The Swarm (1978)

PG | 116 mins | Drama | 14 July 1978

Director:

Irwin Allen

Producer:

Irwin Allen

Cinematographer:

Fred Koenekamp

Editor:

Harold F. Kress

Production Designer:

I. Stanford Jolley

Production Company:

Warner Bros., Inc.
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HISTORY

The following statements appear onscreen during the end credits: “We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the Department of Defense and the United States Air Force for their assistance in making this motion picture.” And: “The African killer bee portrayed in this film bears absolutely no relationship to the industrious, hardworking American honey bee [sic] to which we are indebted for pollinating vital crops that feed our nation.” And: "Filmed at The Burbank Studios, Burbank, California."
       In Arthur Herzog’s 1974 novel, the climax takes place in New York City, not Houston, TX, as in the movie, noted the 7 Jul 1978 NYT.
       The 28 May 1974 HR reported that Twentieth Century-Fox had purchased film rights to Herzog’s novel, The Swarm, and that screenwriter Stirling Silliphant would adapt the book for Irwin Allen Productions. Publishers Weekly noted on 25 Nov 1974 that the studio planned to release the film in 1976. One year later, however, the 30 Oct 1975 HR announced that The Swarm would be the first movie made under producer-director Irwin Allen’s new multiple-film deal at Warner Bros. Inc. David Z. Goodman would write the screenplay and the picture would shoot at Warner Bros. studios and on location in South America, Mexico, AK, Houston, TX, and Washington, D.C. In the 18 Dec 1977 LAT, Allen noted that he changed studios because “it was simply a time to move on, and Warner Bros., came along with an offer so dazzling that it couldn’t be turned down.”
       The 23 Apr 1976 HR stated that the film would ... More Less

