Bug (1975)

PG | 100 mins | Horror | 18 June 1975

Director:

Jeannot Szwarc

Producer:

William Castle

Cinematographer:

Michel Hugo

Editor:

Allan Jacobs

Production Designer:

Jack Martin Smith

Production Company:

William Castle Productions
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HISTORY

Referring to the film by its working title, and the name of the 1973 Thomas Page novel upon which it was based, The Hephaestus Plague, a 1 Feb 1974 DV news item announced that William Castle was set to produce the project for Paramount Pictures Corp. At that time, Page had been hired to adapt his novel, and filming was planned for summer 1974. On 20 Jun 1974, DV reported that Jeannot Szwarc had been named director. A 31 Jul 1974 Var brief noted that principal photography was scheduled to begin 12 Aug 1974 in Riverside, CA, with the town’s mayor and former character actor, Ben H. Lewis, cast as the “Mayor.” According to a 20 Aug 1974 Var news item published during production, the mayor was on set performing his role; however, Lewis is not credited onscreen and the character does not appear in the film. Similarly, a 16 Aug 1974 HR brief, which stated that filming was underway at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), listed several actors “set for supporting roles” who do not receive onscreen credit, including Hugh Gillin, Tom Lacy, Edward Marshall , Patrick Downey, Michael Shack, John Pickard, Barbara Shannon, and Mark Taylor. Production notes in AMPAS library files reported that the film’s “principal cockroach actors” were grown by an entomologist at a UCR laboratory and trained specifically for their part in the picture. The Hephaestus Plague made its final appearance on HR production charts on 20 Sep 1974.
       Several months before the film’s 18 Jun 1975 Los Angeles, CA, opening, a ... More Less

Referring to the film by its working title, and the name of the 1973 Thomas Page novel upon which it was based, The Hephaestus Plague, a 1 Feb 1974 DV news item announced that William Castle was set to produce the project for Paramount Pictures Corp. At that time, Page had been hired to adapt his novel, and filming was planned for summer 1974. On 20 Jun 1974, DV reported that Jeannot Szwarc had been named director. A 31 Jul 1974 Var brief noted that principal photography was scheduled to begin 12 Aug 1974 in Riverside, CA, with the town’s mayor and former character actor, Ben H. Lewis, cast as the “Mayor.” According to a 20 Aug 1974 Var news item published during production, the mayor was on set performing his role; however, Lewis is not credited onscreen and the character does not appear in the film. Similarly, a 16 Aug 1974 HR brief, which stated that filming was underway at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), listed several actors “set for supporting roles” who do not receive onscreen credit, including Hugh Gillin, Tom Lacy, Edward Marshall , Patrick Downey, Michael Shack, John Pickard, Barbara Shannon, and Mark Taylor. Production notes in AMPAS library files reported that the film’s “principal cockroach actors” were grown by an entomologist at a UCR laboratory and trained specifically for their part in the picture. The Hephaestus Plague made its final appearance on HR production charts on 20 Sep 1974.
       Several months before the film’s 18 Jun 1975 Los Angeles, CA, opening, a 28 Apr 1975 Box brief noted that the title had been changed to The Bug and announced that the picture was the recipient of a Golden Unicorn Award at the fourth annual “International Paris Science-Fiction and Fantasy” festival.
