A few words about…™ The Swarm — in Blu-ray

4 Stars

The late 1970s was an interesting time for major stars of the 1930s and beyond, as while they were all still fine actors, they were no longer considered lead attractions.

And so was born the star-studded natural disaster thriller.

Irwin Allen may have done it better than anyone.

Think Poseidon Adventure or Towering Inferno.

In The Swarm, probably the biggest bee epic ever to grace the silver sheet, we have:

Michael Caine
Richard Chamberlain
Olivia de Havilland
Bradford Dillman
Patty Duke
Jose Ferrer
Henry Fonda
Lee Grant
Fred MacMurray
Cameron Mitchell
Katharine Ross
Richard Widmark

and

Ben Johnson

Warner Archive is presenting The Swarm, along with a promo documentary, and as always, the quality is precisely where fans would like it to be.

No more need be said.

A treat for genre fans!

Image – 5

Audio – 5 (2-track stereo)

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD – Absolutely

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

31 Comments

  1. With Looker already in my possession and this and Exorcist II coming soon I’ll not be judging anyone on their taste in the coming weeks. Happy to hear the good “buzz,” just sort of wishing that this also had the long-missing theatrical cut (and that Jerry Goldsmith’s outstanding score, its one inarguable quality element, would be revived on CD or digital).

  2. Robert Harris

    The late 1970s was an interesting time for major stars of the 1930s and beyond, as while they were all still fine actors, they were no longer considered lead attractions.

    And so was born the star-studded natural disaster thriller.

    Irwin Allen may have done it better than anyone.

    Think Poseidon Adventure or Towering Inferno.

    In The Swarm, probably the biggest bee epic ever to grace the silver sheet, we have:

    Michael Caine
    Richard Chamberlain
    Olivia de Havilland
    Bradford Dillman
    Patty Duke
    Jose Ferrer
    Henry Fonda
    Lee Grant
    Fred MacMurray
    Cameron Mitchell
    Katharine Ross
    Richard Widmark

    and

    Ben Johnson

    Warner Archive is presenting The Swarm, along with a promo documentary, and as always, the quality is precisely where fans would like it to be.

    No more need be said.

    A treat for genre fans!

    Image – 5

    Audio – 5 (2-track stereo)

    Pass / Fail – Pass

    Upgrade from DVD – Absolutely

    RAH

    And….Slim Pickens, one of my favs

  3. I made a (very) crude edit from the 156-min. laser disc in order to try to make a watchable movie out of this. Took me forever. I had a Super-VHS recorder with flying erase head, and a pre-prepared script to indicate at what minute and second the edits needed to begin and end, but if I screwed up an edit, I might have to go back several previous edits and redo everything forward. I am a good editor with smaller-gauge film (8 & 16mm), but this was a bitch…an early (for me) edit from video to video. Took me a full day and night, and the results were okay, but often pretty sloppy. I think that, with this Blu-ray and some professional editing software I could probably do it pretty well, eliminating entire stupid characters like those of Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson and Fred MacMurray, and to whatever extent possible, Richard Widmark.

    But Widmark's part as Major Baker was the most difficult to cut down. I wanted to take out the entire military focus of the movie and try to re-establish the more scientific bent of the Arthur Herzog novel (which is excellent, by the way, and still in print). But when the main title and credits actually run over Widmark's soldiers storming a missile base (which figured not at all in the book).

    In any case, the result was a movie that runs 96 minutes, a full 20 minutes less than the running time of the shorter theatrical version.

    I hate this film as it was released, but I keep thinking a skilled editor with the right equipment and a lot of spare time could make a sort-of decent disaster film of it.

  4. Understanding, of course, that The Swarm has its cult following, it's also a fairly terrible film with over-the-top performances from de Havilland and Ross and a few truly silly outbursts from Caine. Production values are not where they ought to 'bee' and frankly, the SFX are lousy. This is cheese plus with a side order of camp and I cannot imagine it having such a wide audience as to warrant a Blu release ahead of so many other valiant contenders in the WAC back catalog. Having sampled disc quality I'll concur, it looks fabulous, in so far as it goes. But what a waste of remastering dollars!

