This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "The Swarm" 1978 film – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (September 2012) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
The Swarm
The Swarm.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byIrwin Allen
Screenplay byStirling Silliphant
Based onThe Swarm
1974 novel
by Arthur Herzog
Produced byIrwin Allen
CinematographyFred J. Koenekamp
Edited byHarold F. Kress
Music byJerry Goldsmith
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • July 14, 1978 (1978-07-14)
Running time
116 minutes (1978 Theatrical Cut)
156 minutes (1992 Laserdisc Release)
CountryUnited States
Budget$11.5 million[1] or $21 million[2]
Box office$7.7 million (US and Canada rentals)[3]

The Swarm is a 1978 American natural horror film directed and produced by Irwin Allen, and based on Arthur Herzog's 1974 novel. It stars an ensemble cast, including Michael Caine, Katharine Ross, Richard Widmark, Richard Chamberlain, Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson, Lee Grant, José Ferrer, Patty Duke, Slim Pickens, Bradford Dillman, Henry Fonda and Fred MacMurray in his final film role. It follows a scientist and a group of soldiers preventing a Texas-sized swarm of killer bees from invading the city. The film received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics and was a box-office bomb. It has been considered to be one of the worst films ever made.[4] Despite this, Paul Zastupnevich was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design.


A group of soldiers, led by Major Baker, investigate a basement-level station and believed it was attacked. After Baker contacts his commander, General Slater, they continue investigating who drove a civilian van into the base. It is revealed to be owned by a scientist named Dr. Bradford Crane, who arrived after the attack. Slater orders two helicopters to check for a black mass which turns out to be bees, but the helicopters are destroyed by the bees. Crane insists to Slater that the base was attacked by the same African killer bees that destroyed the helicopters. Helena Anderson, one of the base's doctors, supports Crane's story.

Meanwhile, in the countryside, the Durant family is attacked by a swarm of the bees. The mother and father die from the bee stings, but Paul, their son, escapes in a Mustang. Although he is stung, Paul manages to make it into town and crashes into the Marysville town square, where the citizens are preparing for the annual flower festival. The boy is brought into the hands of military personnel, where he hallucinates a vision of giant bees attacking him, due to the aftereffects of the bee sting. Wheelchair-bound Dr. Walter Krim confirms to Crane that the very war they have feared for a long time has started against the bees. At the gates of the base, Slater confronts angry county engineer Jed Hawkins, who demands to see the dead body of his son, who was killed by the bees. Hawkins takes the body bag and departs, leaving the entire watching crowd silent over the loss. Slater suggests airdropping poison on the swarm, but Crane considers the ecological possibilities of the situation.

Recovering from his earlier bee attack, Paul and his friends search for the hive to firebomb it in revenge for his family, which results only in angering the bees, who make their way to Marysville and kill hundreds, including some children at the local school. Crane and Helena take shelter at the local diner, with pregnant café waitress Rita. Reporter Anne McGregor watches from the safety of her news van, hoping to get some exciting footage about the siege. After this most recent attack, Slater suggests evacuating many of the townsfolk in a train. However, the bees arrive at the train, killing several evacuees, including a love triangle made up of schoolteacher Maureen Scheuster, retiree Felix Austin, and town mayor and drug store owner Clarence Tuttle.

Rita tries to board the ill-fated train but is saved at the last minute by going into labor and is confined to the hospital. She gives birth to her child while falling in love with the doctor in the process; but Paul suffers a relapse from the effects of being stung earlier and later dies, devastating Helena and sending her into a rage about why the children have to die. The savage swarm heads for Houston, and Crane decides to drop eco-friendly poison pellets on them, hoping that the swarm senses will harm them and stay away from the city. Unfortunately, the plan fails. Dr. Krim self-injects an experimental bee venom antidote, planning to track the results, but the trial proves fatal and he dies. Meanwhile, nuclear power plant manager Dr. Andrews is convinced that his plant can withstand the attacks of the bees, ignoring the warnings of Dr. Hubbard. However, at that moment, the alarm sounds, and the bees invade the plant, killing Andrews and Hubbard, destroying the plant, and wiping out an entire town.

