Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Ultimate B-Movie

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Helicopter Pilot #2: Oh, my God! Bees! Bees! Millions of Bees!

The Swarm is an Irwin Allen spectacular. Africanized bees run amok, brought to you by the guy responsible for The Poseidon Adventure and Towering Inferno. So you know what that means: a busload of old movie and tv stars in peril. The cast includes: Michael Caine, Jose Ferer, Katherine Ross, Henry Fonda, Richard Chamberlain, Olivia DeHaviland, Patty Duke and Slim Pickens.

The Swarm is a B-movie that presents itself as A-list drama, playing out Allen's favorite movie theme: man vs. disaster while we meet lots of secondary characters and follow their subplots. Think of him as Robert Altman's schlocky step-cousin.

Thankfully, the menace we face is not giant-sized. Though the giant-critter run amok genre is fun, considering the limited production values and technologies at hand, there's more of a "you've gotta be kidding me factor" at work in those movies. Their failures are obvious in their execution. The Swarm gets it sort of right. Take something a little scary (after all the Africanized bee angle was worked and is still brought out in the tabloids and the legitimate news), tweak it just a little (these bees have stronger mouths and can sting more than once before dying), and just go balls out. Where The Swarm goes off the tracks is the dialogue.

Brad Crane (Michael Caine): We've been fighting a losing battle against the insects for fifteen years, but I never thought I'd see the final face-off in my lifetime. And I never dreamed, that it would turn out to be the bees. They've always been our friend.

Brad Crane: These bees, General, are of joint concern, and they are killing Americans, without reference as to whether or not they have a serial number and are expected to salute YOU! So there will be no air drops of any kind until I give the OK!
General Slater (Richard Widmark): You're OK, huh? Then just possible I can persuade you to attack this particular swarm, now that we know where it is! Attack and eliminate it!
Brad Crane: Possibly, if you can explain to me, how you air drop chemicals, without killing the native insect life! If your chemical will kill the African bee, it will also kill the American bee, right?
General Slater: Right! And better a few American bees than a lot of AMERICAN PEOPLE!
Brad Crane: That is the point, general! The honey bee is vital to the environment! Every year in america, they pollinate six billion dollars worth of crops! If you kill the bee, you're gonna kill the crop! If you kill the plants, you'll kill the people! No! No, general! There will be no air drop, until we know exactly, what we are dropping, and where, and how! Excuse me!

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Brad Crane: [while the giant bee is hovering next to him] There's no bee here. I promise you, there's no bee here.

More examples of the it's so bad it's goodness here.

OK so here's the quick (considering the movie runs about 2.5 hours depending on the version you see) breakdown. Africanized bees come over the border into Texas, invading a nuclear base (underground!) and killing everyone. Now let's just stop a minute and consider this...Africanized bees, coming into America from Mexico... no, never mind, let's move on. It gets worse from there. A family's picnic is ruined. People die. Old people are in a love triangle. Patty Duke doesn't do much. Houston is in flames. They lure the bees to an oil slick in the ocean using "sonics" (portable radios in little rafts dropped into the water). Once the swarm has been drawn to the oil slick missiles are launched setting the whole mess aflame. Finis.

Irwin Allen was noted as the "Master of Disaster." This film was a disaster. It was one of the final nails in his movie career. He pretty much stuck to television stuff for the rest of his life after When Time Ran Out also tanked.

Haiku Synopsis

The Swarm
Awful, awful film.
Urge friends to watch? They'll hate you.
Michael Caine is sexy?

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