  5. Nick*Z

    Understanding, of course, that The Swarm has its cult following, it's also a fairly terrible film with over-the-top performances from de Havilland and Ross and a few truly silly outbursts from Caine. Production values are not where they ought to 'bee' and frankly, the SFX are lousy. This is cheese plus with a side order of camp and I cannot imagine it having such a wide audience as to warrant a Blu release ahead of so many other valiant contenders in the WAC back catalog. Having sampled disc quality I'll concur, it looks fabulous, in so far as it goes. But what a waste of remastering dollars!

    Yet you sampled the disc quality so you must have bought it, is that a waste of your dollars?:D

  6. Robert Crawford

    Yet you sampled the disc quality so you must have bought it, is that a waste of your dollars?:D

    It can be rented from 3D Rental.

    I suppose the movie could now be relegated to the "So-bad-it's-good" category, many of which are dear to my heart and which I re-watch regularly. But most of those films I love and re-watch were made on shoe string budgets (GREEN SLIME, QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE, PLAN 9, etc.) and this massive thing is a freaking epic, costing a fortune, resulting in even less entertainment value than the cheap stuff.

    Having read the Herzog novel before seeing this back in the day, I was truly angry with producer Allen and screenwriter Silliphant for having drained the book of almost all its real scientific interest in deference to its blithely vacuous military bullshit. Silliphant (and even Allen) have done far better. And the casting did not work because the film is so poorly scripted and directed. Special effects are anything but that…many of the scenes that show bees pouring into the frame look more like Puffed Wheat being blown in from an offscreen cannon. I do not recommend this to anyone who hasn't seen the film and is on the fence about purchasing it.

    Rent it from 3D Rental first. Better (i.e. cheaper) yet, find it on YouTube Movies for $2.99:

  7. Nick*Z

    Understanding, of course, that The Swarm has its cult following, it's also a fairly terrible film with over-the-top performances from de Havilland and Ross and a few truly silly outbursts from Caine. Production values are not where they ought to 'bee' and frankly, the SFX are lousy. This is cheese plus with a side order of camp and I cannot imagine it having such a wide audience as to warrant a Blu release ahead of so many other valiant contenders in the WAC back catalog. Having sampled disc quality I'll concur, it looks fabulous, in so far as it goes. But what a waste of remastering dollars!

    Interesting. Did you receive a pre-release copy? This title has a release date of 9.25 which is tomorrow.

  8. Robert Crawford

    Yet you sampled the disc quality so you must have bought it, is that a waste of your dollars?:D

    Dear Robert:

    As you may know, I write for several blogs including my own. Through a friend who runs a website here in Canada and gets pre-screeners I am invited to his fabulous projector set-up to partake. I love Irwin Allen. What's not to love about Time Tunnel, Towering Inferno, Lost in Space, The Poseidon Adventure?!?! Fabulous showman. Swarm is not his finest effort…not by a long shot. PS – this one didn't cost me a dime. Alas, it's still 2 1/2 hours of my life that I can never get back. Aaaahhhhhh!

  9. Nick*Z

    Dear Robert:

    As you may know, I write for several blogs including my own. Through a friend who runs a website here in Canada and gets pre-screeners I am invited to his fabulous projector set-up to partake. I love Irwin Allen. What's not to love about Time Tunnel, Towering Inferno, Lost in Space, The Poseidon Adventure?!?! Fabulous showman. Swarm is not his finest effort…not by a long shot. PS – this one didn't cost me a dime.

    Actually, I didn't know and I'm unaware of any those blogs including yours.

  10. Nick*Z

    No worries. Everybody's tastes vary. I just did not like The Swarm for all of the reasons already discussed. Opinions will vary. That's what makes this forum so interesting. Best.

