Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Last night's film was Irwin Allen's 1979 disaster film "The Swarm", which might have been the most hilarious film ever made that was not actually intended as a comedy. This is like "Road House" meets "Xanadu" with some "Flash Gordon" sprinkled on top. This is like "Night of the Lepus" (the film about giant rabbits attacking the countryside) but with more big name stars.

"The Swarm" is a movie about an invasion of killer bees into Texas, and features a host of big name celebrities for the late '70s--Michael Caine, Henry Fonda, Richard Chamberlain, Richard Widmark--I could go down the whole list but let's just say it was as though all these famous actors just owed the studio one more film on their contract and figured it didn't matter what the film was. Caine plays the liberal hippie scientist, Widmark plays the mean thoughtless military man, and Katharine Ross (from Butch Cassidy and the "Graduate") plays the doctor, and you can tell she's a serious doctor because she wears her hair tied back.

To fully describe the ludicrous plot and all the various mistakes (both in the editing process and in logic) would take a series of posts, but I can sum it up to say that it surprised me. Yes, it surprised me because I found myself agreeing wholly with the Air Force general that they should have dropped chemical agents on the swarm at the beginning, which would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Caine's scientist (in his joyful cockney accent, guvnah!) argued that dropping chemical agents on the bees (after evacuating the people and livestock from the area, of course) would also have the affect of killing American honey bees which would "destroy the food supply and cause epic disaster". Therefore, the general was a fool, and they'd have to take more time to study the Africanized bees and figure out how to kill them without killing regular bees.

Here's why Caine's character is a moron. Sure, killing all the American honey bees in existence would be a problem for agriculture, but we're talking about a localized air strike--at this point in the film, the bees were only in a part of east Texas. It's not as though we couldn't repopulate the honey bees after all this was done. And in the meantime, the Africanized bees had already killed hundreds of people and were moving toward Houston. Sure enough, while waiting for Caine's "studies" the bees end up attacking a nearby nuclear power plant, causing an explosion that kills tens of thousands of people. Er, WTF??? This just proves that the general just maybe had a point early on! And he was supposed to be the antagonist!

Equally hilarious is that when the bees were heading toward the nuclear plant, no one thought of the simplest solution--having the air force general (or hell, the President, if necessary) phone the plant operators to shut it down. Instead, they decide to send Richard Chamberlain's environmentalist to go in person to convince the plant operators to shut down, because "I've fought them on environmental issues before, they'll listen to me." Er, WTFx1000???? That's like saying "we need to shut down General Motors quickly, send Ralph Nader! They'll listen to the guy they hate most!" This was really just an excuse to see Richard Chamberlain get killed by the bees while he was at the nuclear plant.

In the end, they finally figure out that the bees are attracted to a certain sound pitch, so they lure the bees out into the Gulf of Mexico and blow them up. Yes, it was just that stupid.

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