Meanwhile, in downtown Houston, Crane analyzes tapes from the bee invasion and comes to the conclusion that their alarm system attracted the swarm into the base. The bees invade once more, resulting in the deaths of Major Baker and Dr. Newman, one of Crane's associates. Slater sacrifices himself to save Crane and Helena from the bees. Helicopters lure the bees out to sea, where they douse the water with oil and set the swarm ablaze. Helena wonders if their victory was just temporary. Crane responds that he does not know, but decides that "if we use our time wisely, the world just might survive."



The film was announced in 1974 at the height of the disaster-movie craze. It was part of $38 million worth of projects Allen had lined up, others including The Day the World Ended (a project which was retitled and released in 1980 as When Time Ran Out....) [5] The script was written by Stirling Silliphant, who had written The Towering Inferno for Allen. He said in December 1974 that Allen hoped to start filming in April 1975.[6] Production was delayed in part because Allen decided to leave Fox for Warner Bros.[7] Estimates of the numbers of bees used in the production ranged between 15 million and 22 million, including 800,000 bees with their stingers removed to enable the cast to work safely with them. About 100 people were employed in the production to care for and transport the bees during the film shoot. Olivia de Havilland was stung by a bee while filming.


The film received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics, It has a score of 9% on Rotten Tomatoes based on twenty-three reviews, with an average rating of 3.9/10.[8] It was one of two disaster films (the other being Beyond the Poseidon Adventure) directed solely by the "master of disaster" Allen, who had experience directing several films and many episodes of his TV shows - and both featured Michael Caine in the leading role. The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John J.B. Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made, where Wilson states that under Allen's unsubtle direction, "despite the enormous production budget, The Swarm turned the tale of an invasion of killer bees into the ultimate B movie."[9]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film "nothing less than the ultimate apotheosis of yesterday's B-movie." Comparing the film unfavorably to recent blockbusters such as Star Wars and Grease, which also evoked old B-movies, he wrote, "Allen merely reproduces a tacky genre while spending a great deal of money doing it. There's not a frame of film, not a twist of plot, not a line of dialogue, not a performance in The Swarm that suggests real appreciation for film history, only a slavish desire to imitate it. That's not enough."[10] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 1.5 out of 4 stars and wrote that it was "surprisingly flaccid in its thrills", explaining: "In these days of Star Wars (which was made for less money), it takes more than a fleet of helicopters and a flameout on the Gulf of Mexico to convince audiences that they are being dazzled."[11] Arthur D. Murphy of Variety called it a "disappointing and tired non-thriller. Killer bees periodically interrupt the arch writing, stilted direction and ludicrous acting."[12]

Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the film was "fun in its primitive way", adding that "one wishes it were silent, as were the DeMille epics of the '20s it so closely resembles."[13] Tom Zito of The Washington Post wrote, "While subtlety has never been a strong theme in Allen's films, The Swarm does manage to turn the industrious little honeybee into a menace so seemingly convincing that America may go bee-crazy this summer."[14] Richard Velt in the Wilmington Morning Star stated "The Swarm may not be the worst movie ever made. I'd have to see them all to be sure. It's certainly as bad as any I've seen." Velt also stated "All the actors involved in this fiasco should be ashamed".[15] James Baker of Newsweek declared, "It may be early, but it's probably safe to nominate The Swarm for the worst movie of the year."[16]

The Sunday Times described The Swarm as "simply the worst film ever made",[17] while Time Out magazine called The Swarm a "risibly inadequate disaster movie".[18] Leslie Halliwell called The Swarm a "very obvious disaster movie with risible dialogue", and suggested its commercial failure was partly due to the fact that prior to its release, several American television movies with similar plots had been broadcast.[4] TV Guide said- 'The Swarm is a B movie in every sense of the term. Somehow disaster-movie king Allen convinced top Hollywood stars (including five Oscar winners) to appear in this nonsense'.[19]

Box office

The film grossed $5,168,142 in its opening weekend[20] from more than 1,200 theatres[12] and earned Warner Bros. rentals in the United States and Canada of $7.7 million.[3] It was considered a commercial failure.[4]