The following statements appear onscreen during the end credits: “We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the Department of Defense and the United States Air Force for their assistance in making this motion picture.” And: “The African killer bee portrayed in this film bears absolutely no relationship to the industrious, hardworking American honey bee [sic] to which we are indebted for pollinating vital crops that feed our nation.” And: "Filmed at The Burbank Studios, Burbank, California."
       In Arthur Herzog’s 1974 novel, the climax takes place in New York City, not Houston, TX, as in the movie, noted the 7 Jul 1978 NYT.
       The 28 May 1974 HR reported that Twentieth Century-Fox had purchased film rights to Herzog’s novel, The Swarm, and that screenwriter Stirling Silliphant would adapt the book for Irwin Allen Productions. Publishers Weekly noted on 25 Nov 1974 that the studio planned to release the film in 1976. One year later, however, the 30 Oct 1975 HR announced that The Swarm would be the first movie made under producer-director Irwin Allen’s new multiple-film deal at Warner Bros. Inc. David Z. Goodman would write the screenplay and the picture would shoot at Warner Bros. studios and on location in South America, Mexico, AK, Houston, TX, and Washington, D.C. In the 18 Dec 1977 LAT, Allen noted that he changed studios because “it was simply a time to move on, and Warner Bros., came along with an offer so dazzling that it couldn’t be turned down.”
       The 23 Apr 1976 HR stated that the film would be released the following year and that Silliphant and Goodman had co-written the script. However, Goodman’s name does not appear in onscreen credits and Silliphant is credited as the sole screenwriter. Likewise, although the 23 Jun 1977 HR announced John Williams as the film’s composer-conductor, he is not credited as such onscreen.
       While the 23 Jun 1977 DV announced that principal photography was scheduled to start 10 Aug 1977, an Aug 1977 press release from Warner Bros. announced that production would begin 22 Aug 1977. A full-page advertisement in the 22 Aug 1977 Box confirmed that The Swarm started filming that day.
       While several sources, including DV and production notes in AMPAS library files, reported that location shooting would take place in Houston, the Los Angeles, CA, basin and Northern CA, the 20 Jul 1977 LAT specified additional sites, including the Southern CA cities of Lompoc, Newhall and Redlands.
       Accounts of the number of bees used during production ranged from as many as twenty-two million, reported by production notes and the 20 Jul 1977 LAT, to as few as fifteen million, according to the 18 Dec 1977 LAT, which further stated that 800,000 bees had their stingers removed so that the cast could safely interact with them. The only cast member reportedly stung was Olivia de Havilland. When the bees were not on set, they were housed in various Burbank, CA, locations and cared for by one hundred people whose duties included moving the insects nightly for foraging purposes, according to LAT and the 7 Jul 1978 NYT.
       Reports of the film’s budget also varied widely. While the 7 Nov 1975 DV announced that The Swarm was budgeted at over $8 million and the 23 Apr 1976 HR reported the movie would cost $5 million, production notes and the 23 Jun 1977 HR noted the picture would cost $10 million or more. The estimate climbed to $11 million, according to the 20 Jul 1977 LAT, and in a 21 Feb 1978 HR news item, Allen suggested the film would cost approximately $13 million. The 7 Jul 1978 NYT reported that the film cost $12 million.
       While the 4 Oct 1977 HR mentioned that The Swarm was scheduled to complete production 8 Nov 1977, and the 18 Dec 1977 LAT noted that principal photography took sixty-five days, the 1 Dec 1977 HR announced that filming had been completed that day and that the studio would release the picture 14 Jul 1978.
       The 10 Feb 1978 HR reported that Frank Van der Veer was responsible for the effects in The Swarm, but he is not listed in the onscreen credits.
       While the American Bee Association considered suing Allen for defaming the American honeybee, according to an article in the 21 Feb 1978 HR, it has not been determined whether such a lawsuit was ever filed.
       A news brief in the 24 Feb 1978 HR reported that the studio’s plan to open The Swarm in over 1,100 theaters would make it the widest opening in Warner Bros. history to date. The studio later increased its order, bringing the total number of ordered prints to 1228, according to the 30 Jun 1978 DV.
       The 22 May 1978 HR stated that studio executives responded so enthusiastically to a screening of the film that Allen spoke with Silliphant about writing a sequel. However, no sequel was ever made.
       The Swarm opened 14 Jul 1978 at the Bruin Theatre in Westwood, CA, and the Hollywood Pacific Theatre in Hollywood, CA, according to production notes. As reported by the 25 Nov 1978 LAT, the film subsequently grossed $11.5 million, an underperforming disappointment when compared to Allen’s previous successes The Poseidon Adventure (1972, see entry) and The Towering Inferno (1974, see entry).
       Paul Zastupnevich was nominated for a 1978 Academy Award for Costume Design. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
22 Aug 1977.
---
Daily Variety
7 Nov 1975.
---
Daily Variety
23 Apr 1976
p. 1, 21.
Daily Variety
23 Jun 1977.
---
Daily Variety
30 Jun 1978.
---
Daily Variety
14 Jul 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Apr 1976
p. 1, 21.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Oct 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jun 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Dec 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Feb 1978
p. 3, 16.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 May 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jun 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 1978
p. 5.
LAHExam
15 Jul 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Jul 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Dec 1977
p. 66-68.
Los Angeles Times
15 Jul 1978
p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
25 Nov 1978.
---
New York Times
7 Jul 1978.
---
New York Times
15 Jul 1978
p. 8.
New York Times
23 Jul 1978
Section D, p. 13, 20.
Publishers Weekly
25 Nov 1974.
---
Variety
19 Jul 1978
p. 20.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Irwin Allen's production of
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
2d asst dir
2d asst dir, trainee
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Video supv
Cam op
Asst cam
Still photog
Elec foreman
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Prod illustrator
Prod illustrator
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Prop master
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
SOUND
Prod mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod exec
Prod exec
Post prod supv
Exec asst to the prod
Casting
Scr supv
Cost controller
Dial coach
Prod secy
Loc mgr
Bee tech adv
Bee tech adv
Air Force coord
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
[Col by]
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Swarm by Arthur Herzog (New York, 1974).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
14 July 1978
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 14 July 1978
New York opening: week of 15 July 1978
Production Date:
22 August--1 December 1977 in CA and Houston, TX
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
22 February 1979
Copyright Number:
PA29561
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
116
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25257
SYNOPSIS

