2022 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 6: The Swarm (1978)

DAY 6. BEE AFRAID, BEE VERY AFRAID: Buzz through a bee picture, there’s a whole swarm to choose from.

Based on Arthur Herzog’s novel, this is from a time when our greatest fear was bees. Killer bees. So many bees that there was movie after movie reminding young me that I was going to be killed by bees. It was not a fun time to be a neurotic child.

Dr. Bradford Crane (Michael Caine) is our only defense from the black mass that is formed by tons of enraged African bees. He has help from the military, which doesn’t believe the danger posed by bees, and another scientist, Helena Anderson (Katherine Ross). The bees that have taken over the military base have spread to a small town in the middle of a summer festival, which means that the bees are about to sting everyone to death.

This is the kind of movie where bees swarm into a nuclear reaction and wipe out an entire town, including scientists Dr. Hubbard (Richard Chamberlain) and Dr. Andrews (Jose Ferrer). Where Dr. Walter Krim (Henry Fonda) injects anti-bee serum into his bloodstream and instantly dies. A place that has Lee Grant, Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson (also in The Savage Bees), Patty Duke, Slim Pickins, Bradford Dillman, Fred McMurray and yes, Cameron Mitchell all up against those little stingers.

There were approximately 22 million bees in this movie, 800,000 of them surgically altered to not be able to sting. There was so much talent making this, like Jerry Goldsmith scoring (the score uses the notes B-E-E), Sterling Silliphant scripting (how does one man go from In the Heat of the Night to Village of the DamnedThe Towering Inferno to Over the Top?) and disaster king Irwin Allen directing. All for a really dumb and kinda way too long movie about bees. This was such a disaster at the box office that it ended disaster movies. But let me tell you that six-year-old me couldn’t even watch the trailers for this, as I was convinced that the bees would fly out of the TV and murder me.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to Craig Edwards for reminding me this was Irwin Allen and not Bert I. Gordon.

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