Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Swarm (1978)

Contained in the Book of Revelations is a prophecy about a dreadful pestilence, which, when unleashed on Mankind, will bring such pain and suffering souls will beg the very mountains to fall upon them and smother the agony that is their miserable lives. That’s right: it’s the 1978 motion picture, The Swarm, produced and directed by Irwin Allen.

Welcome to Drive-in Cinema. Who knew an actual motion picture would violate The Geneva Convention and be quoted frequently in the legal underpinnings for Department of Justice lawyer John Yoo and the Cheney admini—I mean, Bush administration. In case you’re unfamiliar with The Swarm, and all the drama I’m conjuring up about its lack of…uh…being a good movie, first orientate yourself with this 1978 trailer:

What makes torture appealing is the mere threat of torture: dangling the electrodes, the knife, the gun barrel in front of the victim, taunting the helpless with vicious pain. "It’s not just a movie. It’s real. It’s coming!"

Look. On its surface, The Swarm has a great premise. After all, in the 1970s anything under the sun that could trigger a disaster, either natural or manmade, proved ample fodder for a disaster flick. Growing up in Las Vegas, news of the swarms from South America approaching up towards Texas was alarming to me, and the sensation of deranged bees infiltrated Nightly News headlines, Reader’s Digest features and the glossy pages of the National Geographic magazine. With such a scenario you can't blame Irwin Allen, father of the disaster flick, from taking this and running it to the bank. It worked with a rouge wave capsizing an ocean liner, and a raging fire consuming the world's tallest skyscraper--why not mad killer bees taking out the greatest military force on earth? (No. Not the Romans. The U.S. Army!)

But what God hath wrought, let Man put asunder, and thus falls another great story to terrible plotting, stagnant direction, stilted scripting and overwrought acting. How gawdawful is it, really, you ask?

Have you ever read Vogon poetry? (Never mind.) Just watch the following scene, as the main characters battle awkwardly through layers of exposition and anglo-saxon machismo. [Warning: it’s coyote ugly, meaning you’ll chew off your own paw to get away from this clip, so pass the ketchup.]

Remember Michael Caine from The Man Who Would Be King? Richard Widmark from The Bedford Incident? Katherine Ross from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? I wonder how the conversation with their agents went after this screenplay arrived in their respective mailrooms...
Michael Caine: Sidney, you bloody twit! I will not do this rubbish. This dialogue isn’t worthy of a one-armed monkey robbing a bloody bank.

Sidney: They're offering you 10 million dollars, Mickey.

Michael Caine: I’ll do it.
How the mighty and talented are fallen. (For all you folks cross-referencing at home, see Jaws 4.) For extraordinary play-by-play of the movie's plot, go visit The Monster Shack. See ya later, at the drive-in theater.

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