THE SWARM REVIEWED
The Swarm is why I will always respect Irwin Allen. Now, I know it’s not a popular opinion. Every single vintage and modern texts on film will tell you to hate the Master of Disaster Pictures. What they don’t do is explain his rise to power through RKO and Allied Artists. Hell, I feel like no one even brings up his pioneering work in early genre TV shows when he worked on the FOX lot. Everyone just remembers the movies and how they were played non-stop for 20 years on cable.
A film about killer bees in the 1970s worked like a flick about swine flu and gas shortages. Nobody needed to see the pillars of the Nightly News weaponized against them. Yet, we wanted a summer movie that played with mainstream dramatic actors and played them against killer bees. Mind you that this was coming on the hills of the popular SNL sketch. Honestly, I don’t think any studio would greenlight such a zeitgeist mismatch anymore.
Cut to 10-15 years later and the USA Network airs this film as its morning feature once a week. A younger Anderson watches the alternating theatrical and longer cuts as the months pass and he grows to love it. What was there for a kid in the early 90s to love? Most of the actors were dead or didn’t get enough screen time. Plus, Michael Caine at the time was the star of the worst Jaws movie. Why would a 10-12 year old care about this schlock?
The answer is the Henry Fonda scientist scenes. Watching a chunk of the film stop dead for an older actor to experiment on himself was amazing. What made it cooler was that they let his cure mess up and kill him onscreen. The other movie geeks remember the girl hallucinating about the killer bee over the hospital bed. But, Henry Fonda just screwing up America’s chances to be saved is comedy gold.
If you’ve never seen this film, I can’t quite tell you if you’ll enjoy it. However, I say to appreciate the awkwardness of the material. This is when one era of Hollywood died and started to give birth to the modern blockbuster. Watch as an aging WB didn’t quite how to compete in the summer after Star Wars.
- Behind-the-Scenes documentary