       Released as Bug, the film received generally negative reviews. While the 11 Jun 1975 Var complained that the picture “suffocates itself to dullness,” the 18 Sep 1975 NYT declared it “a cruel picture,” devoid of a redemptive ending, and warned parents that its excessive violence should not have merited a PG-rating. However, the 18 Jun 1975 LAT reported that the film’s gimmick was “genuinely gruesome and sufficiently original” to make it satisfying to “less-demanding audiences,” and the 11 Jun 1975 HR hailed William Castle’s flair for marketing exploitation pictures. According to HR, certain theater seats were rigged with a mechanical apparatus that gave unknowing audience members the sensation of bugs crawling up their legs.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
28 Apr 1975.
---
Box Office
28 Jul 1975
p. 4797.
Daily Variety
1 Feb 1974.
---
Daily Variety
20 Jun 1974.
---
Daily Variety
29 Aug 1974.
---
Daily Variety
11 Jun 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Aug 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 1974
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Sep 1974
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 1975
p. 3.
LAHExam
20 Jun 1975
Section B, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jun 1975
Section IV, p. 12.
New York Times
18 Sep 1975
p. 50.
Variety
31 Jul 1974.
---
Variety
11 Jun 1975
p. 19.
Variety
20 Aug 1974.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
Insect seq
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Key grip
2d asst cam
Still photog
Best boy
Grip best boy
Crab dolly op
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Leadman
Const coord
Set des
Asst props
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Electronic mus
SOUND
Re-rec mixer
Prod mixer
Boom man
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prod
Asst to the prod
Casting
Scr supv
Craft services
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Transportation
Casting secy
Prod auditor
Unit pub
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Hephaestus Plague by Thomas Page (New York, 1973).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Hephaestus Plague
Release Date:
18 June 1975
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 18 June 1975
New York opening: 17 September 1975
Production Date:
late summer/fall 1974
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
18 April 1975
Copyright Number:
LP44712
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Movielab
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed with Panavision® Equipment
Duration(in mins):
100
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Scientist James Parmiter delivers his wife, Carrie, to a church sermon at a country parish, then drives to work at a local university. During a sermon about God’s “gentle caress,” a major earthquake strikes and nearly demolishes the chapel, but no one is killed. While the parishioners evacuate, Carrie grabs her Bible and calls James from a payphone, thereby missing her ride home with Henry Tacker and his son, Kenny. As the two men approach the Tacker farm, their pickup truck explodes in flames. Young Norma Tacker watches in horror as her father and brother burn. That night, Norma is retrieved from her vigil inside the burned truck by her boyfriend, Gerald Metbaum. Both are unaware that the vehicle is hosting killer cockroaches. Returning home, Norma retires while Gerald hears strange noises and surveys the property to discover large, incendiary cockroaches near a fault line created during the earthquake. A cat is killed when a cockroach combusts on its head. Sometime later, Gerald visits the biology class of his former professor, James Parmiter, who lectures that modern man has lost his innate ability to communicate with other living creatures. When the students leave, the two men eat lunch at the cafeteria and Gerald reports his entomological discovery at the Tacker farm, the earthquake’s epicenter. When James argues that fire-producing insects do not exist, Gerald shows him the dead cat. James goes to the farm and is astonished that the cockroaches are able to make fire by rubbing their legs together. He also observes one cockroach feeding on ashes. Soon, the town is besieged by fire and James ... +


