(director: Irwin Allen; screenwriters: Stirling Silliphant/from the novel by Arthur Herzog; cinematographer: Fred J. Koenekamp; editor: Harold Kress; music: Jerry Goldsmith; cast: Michael Caine (Dr. Brad Cane), Katharine Ross (Dr. Helena Anderson), Richard Widmark (General Slater), Henry Fonda (Dr. Krim), Richard Chamberlain (Dr. Hubbard), Fred MacMurray (Clarence Tuttle), Ben Johnson (Felix Austin), Olivia de Havilland (Maureen Schuster), Bradford Dillman (Major Baker), Jose Ferrer (Dr. Andrews), Christian Juttner (Paul Durant), Robert Varney (Mr. Durant), Doria Cook (Mrs. Durant), Slim Pickens (Jud Hawkins), Lee Grant (Ann McGregor), Patty Duke Astin (Rita), Cameron Mitchell (General Thompson); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Irvin Allen; Warner Bros.; 1978)
“The all-star cast, mostly consisting of has-been actors, deliver dialogue so bad it can kill.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This big budget horror pic was an ugly looking film that was a box-office flop (lasting for only two weeks in theaters), and though risible never drew a cult following because it was so humorless and TV-movie like. The, at the time, hot filmmaker of the disaster film, Irwin Allen(“The Towering Inferno”/”Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”/The Poseidon Adventure”), with three straight smash hits, shows no directing skills in this clumsily directed disaster film about African killer bees migrating from South America to swarm in the fictional Texas missile town of Marysville and then attack Houston. Allen pads the overlong B-film story with a forgettable subplot about a romantic triangle between three old-timers from the small town, the school principal (Olivia de Havilland), the mayor (Fred MacMurray, his last film role) and, his rival, a tongue-tied retired mechanic (Ben Johnson). The all-star cast, mostly consisting of has-been actors, deliver dialogue so bad it can kill. Also the screenplay by Stirling Silliphant was ludicrous. It was adapted from the novel by Arthur Herzog.
Know-it-all entomologist Dr. Brad Crane (Michael Caine) shows up at an Air Force missile base in Marysville, Texas, just after a swarm of bees nearly killed everyone at the site. The president puts him in charge of killing the killer bees. That a civilian was chosen for this mission, irks the base’s rigid commander, General Slater (Richard Widmark). Crane bonds immediately with the site’s attractive single clinic doctor, Helena Anderson (Katharine Ross), in a subplot romance that couldn’t be more tedious.
The visitor calls in outside help. This brings to the missile site his inventive renown old-timer scientist pal, Dr. Krim (Henry Fonda), and his scientist rival (Richard Chamberlain). Krim is working on an anti-dote injection for those who get stung and the rival is working on experiments with poison pellets to kill the bees who have become immune from all pesticides.
After the bees kill over 200 in the town and cause a train wreck of the town evacuees, nearly wiping out the entire town, things look gloomy. When the unstoppable bees head for Houston, in the 11th hour, our good man Crane, working with the military, discovers a novel way of dealing with these killer bees, even if it means torching Houston.
I can’t think of anything I liked about this film, except it was unintentionally funny to listen to de Havilland try a Southern accent.
REVIEWED ON 3/2/2015 GRADE: C