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Film: The Swarm

The Swarm is a 1978 disaster movie adapted from a novel by Arthur Herzog, directed by Irwin Allen.

Texas is besieged by swarms of mutated African killer bees, and the US army with the help of entymologist Dr. Brad Cane (Sir Michael Caine) seek a way to stop them.

This film has the examples of:

  • And Starring: "and Fred MacMurray as Clarence... and Henry Fonda"
  • Anyone Can Die: As with other Allen productions, anyone with screentime might drop off at any moment. The dead celebs by the end of the movie are Henry Fonda, Jose Ferrer, Richard Chamberlain (who also bites it in The Towering Inferno), Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Bradford Dillman, and Richard Widmark. Michael Caine and Katharine Ross are the only ones we know that lived for sure, at least as far as the movie goes. Slim Pickens, Lee Grant, and Patty Duke Astin's characters vanish at some point in the movie, and it's never mentioned if they lived or died.
  • Artistic Licence - Nuclear Physics: A horde of killer bees gets into a nuclear power plant. This somehow causes the plant to go critical and go up in a gigantic explosion within seconds. Without killing the bees.
    • Well one assumes it killed all the bees in the blast radius. But insects can survive a high roentgen count; any radiation strong enough to kill the bees would also kill us.
  • Awesome McCoolname: General Thalius Slater.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The bees are eventually killed by lighting an oil slick on fire, after numerous failed attempts. However, a power plant explosion caused by the bees has wiped out a town, toxic pesticides used on Houston will leave it unable to sustain crops for the next ten years (also not helped by the massive manmade burning), and thousands, maybe more, have died.
  • Broken Aesop: The military wants to use pesticides that would damage the environment, while Dr Crane keeps suggesting other methods. Unfortunately, the threat of the killer bees is so overdone (at one stage, they cause the explosion of a nuclear power plant) that this continuing refusal is hard to justify. Especially when his final successful method consists of pouring oil on the ocean and setting it on fire. Since when are burning oil slicks environmentally friendly?
  • The Cameo: About half of the cast is just there for a brief scene to keep the movie flowing.
    • Lee Grant appears as a reporter in search of good footage of the swarm who disappears without explanation.
    • Patty Duke is a pregnant café waitress who gives birth to her child and promptly disappears.
    • Slim Pickens is an angry country bumpkin who demands to see the body of his son.
    • And Jose Ferrer gets less than three minutes of screentime as a power plant manager, who is both introduced and swarmed by the bees, destroying his plant and wiping out an entire town in the explosion.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Caine as Dr. Crane does this whenever his character is required to get angry, especially when it's suggested by Gen. Slater to use a weapon that would hurt regular bees as well.
    No! No General!
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dr. Krim has hints of this.
    (after Crane leaves the missile silo's mortuary)
    Major Baker: I noticed Dr. Crane seemed uneasy in here.
    Dr. Krim: I can't imagine why anyone would be uneasy around all these dead men. Can you, Major?
  • Death by Adaptation: Dr. Krim
  • Destination Defenestration: When the train from Marysville is crashed by the bees, several passengers are shown flying through windows.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: There's a one scene where an ambulance crashed through a plate glass window, at which point it promptly exploded. Also a train overturns, and not just the engine, but the carriages explode.
  • Fire Breathing Weapon: When Houston is attacked by bees, soldier with flamethrowers are shown trying to fight them.
  • Hallucinations: People who survived being stung the by the bees are shown hallucinating about giant versions of them.
  • It's a Long Story: Dr. Crane handwaves the fact how he got into the complex in the first place with this.
    Dr. Bradford Crane: That's a complicated story. It begins a year ago. But let's skip that.
  • Kill It with Fire: Houston is eventually set on fire to kill the bees. When that fails, using noises that attract them near oil slicks on fire in the gulf of Mexico does the deed.
  • Large Ham: Michael Caine and Richard Widmark's teeth-gnashing arguments make up a good portion of the movie.
    • Henry Fonda's death scene also counts.
  • Love Triangle: One subplot involves two romantic rivals competing over a woman in the small town of Marysville. Not that it matters, as both die part-way through the film.
  • Made of Explodium: When the bees attack Houston they manage to break into a moving ambulance, which promptly collides with a storefront and then explodes like it was made of nitroglycerine.
  • Man on Fire: Several can be seen when the bees make it to Houston, and flamethrowers set everything on fire.
  • Molotov Cocktail: Paul and his friends try to burn the bees that killed his parents with these. They only manage to piss them off, and attack their hometown which leads to over 200 deaths.
  • Oh Crap:
    • Paul has this moment when his plan to firebomb the swarm fails and pisses them off.
    • Dr. Crane has one when the bees, sensing something amiss, ignore Dr. Hubbard's eco-friendly poison pellets.
    • A group one by Maj. Baker, Helena, Gen. Slater, and Dr. Crane when the bees prove immune to the pesticides dropped on Houston.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: Dr. Krim tries the antidote to the bee sting on himself after taking their poison. He fails, and dies like everyone else.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Dr. Crane. He repeatedly endangers countless lives because of his refusal to use pesticides to stop the swarm of all-destroying, non-native, bees. We're clearly supposed to agree with him.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Dr. Krim.
  • Slow Motion: Used on certain bee swarm attacks.
  • The Swarm: The bees travel in massive swarms.
  • Video Phone: Featured in the military complex where the main characters reside.
  • The Worm Guy: Dr. Crane. He's the world's foremost expert on killer bees, and lives out of his van as he drives across America. Despite this, every (sympathetic) character in the film has heard of him and respects his expertise, and when the President assigns him to dealing with the titular swarm and grants him unlimited in the process, his reaction to all of this is essentially a calm, "I knew this day would come".

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