Producer/director Irwin Allen now unleashes an end-of-the-world thriller based of scientific fact. In Africa and South America, killer bees are a reality. Now The Swarm is on the move...into North America! There are enough stars for five movies - Michael Caine, Katherine Ross, Richard Widmark Olivia de Havilland, Henry Fonda, Fred MacMurray, Richard Chamberlain, Jose Ferrer, Patty Duke Astin, Lee Grant and Bradford Dillman. But the scene-stealers are the supporting cast: an estimated 22-million bees, deftly deployed to depict deadly attacks on people and places.
Irwin Allen was almost single-handedly responsible for the seventies disaster movie craze. In fact, Allen was so successful that by 1978 he was running out of halfway plausible disasters to make films about, and killer bees were the best he could think of. The trouble is, bees are not very scary. Obviously if millions of them chased you down the street they'd be scary, but that's not something you worry about unless you have a bee phobia, in which case you won't be renting this movie, will you? Now, wasps are scary. But if this film had been about killer wasps, Irwin Allen would have had to pay a bunch of stuntmen to be covered in live wasps, and there isn't enough money in the world for that! However, stuntmen will agree to be covered in live bees because... well, see what I mean?
Therefore the script has to constantly and monotonously remind us that these aren't nice, cuddly, useful little American bees, but horrid African bees that really do exist and really do kill people and everything, even if they look exactly like regular bees. Maybe if I was African I'd find this scary, but I'm not, and it don't. We also have to accept that these particular bees, in addition to forming an implausibly gigantic swarm for no apparent reason, also just happen to have suddenly become immune to all known insecticides, hyper-intelligent, and insanely aggressive towards, amongst other unlikely things, helicopters, trains, and nuclear power stations. Mind you, this is a film which starts with the world's foremost bee expert casually wandering into the control room of a nuclear missile base because he happened to be driving past and the gate was open, and discovering that, by an amazing coincidence, everyone's just been stung to death by a new kind of bee! Presumably they encouraged a chimpanzee to play with scrabble letters until they vaguely resembled a script. After this, it's almost believable that the US Army is too stupid to build a bee-proof command center in an area they know is about to be attacked by bees, and they have to find out by trial and error that it's not safe to use flame-throwers indoors.
During the long dull patches between increasingly unlikely bee-related catastrophes resulting in ever more massive explosions, the cast struggle to come up with yet another reason why the entire military might of the USA is powerless against insects with attitude, the guest stars randomly die in contrived ways somehow involving bees, and the extras try to appear threatened by what looks like (and quite likely is) superimposed footage of tea-leaves swirling in a fish-tank. A movie as spectacularly misconceived as this can't possibly have anything going for it other than unintentional humor, and that kind of accidental comedy quickly wears out its welcome. Roger Corman knew this very well, which is why his tightly-edited creature-features never exceeded 90 minutes. At a whopping two and a half hours, this sprawling, ponderous mess would have benefited from Corman ruthlessly amputating half of it. Sadly he didn't.