Scientist James Parmiter delivers his wife, Carrie, to a church sermon at a country parish, then drives to work at a local university. During a sermon about God’s “gentle caress,” a major earthquake strikes and nearly demolishes the chapel, but no one is killed. While the parishioners evacuate, Carrie grabs her Bible and calls James from a payphone, thereby missing her ride home with Henry Tacker and his son, Kenny. As the two men approach the Tacker farm, their pickup truck explodes in flames. Young Norma Tacker watches in horror as her father and brother burn. That night, Norma is retrieved from her vigil inside the burned truck by her boyfriend, Gerald Metbaum. Both are unaware that the vehicle is hosting killer cockroaches. Returning home, Norma retires while Gerald hears strange noises and surveys the property to discover large, incendiary cockroaches near a fault line created during the earthquake. A cat is killed when a cockroach combusts on its head. Sometime later, Gerald visits the biology class of his former professor, James Parmiter, who lectures that modern man has lost his innate ability to communicate with other living creatures. When the students leave, the two men eat lunch at the cafeteria and Gerald reports his entomological discovery at the Tacker farm, the earthquake’s epicenter. When James argues that fire-producing insects do not exist, Gerald shows him the dead cat. James goes to the farm and is astonished that the cockroaches are able to make fire by rubbing their legs together. He also observes one cockroach feeding on ashes. Soon, the town is besieged by fire and James calls the mayor to warn him about the bugs, but the mayor is unavailable. Back at the university laboratory, James’s colleague, Mark Ross, examines a cockroach specimen and reports that the insects eat carbon and are indestructible. James wonders how the cockroaches travel from place to place, since they cannot fly. At the Parmiter home, Carrie prepares to leave for the Tacker funeral with Mark’s wife, Sylvia, and James returns in time to say goodbye. Alone in the house, James is visited by a handyman named Charlie, who reports strange noises coming from James’s car. James discovers cockroaches feasting on his engine and orders Charlie to leave. He then lures the insects into a trap with a freshly burned newspaper. Meanwhile, at the Tacker funeral, Carrie gives Norma and her surviving brother, Tom, a handkerchief that Henry gave her at the church just before the earthquake struck. When Norma, Tom, and Gerald return home to pack up the house, Norma answers the telephone and a cockroach, nesting in the receiver, attacks her ear. Gerald extracts the bug with a burned newspaper and Norma is sent to the hospital. Meanwhile, James drives to the farm, which is now smoking from the fires triggered by the cockroaches. He impales one of the insects, causing it to explode. Excited by his discovery, James phones Mark and they meet at the laboratory. James explains that the bugs are slow-moving because of atmospheric pressure, and they are suffering from decompression sickness. Before the earthquake, the cockroaches lived entirely underground in a dense atmosphere, but now they are struggling to stay alive. James suspects the insects are ancient creatures trapped underneath the Earth’s surface during a prehistoric volcanic eruption. When Mark adds that the cockroaches cannot reproduce and that they will soon self-destruct in the Earth’s atmosphere, James is despondent. Sometime later, James asks Gerald to build a large pressure tank. Gerald hopes that James’s experiments will help Norma recover from the cockroach attack and agrees. Back at the Parmiter home, Carrie discovers a surprise birthday cake that Sylvia hid in the garage. She brings it inside, unaware that a cockroach is clinging to the box. The insect attaches itself to Carrie’s shirt, then sets her hair on fire, causing the woman to ignite. Later, Mark arrives at the laboratory to find James paralyzed with grief. Seeking to make sense of the tragedy, James returns to the Tacker farm and sees the burned shells of deceased cockroaches. He captures the sole surviving insect and places it in Gerald’s newly crafted pressure tank, muttering, “I will make you live.” He then introduces an average household cockroach into the tank and the two bugs copulate. Sometime later, Gerald and Norma return to the Tacker home, but he refuses them entry. James is angered to learn that the location of his hideout has been leaked to Mark. The couple leave food for James, then drive away. Days pass and the cockroach mating is successful. However, the female “fire bug” guards her egg case and James is unable to perform experiments. In several more days, the egg case increases in size and James transfers it out of the pressure case and into a box. There, the egg hatches numerous infants that grow to adult cockroaches within five hours. When James reintroduces the mother cockroach to her offspring, they kill her and James sobs. Soon, cockroaches escape from their box and feast on James’s uncooked steak; he discovers that they only consume raw meat and eat collaboratively, as a “single unit.” That night, James awakens to find cockroaches sucking blood from his chest and secures them in the pressure tank. In the coming days, he suspects that the cockroaches listen to his voice and watch him, as well as form symbolic patterns with their bodies to communicate messages. Late one night, he discovers that the insects have escaped the tank to form the letters of his last name on the wall, along with the message: “We live.” Terrified, James realizes the bugs have great powers and runs from the house to get them more food. Meanwhile, Sylvia takes a taxi to the Tacker home, intending to give James the Bible that Carrie held so dear. She screams upon finding the house infested with cockroaches and a cassette tape of James’s voice, repeating: “I’ve gone too far.” As the insects burn her face, Sylvia runs outside and dies in the barn. Feasting on their kill, the bugs procreate and climb into the fault line. When James returns, he discovers the insects missing. Mark arrives, looking for Sylvia, and notices that James has become unhinged. Although James orders his colleague to leave, he promises to return to the university in a few days. With Mark gone, James is horrified when he disovers Sylvia’s body. He grabs the Bible and tries to phone the authorities, but the line has been severed by the cockroaches. Hearing the insects, James wanders outside to see a bright red light emanating from the fault as giant cockroaches, now equipped with wings, fly away. Although James tries to escape into the house, the creatures smash through the window in pursuit. As James tumbles out of the front door in flames, he falls into the fault and the cockroaches follow. The fissure closes, trapping the cockroaches underneath the Earth’s surface yet again. +

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

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