the checkpoint from the military base in Austin, Texas and they went to the airport the next day to fly a helicopter to the Gulf of Mexico and they just drop to play the signal of floating devices. But that's not it, predictably, all of the millions of African bees go into the sign and the missiles launch into the scene, exploding and killing all of the killer bees in an anti-climatic manner, and that's it, that's how the film literally ends!

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Warner Bros. Pictures put a disclaimer before the end credits, stating that the African killer bees portrayed in this film bear no relationship to the industrious, hard-working American honey bee to which they are indebted for pollinating vital crops that feed the nation.
  2. The film still uses the yellow text Futura font on the opening credits, which is a nice throwback to Allen's first two disaster films.
  3. Jerry Goldsmith did an excellent job composing the soundtrack, which adds a bit more more suspense to this film at times.
  4. It is considered to be so-bad-it's-good cinema.
  5. There are some good action sequences during the climax, though not as good as the previous instalments.


Critical Response

When The Swarm was debut on July 14, 1978, it received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics and audiences alike, and it was considered to be the worst disaster film of all time. The film currently holds a 9% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 23 reviews with an average rating of 3.9/10, while Metacritic scores the film a 30/100 "Generally unfavorable reviews" and an IMDb rating is 4.5/10. Durning the United Kingdom release, The Sunday Times described The Swarm as "simply the worst film ever made". Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 1.5 out of 4 stars and wrote that it was "surprisingly flaccid in its thrills", explaining: "In these days of Star Wars (which was made for less money), it takes more than a fleet of helicopters and a flameout on the Gulf of Mexico to convince audiences that they are being dazzled. Arthur D. Murphy of Variety called it a "disappointing and tired non-thriller. Killer bees periodically interrupt the arch writing, stilted direction and ludicrous acting."

The movie however gained a cult status over the years and John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide, as one of the 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made. Michael Caine even said, "It wasn't just me, Henry Fonda was in it, too, but I got the blame for it!".

Box Office

The film was unable to even make its budget back and it grossed over $5,168,142 on its opening weekend from more than 1,200 theatres and earned Warner's rentals in the United States and Canada of $7.7 million. It was considered both a critical and commercial failure.

Irwin Allen was sitting at the box office for a while, however, upon the released, his career took a massive nosedive. Allen became heartbroken by the amount of money he lost that he had forbidden any of his employees ever to mention it again. The movie was a huge loss and it made less than of its $21 million budget. It was so bad, that The Swarm was only played on theatres for two weeks, and it was pulled from theatres after a critical, and box-office disaster. [1]

The Interview

In Allen's interview, he had asked a question about the movie. Still, unfortunately, the following year, that the sequel of the Poseidon adventure name Beyond the Poseidon Adventure that Allen would know that his newer movie would fall even harder at the box office.




  • The film was originally released in theaters at 116 minutes, however, when it was released on laserdisc in 1992, it was extended to 155 minutes with additional scenes. This extended version is also included on all DVD releases worldwide along with a 22-minute documentary titled "Inside The Swarm" and the original theatrical trailer, especially on the Bu-Ray version.
  • YouTube reviewer ramboraph4life defends the film and is a fan of it, and he enjoyed it, and he knows how bad the movie is.
  • It is the last film to be edited by Harold F. Kress.

External Links



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