The Swarm
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJuly 1978
Recorded1978 (The Burbank Studios)
GenreFilm score
LabelWarner Bros.
ProducerJerry Goldsmith

The musical score was composed by Academy Award winner Jerry Goldsmith. It used French horns and comparable instruments, which were intended to produce sound effects intended to resemble the sound of an apiary mega-swarm. The score originally was released on LP and cassette on Warner Bros. Records in 1978 at the same time as the film's release. An expanded, remastered score was released in 2002 in a limited edition by Prometheus Records and contained over 40 minutes of previously unreleased material. In 2020, La-La Land Records issued a two-CD set with the complete film score and the 1978 soundtrack album.[21]

Home media and alternate versions

This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (April 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

The film was originally released in theaters at 116 minutes, but when released on laserdisc in 1992, it was extended to 156 minutes with additional scenes. This extended version is also included on all DVD releases worldwide, alongside a 22-minute documentary, "Inside The Swarm", and the original theatrical trailer.

It was first released to DVD by Warner Home Video on August 6, 2002, then reissued on January 28, 2016, under their Warner Archive Collection sublabel.

The film was released on Blu-ray on September 25, 2018, again through Warner Archive. Like the two previous DVD releases, it contains the 156-minute extended version, the original theatrical trailer, and the 22-minute making-of documentary.

In the U.S., the film was given a PG rating by the MPAA. In the U.K., the film was released with an A certificate in 1978. The BBFC rated the extended version 12.


The ending credits to the film included a disclaimer that read: "The African killer bee portrayed in this film bears absolutely no relationship to the industrious, hardworking American honey bee to which we are indebted for pollinating vital crops that feed our nation."[22] According to an article in HR published on February 24, 1978, the American Bee Association considered taking legal action against the film's producers for defaming the western honey bee, but whether the lawsuit was ever filed or not is unknown.[22]

See also


  1. ^ Wilson, John M. (March 18, 1979). "THE OVERSEAS CONNECTION: TAKING STARS TO MARKET". Los Angeles Times. p. o3.
  2. ^ Christopher T Koetting, Mind Warp!: The Fantastic True Story of Roger Corman's New World Pictures, Hemlock Books. 2009 p 150-151
  3. ^ a b Cohn, Lawrence (October 15, 1990). "All-Time Film Rental Champs". Variety. pp. M140-196.
  4. ^ a b c Halliwell's film and video guide 2002 edited by John Walker. London. HarperCollins Entertainment, 2001. ISBN 0007122659 (p. 804).
  5. ^ Huddy, John. (June 9, 1974). "Film disasters......hit Hollywood". Chicago Tribune. p. e18.
  6. ^ Gary Arnold. (December 10, 1974). "A Burning Subject". The Washington Post. p. B11.
  7. ^ ROBERT LINDSEY. (October 12, 1977). "A Cast of Millions Swarms on Screen". New York Times. p. 43.
  8. ^ "The Swarm (1978)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 5, 2021.
  9. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0.
  10. ^ Canby, Vincent (July 23, 1978). "'The Swarm'—A Bumbling 'B'". The New York Times. D20.
  11. ^ Siskel, Gene (July 18, 1978). "'Swarm': Lots of bees but hardly any honey". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 7.
  12. ^ a b Murphy, Arthur D. (July 19, 1978). "Film Reviews: The Swarm". p. 20. ((cite magazine)): Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  13. ^ Thomas, Kevin (July 15, 1978). "'Swarm'—Barks Worse Than Bite". Los Angeles Times. Part II, p. 8.
  14. ^ Zito, Tom (July 15, 1978). "'The Swarm': It's The Real Thing". The Washington Post. E1.
  15. ^ Richard Velt ""Swarm" Not Recommended". July 21, 1978. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
  16. ^ Baker, James (August 14, 1978). "The Sting". Newsweek. 62.
  17. ^ The worst movie ever? The Guardian, April 26, 2001. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
  18. ^ "The Swarm" Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  19. ^ The Swarm reviews at TV Guide
  20. ^ "The Swarm Is Here". Variety. July 18, 1978. p. 18. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  21. ^ "Swarm, the: Limited Edition (2-Cd Set)".
  22. ^ a b The Swarm at the American Film Institute Catalog