The Swarm (1978) – Spoiler Review Pt. 2

When we left off last Monday, I was talking about loose plot threads and padding.

  1. Patty Duke is Single and Pregnant

Early in the movie, we hear a recording of the soldiers who were attacked on the base and one of them is bragging about his girlfriend who he is about to propose to. He mentions that she is pregnant and working as a waitress. We actually meet her later and visit her throughout the movie as she struggles with grief and then the chaos around her. She is about to get on the doomed evacuation train when her water breaks and she is brought back to the hospital where she has her baby and starts to fall in love with the head doctor there. It is kind of a sweet story that shows the aftermath of a death in the military but it also has zero impact on the movie.

  1. Maybe Eat Something Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda plays an immunologist whose main contribution is to figure out the lethality of the bee’s venom. He tries to develop an anti-venom throughout the movie after they find living bee subjects. Out of nowhere, late in the movie there is a plot where we find out that he is working so hard that he is not eating meals. He is lightly chastised by Caine who tells him he will get him any meal he could want. At that point, Fonda decides to test the anti-venom on himself. In a very long and tense scene, we watch as Fonda suffers the pain of the venom and then injects himself with the experimental anti-venom. He dies when his vital signs go out of control, proving just how deadly the bees are. He does the test on himself because he correctly reasons that human volunteers for trials would be hard to find on short notice. Except, shouldn’t he have eaten a meal before carrying out this test? He injected himself at his most tired and hungry. No wonder he died.

  1. Richard Chamberlain Goes Boom

A brief thing but Chamberlain plays a scientist who is sent to a nuclear power plant to convince them to shut down and join the evacuation of the path to Houston. They hem and haw over it and the bees end up causing the plant’s destruction leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths (which are only related to the viewer on a news ticker). How much padding is in this movie when a nuclear explosion is a footnote?

  1. Lee Grant Action News

We briefly follow a reporter played by Lee Grant who has been assigned to the Flower Festival and ends up in the middle of a bigger story. She has very little impact on the story except as another body out dodging the swarm during the big Maryville attack. She also has a big scene where she interviews Caine but Caine refuses to comment and they move on. Another great waste of time.

  1. That’s a Big Bee

A small point but in two separate scenes we see a victim of the bees (the boy and Ross) hallucinate a giant bee while suffering. It is a very silly element as you see what looks like a bee the size of a Buick hovering in the air grooming itself. A lot of time is spent on these two scenes. I wonder if they would have been less silly if the victims instead hallucinated that the swarm had gotten into the hospital. That would have been terrifying.

Overall

My mother and I really enjoyed this movie even though it was very, very goofy. A lot of the acting was very good or at least better than it had any business being. I also want to note how ruthless this movie was. There are so many scenes where the bees kill a lot of people including little children. There are several times in the movie where it feels like they should have filmed more takes. For example, Caine is a great actor but sometimes when he was shouting he was unintelligible. Ross delivers a scream in one scene which ended up being comically bad (although really good lung strength). The script needed a bunch of revisions to tighten it up and the various plot threads should have been tidied up and made to actually tie together. However, I feel like that would have made the movie less enjoyable. It is a great B-Movie because it was so bonkers and I would not have typed this much if it was a tight, serious science fiction movie.

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