The Swarm

Director: Irwin Allen
Screenwriter: Stirling Silliphant
Starring: Michael Caine, Katharine Ross, Richard Chamberlain, Fred MacMurray, Henry Fonda, Olivia De Havilland
Release details: Warner Bros, USA 1978, 149mins
Full details: IMDb
Genre: Killer bee disaster flick
Rating: 6 out of 10

There's something about distance which allows you to view a film differently. Pilloried in 1978, time has been kind to The Swarm. Now it doesn't seem out of place in the pantheon on 1970s blockbuster disaster movies. of which producer/director Irwin was the undisputed king. But, in the minor sub-genre of killer bee movies (of which there are too many), The Swarm stands head and shoulders above the others, like a mighty Colossus.

Okay, that's taking things too far, but it's almost refreshingly camp and at least it covers all the disaster movie bases: all star cast, several seemingly unrelated sub-plots, potential human calamity. It has unintentionally melodramatic and laughable dialogue: "I never dreamed that it would turn turn out to be the bees; they've always been our friend," wails respected and clearly deluded entymologist, Dr Brad Crane (Caine). And it has the obligatory mad scheme to save the planet, which is something to do with the mating call of bees, I think - I wasn't really paying attention by that point. And the officials - in this case, the US government and military (will they never learn?) - make all the early mistakes which lead to the situation getting out of hand.

But, at the end of the day, it actually does make you care about the characters. You want Caine and Ross to make it through okay. You want Richard Chamberlain to bite it (just as you did in The Towering Inferno). You want elderly sweethearts MacMurray and De Havilland to get together.

And that's about all you can ask of a film where killer African bees bring a state of almost nuclear winter to Texas.


The all-star cast were insured for the sum total of $70m against death by bee sting. In the end, there was no need to worry, as the bees were reasonably docile.


The Irwin Allen News Network has all you'll ever need to know about the "Master of Disaster".

Richard Chamberlain dabbles in painting and you can buy his artwork through his official site, but for information on the man and his work, we recommend the comprehensive Richard Chamberlain Online.