    TBH, I never liked the film either and I won't be buying this disc, but to each his own.

  11. Dick

    I made a (very) crude edit from the 156-min. laser disc in order to try to make a watchable movie out of this. Took me forever. I had a Super-VHS recorder with flying erase head, and a pre-prepared script to indicate at what minute and second the edits needed to begin and end, but if I screwed up an edit, I might have to go back several previous edits and redo everything forward. I am a good editor with smaller-gauge film (8 & 16mm), but this was a bitch…an early (for me) edit from video to video. Took me a full day and night, and the results were okay, but often pretty sloppy. I think that, with this Blu-ray and some professional editing software I could probably do it pretty well, eliminating entire stupid characters like those of Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson and Fred MacMurray, and to whatever extent possible, Richard Widmark.

    But Widmark's part as Major Baker was the most difficult to cut down. I wanted to take out the entire military focus of the movie and try to re-establish the more scientific bent of the Arthur Herzog novel (which is excellent, by the way, and still in print). But when the main title and credits actually run over Widmark's soldiers storming a missile base (which figured not at all in the book).

    In any case, the result was a movie that runs 96 minutes, a full 20 minutes less than the running time of the shorter theatrical version.

    I hate this film as it was released, but I keep thinking a skilled editor with the right equipment and a lot of spare time could make a sort-of decent disaster film of it.

    I cannot help thinking that in this 156min. schmozzle there is, in fact, a 90 min. tense sci-fi thriller a la 'Them!' lurking about. Still, nothing can help the SFX and slapped together matte process work.

  12. Nick*Z

    Production values are not where they ought to 'bee' and frankly, the SFX are lousy.

    I'll never forget a review I read in 1978 that said the movie's special effects wouldn't fool a myopic five-year-old.

  13. So this is definitely the longer version? I love this movie. It’s so damned awful, but the long version is hilarious. My favorite “drunken movie night” pick with my friends.

  14. Dick said:

    But Widmark’s part as Major Baker was the most difficult to cut down. I wanted to take out the entire military focus of the movie and try to re-establish the more scientific bent of the Arthur Herzog novel (which is excellent, by the way, and still in print). But when the main title and credits actually run over Widmark’s soldiers storming a missile base (which figured not at all in the book).

    Then my favorite line of dialogue would be missing:

    General Slater: Houston on fire. Will history blame me, or the bees?

  15. Your comments / warnings made me want to finally see this turkey after avoiding it since the original theatrical release. Watched it tonight and it delivered exactly what I expected. The sound impressed me at times, but it also revealed one thing – surely this film holds the all-time record for post-dubbed footsteps.

  16. MDS

    Dick said:

    But Widmark's part as Major Baker was the most difficult to cut down. I wanted to take out the entire military focus of the movie and try to re-establish the more scientific bent of the Arthur Herzog novel (which is excellent, by the way, and still in print). But when the main title and credits actually run over Widmark's soldiers storming a missile base (which figured not at all in the book).

    Then my favorite line of dialogue would be missing:

    General Slater: Houston on fire. Will history blame me, or the bees?

    True…that was a great terrible line, another one of many from the endlessly awful Sterling Silly-phant (who used to be so good).

  17. Lord Dalek

    JFTR this is true stereo right? The Tooze creature says its mono.

    Watching it right now: it's true stereo.

    Did the theatrical release have a surround mix? The DVD was Dolby Surround so I'm surprised the Blu-ray is stereo only…

  18. On the school playground when I was a lad, we lived with the absolute metaphysical certainty that "killer bees" were on their way from somewhere to Our Town. It was considered our destiny to meet a fate like that shown on the Swarm.

    They also told us the oil would run out soon and also there was not enough paper.

  19. Colin Jacobson

    Watching it right now: it's true stereo.

    Did the theatrical release have a surround mix? The DVD was Dolby Surround so I'm surprised the Blu-ray is stereo only…

    Doesn't say it was Dolby Stereo anywhere. Might have been 4-track.

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