The Swarm – Nature Gone Wild! week

This is Nature Gone Wild! week. The Swarm is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Swarm

AVOID: The Swarm – NR – Not rated. The theatrical version was rated PG and this version adds more content but as near as I could tell not more objectionable material.

“Entomologist Brad Crane (Michael Caine) and his crack team of scientists attempt to intervene when swarms of voracious killer bees begin attacking a number of cities in Texas, and an army general (Richard Widmark) threatens to use military firepower against this force of nature. This doomsday epic buzzes with an all-star cast, including Katharine Ross, Richard Chamberlain, Olivia de Havilland, Fred MacMurray and Henry Fonda.”

“I never dreamed it would turn out to be the bees. They’ve always been our friend.”

“We have been invaded, by an enemy far more lethal than any human force.”

“Until we have destroyed the African bee. Or it has destroyed us.”

As you may have noticed I have rated this AVOID as any sane person should. However I must admit to having enjoyed the stupidity of this film immensely. This is a great big slice of 70s cheese and boy does it stink.

The plot holes practically define the film so this must be Swiss cheese. Right off the bat the military discovers Dr. Crane in the middle of the command center of a semi-secret military base. He has been following the bees and claims he just walked right in after everyone was killed off.

Later Dr. Crane needs some specimens of the swarm which is somewhat odd since he is right there in the base where the swarm killed everyone. Are you telling me the base was wiped out and then the bees carried away their dead?

Later still Jud Hawkins (Slim Pickens) arrives and threatens to shut off the water to the base if he doesn’t get to see his son. Rather than detain him, General Slater figures that they’d better do what he says. What?!? Of course I’m glad they did because one of the most hilarious scenes in the film is Slim Pickens crying over the Hefty bag his son is in.

Crane has one bee to work with. Seriously one bee and they have a room full of body-bagged soldiers. Did anyone read the script before they filmed this?

As they’re playing back the surveillance tapes, you can clearly hear the swarm. Dr. Crane asks, ‘what’s that?’ so I tell him it’s the swarm obviously – where did you get your PhD? in a box of crackerjack?

Three boys go out hunting for the bees. They find them just out of town swarming everywhere. There is no mistaking them but one of the boys needs to use his binoculars to see what is filling the whole screen.

Still later Crane figures out that the bees showed up at the base less than 30 seconds after the base tested a siren. Earlier they indicated that the swarm was traveling at 7 miles an hour. Alright I’ll let you do the math but that pretty much means the bees had to be on the base already.

Crane sees three clouds of bees – all three are headed in completely different directions and Crane says the bees are headed straight for Marysville. That’s okay though because while the bees have no problem wiping out an underground military base, they seem to have difficulty getting into buildings.

They take the survivors of Marysville and pack them all on a train. I’d tell you what happens next but I have to stop with the ridiculous plot now before I get into spoilers. I imagine you  can guess though.

The cast is absolutely first rate even if they don’t put in good performances. Michael Caine headlines the scientists and really chews up the scenery. Henry Fonda and Richard Chamberlain appear as scientists. The townspeople are played by Fred MacMurray (his last film), Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson, and Slim Pickens. The military is represented by Richard Widmark, Katharine Ross, and Bradford Dillman.

The theatrical version was 116 minutes – this is the extended version and runs a whopping 155 minutes. The extra time is not kind to this film – it makes it seem to go on forever. Netflix has also brought this in a nice widescreen ratio so you can properly appreciate this disaster.

Unless you have a taste for truly terrible movies, avoid this movie. Please note: while this film worked fine on my computer, it was glitchy on my Roku box about 37 minutes in. Inexplicably this movie was actually nominated for an Oscar for Best Costume Design.

People Watch: Jose Ferrer appears briefly as Dr. Andrews and Cameron Mitchell plays General Thompson.

The Poseidon Adventure – Don’t Get on That Boat! week

This week is Don’t Get on That Boat! week. The Poseidon Adventure is currently available on instant Netflix.

WARNING: This movie is only available through January 31

The Poseidon Adventure

WATCH: The Poseidon Adventure (1972) – Rated PG.

“As the luxury liner Poseidon charts its course on New Year’s Eve, disaster strikes when an undersea earthquake causes a titanic tidal wave and capsizes the vessel, leaving just 10 survivors. Led by a no-nonsense reverend (Gene Hackman), the group must maneuver through airshafts, electrical cables and a burning engine room to the boat’s hull, which is their lone chance for escape. The film scored an Oscar for Best Song (“The Morning After”).”

“The Andrea Doria stayed afloat 10 hours before she sank.”

The granddaddy of the disaster genre, The Poseidon Adventure still holds up pretty well after 38 years. In spite of the above quote, the circumstances behind the disaster are clearly patterned on Titanic lore. The Captain is urged, cajoled, and threatened to move his ship at top speed in spite of his better judgment by the owners.

One of the perks of the disaster genre is the cornucopia of stars parading through the film. The real star here is Gene Hackman who appears to take the material entirely too seriously but is a treat nonetheless. While he could hold a film by himself, he does have ample support.

Shelley Winters takes her role very seriously as well. She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her juicy role. Jack Albertson plays her loving husband.

Ernest Borgnine is Hackman’s counterpart, the opposite that a buddy cop movie would demand – in fact Borgnine plays a detective. Stella Stevens is his wife, a former prostitute.

Rounding out the cast are Red Buttons, Roddy McDowall, Arthur O’Connell, Carol Lynley and a pre-Nancy Drew Pamela Sue Martin. Carol Lynley sings the Oscar-winning song, “The Morning After” somewhat ironically before disaster strikes.

Characters are well-established prior to the rogue wave. After that the film has a number of wonderful action setpieces as the survivors try to work their way through the ship. Director Ronald Neame and reportedly producer Irwin Allen make the epic trek very exciting. An Oscar Special Achievement award was given for visual effects.

In addition to the aforementioned Oscar nods, The Poseidon Adventure was nominated for many others. Best Art Direction – Set Decoration seems an obvious one for the wonderful upside-down sets. It was also nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Music, and Best Sound.

In the film our main group (headed for the engine room) briefly encounters a group led by the Doctor heading for the bow. Believe it or not a poorly-regarded sequel was made in 1979, “Beyond the Poseidon Adventure” starring Michael Caine. This film deals, at least partially, with that bow group that is only glimpsed in the original.

I highly recommend this journey into “Hell, Upside Down” (the film’s tag line) but Netflix has it listed as only available until 1/31.

Wolfgang Petersen remade the original as “Poseidon” in 2006 while a quickly-made TV movie “The Poseidon Adventure” premiered in 2005.

People Watch: Long before he spoofed himself in Airplane, Leslie Nielsen (Don’t call me Shirley!) played serious roles. Here he is the Captain of the doomed ship. Irwin Allen’s wife, Sheila, appears as a nurse.