While investigating a mysterious attack at an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) site that seems to have killed everyone on the base, members of the U.S. Air Force encounter a civilian, entomologist Dr. Bradford “Brad” Crane, on the premises. Preparing to question Crane, General Thaddeus Slater learns of an unidentified mass traveling away from the base and sends two military helicopters to investigate. Both aircrafts are infested by bees, which overcome the pilots and send the helicopters crashing. Crane then explains that he noticed the swarm of bees hours earlier and followed it to the base. By the time he arrived, however, everyone was dead and the bees were gone. Certain that the bees killed the military personnel, Crane warns Slater that the bees are probably African killer bees and that more swarms will likely invade and kill more people if they fail to act soon. General Slater scoffs at Crane’s story and prepares to imprison him when they are interrupted by the arrival of the base’s physician, Captain Helena Anderson. She confirms that the base was attacked by a swarm of bees and that she saved some lives by getting herself and a few men into an airlock. On the outskirts of the neighboring town of Marysville, the Durant family is having a picnic when killer bees attack. The boy, Paul Durant, runs and locks himself safely in the car, then watches as the bees sting his parents to death. Panicked, Paul drives into town, despite his young age, and relates his story to the townspeople. On the base, Slater learns that Crane’s credentials are legitimate and that ... +


While investigating a mysterious attack at an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) site that seems to have killed everyone on the base, members of the U.S. Air Force encounter a civilian, entomologist Dr. Bradford “Brad” Crane, on the premises. Preparing to question Crane, General Thaddeus Slater learns of an unidentified mass traveling away from the base and sends two military helicopters to investigate. Both aircrafts are infested by bees, which overcome the pilots and send the helicopters crashing. Crane then explains that he noticed the swarm of bees hours earlier and followed it to the base. By the time he arrived, however, everyone was dead and the bees were gone. Certain that the bees killed the military personnel, Crane warns Slater that the bees are probably African killer bees and that more swarms will likely invade and kill more people if they fail to act soon. General Slater scoffs at Crane’s story and prepares to imprison him when they are interrupted by the arrival of the base’s physician, Captain Helena Anderson. She confirms that the base was attacked by a swarm of bees and that she saved some lives by getting herself and a few men into an airlock. On the outskirts of the neighboring town of Marysville, the Durant family is having a picnic when killer bees attack. The boy, Paul Durant, runs and locks himself safely in the car, then watches as the bees sting his parents to death. Panicked, Paul drives into town, despite his young age, and relates his story to the townspeople. On the base, Slater learns that Crane’s credentials are legitimate and that the President has given the scientist complete autonomy to lead an operation to eliminate the bees. Slater reluctantly yields command to Crane but privately instructs his aide, Major Baker, to spy on the scientist in order to prepare a dossier on him. When Helena learns of the attack on the Durants and goes to Marysville to tend to Paul, Crane accompanies her to further cement the growing attraction between them. In a hospital room, the boy hallucinates that he is seeing giant bees, but Crane calms him. After returning to the missile site, Crane listens to audiotape recorded earlier that day and discovers that military personnel were testing the base’s alarm system in the minutes before they died. Crane leaves to welcome colleagues he has summoned to help battle the bees as well as Marysville Mayor Clarence Tuttle, school superintendent Maureen Schuster and members of the press. Immunologist Dr. Walter Krim explains to the gathering that he has determined that stings from just four bees are enough to kill the average person. Crane adds that while Krim develops an antidote, Dr. Albert Hubbard will seek an environmental solution. Elsewhere, Paul sneaks out of the hospital, returns to the picnic site and throws homemade firebombs at the bees, which fly away. Meanwhile, Slater suggests to Crane that they spray the bees with pesticides, but Crane