The Swarm (1978)


The military has been deployed to investigate the fate of one of it’s scientific outposts in Nowheresville, Texas.  General So-and-So is suspicious because the last transmission from the outpost contains people screaming things like, “What was that!?” And “No..NO..NOOOOOO!!!!!” What could it BEE? Well, (SPOILER ALERT) turns out it’s bees. KILLER bees, to be exact. And they’re not just ANY killer bees. These bees can make helicopters explode, nuclear power plants melt down, and passenger trains derail. Head scientist Michael Caine tries every conventional pest management strategy, to no avail. The bees are too smart to eat poison, too hardy to succumb to pesticides, and there is no antidote to their killer sting. As the death toll rises, he must compromise his scientific integrity in order to concoct a completely insane and incredibly destructive plan to annihilate the swarm once and for all.

  • Ambition     7

Every film in this genre (70s Epics) was made with the most grandiose of intentions. They thought they were making THE GREATEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME … about killer bees. This director had several other epics under his belt, including The Towering Inferno (the greatest movie of all time about a burning building) and The Poseidon Adventure (the greatest movie of all time about a sinking ship…that is, until Titanic blew it out of the water in 1997). These kinds of movies tend to be over-long (usually close to 3 hours), absolutely dripping with drama, and chock-full of explosions, crashes, and high body counts.

  • Presentability     6

The movie is quite long, but the thematic presentation would be a snap. Serve honey sticks and a zippy cocktail. I would suggest telling guests to drink every time anyone says the word “bees,” but that would almost certainly result in mass alcohol poisoning 15 minutes into the movie.

  • Sex and Violence     5

The only reference to sex in the film is when one of the main scientists is giving Michael Caine crap for his “raunchy science paper on the mating habits of a certain species of queen bee.” As for violence, there are plenty of requisite explosions, people and/or cars crashing through windows and/or buildings, and a particularly long ‘guys with flame-throwers going nuts’ scene. Nothing groundbreaking or out of the ordinary.

  • Performance     6

Pretty over the top. Clearly the direction the actors received was similar to the direction received by any other actor in an Epic: “Deliver each line as if it were THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU’VE EVER SAID.” There was one truly terrible actress, a real ham. She was the only character with a southern accent (think Blanche in Golden Girls) and while speaking, rather than actually looking at the other actor in the scene, she would always focus her eyes on that invisible spot about 8 inches from her face.

  • Datability     4

Epics were popular in the 70s, but The Swarm had little in the way of entertaining fashion choices, music and decor.

  • Script     5

The writing is predictable and extremely over-zealous. Clashes between the military men and the scientists were numerous and typical, and why they had to throw in all the pointless, annoying side plots escapes me. By far the worst, most annoying and pointless one was the love triangle between the hammy actress and her two suitors. In the end we never find out who she chooses, or if any of them even live.

Also, excessive use of the word bees. 103 times. I counted. I think the writers must have, too, since towards the second half of the film the actors suddenly start referring to the bees as “swarms” or “africans” instead. The best line was when the General says, “I don’t need a pat on the ass from you or anybody else!”

  • Relevance      4

Uhm… killer bees are bad. Der.

  • Originality     3

This was probably one of the least original killer insect movies I have seen. And yes, I have seen quite a few. More than I care to admit, actually.

  • Cinematography     7

    "There is no bee."

There were a lot of really fantastic slow-motion bee attack scenes, and the close-up of the dead kid’s lollipop covered in bees was hilarious. There is also a classic shot from a bee’s perspective where they use that octagonal-grid camera effect, or Bee-O-Vision if you will. My favorite parts, though, were the crazy giant bee hallucination scenes.

  • Production Design     5

This movie clearly had a decent budget, but at times I questioned the distribution of funds. The explosions were impressive, sure, but the military stronghold where all the scientists are holed up looked like a poor-man’s version of the bridge from the original Enterprise.


Getting stung on the ass by a bee (conventional, not killer) while using a public restroom that has no toilet paper. What fun!

Science Corner

The Queen Bee: Nature’s Whore

Now we know why she calls herself the Queen Bee...

A recent study by entomologists at North Carolina State University found that the success of a Queen Bee is largely determined by the number of male bees she copulates with. While overly-promiscuous human females are generally not considered royalty material, the reign of a Queen Bee depends upon her ability to “spread the love.” Worker bees respond more favorably to a Queen who has been inseminated by multiple partners, so, in essence, the sluttier a Queen Bee is the longer she will retain her throne. It has been suggested that the larger variety of genetic material (bee semen) makes for a more disease-resistant colony, so until bee AIDS becomes a problem, it looks as though bee abstinence promoters are out of luck.


~ by mgjk on January 13, 2010.

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