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Trying to Hold Back… – The Swarm (1978)


Produced and directed by Irwin Allen, The Swarm should have been a bonafide hit much like his previous films The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure, both of which were quite good. There was big money thrown at it with a big cast and by all accounts, there was no way for this film to fail and yet, it did just that and remains one of those films with one of those reputations that simply will not go away.

As it is, the movie is not all that bad. It is entertaining even though it is not very exciting which does not make a lot of sense but most of that comes from the cast and given that it stars 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 and Henry Fonda just to name a few, one can expect at least a modicum of talent to shine forth. For the most part, it is Caine and Widmark who take up most of the limelight – the former a scientist enlisted by the president to stop the menace of the bees while the latter is an army general who thinks he can do a better job and when given the chance, proves he cannot. Having such a large and memorable cast is a good thing but many of them are not given anything to do except play small supporting roles. Seeing MacMurray try to woo Oliva de Havilland would put a smile upon the face while seeing her die in a train crash was quite shocking, simply for the fact, nothing like that had ever happened to her onscreen before this point. In fact, most of the cast would not survive the multiple attacks made by the killer bees which was slightly expected but surprising nonetheless.

When it came to the bees, which were African killer bees and not the regular garden variety, they would be spurred on by humanity to do what they do with those who aimed to stop them from trying everything they could humanly think of. These attempts would cause numerous ecological disasters along the way, things so ludicrous to see, one would have to wonder if they would do the same in real life should a similar situation arise. The movie would not lack for big moments, like the train derailment, the nuclear facility exploding and the attack on the school children just to name three and Allen would definitely do his best to make them pop but even then, there was something lacking that would fail to make any of these pop so to speak. The special effects at the very least were decent and seeing the bees cling to the various victims in the film was a sight to behold, frightening, to say the least.

All in all, The Swarm is not a bad movie but neither is it a good one. Most of it, from story to execution is just middle-of-the-road, almost everything needing improvement. The cast could have been cut down, some of the side stories skipped and a more intense focus upon the team fighting the bees and the destruction they cause. If there was a movie that called for a modern-day remake, it would be this one, especially given what could be accomplished with the technology available. Perhaps Allen thought he could sail on by with past accomplishments but that is not the case as The Swarm is something that will definitely kill a couple hours of the day but not anything that one would talk about much less remember.

2.5 out of 5

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