refuses, arguing that the poison will also kill the American honeybee and negatively impact food crops. Later, while searching for Paul, Crane and Helena notice the swarm of bees flying toward town. Upon arriving in Marysville, the couple warns the townspeople to take cover, then seeks shelter in the diner, but the insects come in through a broken window and Helena is stung. She imagines a giant bee before fainting, but later recovers. In the wake of the attack, which leaves over 200 people dead, Slater scoffs at the entomologist’s defensive approach, but Crane insists that they proceed cautiously until they know the exact nature of the threat. The two men compromise and agree to evacuate the town of Marysville. After the residents board a train out of town, however, the train engine is overrun with killer bees, causing the engineers to panic and run the train off the rails and down the side of a mountain. Only seventeen passengers survive the derailment. Slater again urges swift action, but Crane insists they continue with his plan to feed the bees the poison pellets that Hubbard developed, arguing it will cause the least environmental harm. Surveillance indicates that at their current rate, the bees will reach Houston, Texas, in three days. By deploying the pellets now, Crane hopes to forestall the bees’ arrival. Slater allows the use of military helicopters to seed the bees with the pellets, but the insects ignore the capsules. Elsewhere, Paul Durant gets sick again and dies as Helena watches helplessly. Later, when Helena chides Crane for not informing her that bee sting survivors can relapse and die, he points out that a small percentage of survivors do recover from relapses. As the bees continue on their flight path, Crane and Slater agree to evacuate all homes and businesses between Marysville and Houston. With the failure of the environmental approach, Crane’s last hope is Dr. Krim’s antitoxin. In the absence of any other human test subjects, Krim injects himself with bee venom, then tests the antidote on himself. Although it initially counteracts the effects of the venom, the medicine ultimately proves to be ineffective and Krim succumbs to the poison a few minutes later. Meanwhile, Hubbard tries to persuade the director of a nuclear plant in the swarm’s path to evacuate, but the man refuses to shut down operations, insisting that the plant is too crucial to local energy needs and there is nothing on the premises to attract the bees. Just then, killer bees infiltrate the plant, sting everyone within, and cause an explosion that kills over 36,000 people. After that tragedy, the President withdraws all of Crane’s powers and allows General Slater to take command of the operation. Meanwhile, surveillance shows that the bees will arrive in Houston within a day. Slater, Crane and Helena travel to Air Force headquarters in Houston to continue their fight. Slater approves gassing the bees with pesticide only to find that the insects have developed immunity to the poison. As a last resort, Slater orders men to use flamethrowers day and night to fight the bees from the ground. Inside the military complex, Crane listens to the sound of the bees and gets an idea just as Helena collapses from a relapse of her sting. Observing Crane praying over Helena in the hospital, Slater realizes Crane is trustworthy and orders Major Baker to stop preparing the dossier on him. When Slater acknowledges his men are fighting a losing battle against the killer bees, Crane informs the general there is one more experiment to try. While reviewing the audiotapes, Crane noticed that the missile base’s alarm mimics the tone emitted by the killer bees during their mating ritual. Attracted to the sound coming from the base, the bees attacked the people there when the alarm stopped. Crane can reproduce the vibration and lure the bees away from Houston. Slater gives the scientist permission to execute his plan, then joins his men in fending off the bees until the flames and the bees overwhelm them. Meanwhile, Crane and a revived Helena travel to nearby Dodge Airfield where helicopters drop speakers broadcasting the appropriate sound waves into the Gulf of Mexico. When the bees are drawn to the sound, the Air Force fires missiles in their midst. As they watch the killer bees burn, Helena asks Crane whether this victory is permanent or temporary. Crane admits it is too soon to tell but with luck, they will triumph against the bees. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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