and confidence of Warner Bros., for whom "THE SWARM" is only one of many forthcoming Irwin Allen projects.
"THE SWARM" is a story of survival - the survival of towns and people against one of the most deadly enemy of all - killer bees. It is a valid and harrowing account of the death and destruction that could in reality overwhelm the Gulf and southwestern states in our time.
Africanized killer bees do exist and they attack and kill. They have already moved from Brazil where the mutant originated out of the escape of African forebears 23 years ago and are now northward bound. They have killed both man and beast in Brazil, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela; and throughout Central and South America victims have fled in terror from the incredible aggressiveness of the insects which appear to savor the plunge of their lethal stingers into human flesh as they form themselves into great vicious swarms of winged assassins.
Armed with the facts and the research, Allen, as producer and director of "THE SWARM," enlisted Stirling Silliphant, the distinguished writer, to dramatize the very real possibilities of an invasion of killer bees on the city of Houston, Texas. He expanded the drama of this eventuality with stories of the heroes that cowards may become under stress.
The cast of "THE SWARM" is grade-A and large. The stars are Michael Caine, Katharine Ross, Richard Widmark, Olivia de Havilland, Henry Fonda, Fred MacMurray, Richard Chamberlain, Jose Ferrer, Patty Duke Astin, Lee Grant, Bradford Dillman, Ben Johnson and Slim Pickens, most of whom have Academy Awards and/or Academy nominations on their respective honor lists.
The bees, of course, are the true villains, and in order to
make the film, millions of them were, to quote Allen, "leased, bought, borrowed and bred" to fill the screen with the horrifying whirr of wing and their fuzzy black and gold presence. Audiences will experience the menacing sight and sound that only killer bees on the rampage can evoke.
Allen estimates that he used 22,000,000 of them. They were under the perilous management and control of handlers and stunt people and even a crew of professional bee handlers who managed in most cases to protect the actors from the hurtful unpleasantness of domestic bee stings.
Although the killer bees on their collision course with the city of Houston are the principal menace in "THE SWARM," it is the havoc they create that leads the screen to erupt in action sequences that set new standards in stunt and special effects imagery on the screen. There is a terrifying train wreck, an atomic plant blast, the burning of the city of Houston and a blazing Gulf of Mexico.
In his enthusiasm for the creation of disaster on the screen, Irwin Allen never loses sight of human involvement. In "THE SWARM," each of his performers is involved in personal drama, not always directly related to the catastrophe. Michael Caine, for instance, plays an entomologist in conflict with the military, as represented by Richard Widmark, in the role of an Air Force general. Olivia de Havilland plays a small town schoolteacher charged with the safety of her students and also romantically concerned with two gentlemen callers - Fred MacMurray and Ben Johnson. Caine's romance blooms in the person of Katharine Ross, an Air Force doctor. Henry Fonda portrays an immunologist working on an antitoxin to help victims of the sting of African bees, while Richard Chamberlain plays an environmentalist, Lee Grant a reporter and Patty Duke Astin a waitress.
"THE SWARM" is based on the novel by Arthur Herzog, with music by Jerry Goldsmith and photography by Fred J. Koenekamp.