The Swarm (1978)

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Released 13-May-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio
Listing-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 148:47
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (76:19) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Irwin Allen

Warner Home Video
Starring Michael Caine
Henry Fonda
Katharine Ross
Richard Widmark
Richard Chamberlain
Olivia De Havilland
Ben Johnson
Lee Grant
Patty Duke
Slim Pickins
José Ferrer
Fred MacMurray
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Irwin Allen is undoubtedly the master of bad news and large scale disaster movies. Who can remember his other classics such as The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno? In this particular movie, we leave the flipped boat and the burning building to focus on people's fear of bees.

    Back in 1956, a group of Brazilian scientists were attempting to create a new hybrid bee that was better adapted to tropical areas. It is interesting that it took a bee from one of the driest places on earth to actually do this. Unfortunately, some of the bees escaped and bred with the local Brazilian bees, creating the Africanized Honey Bees hybrid. Like our local Cane Toads, the killer bees have been causing havoc ever since, but at least a large number of Cane Toads won't kill you (just don't lick their backs and you should be fine). The unfortunate outcome of the breeding tests was that Brazil went from fourth in world honey production to twenty-seventh by the early 1990s. It was not until October 1990 that the first killer bees were recorded in America, so the movie was way ahead in its predictions. Since then, the rate of spread of these bees has accelerated to over 600 km per year.

    The Swarm is a who’s who of the 70s acting world, featuring names such as Katharine Ross, Richard Widmark, Richard Chamberlain, Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson, Lee Grant, Patty Duke, Slim Pickens, José Ferrer, Fred MacMurray, and Henry Fonda. A military Special Defence Unit searches an ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) base to find out why central command has not received any of its regular communications. The Unit works its way deep down into the complex looking for the base's troops, all the while keeping a look-out for any hostile forces. As they are looking around the rooms, puzzled at what lies before them, in steps entomologist Brad Crane (Michael Caine). After the military has a coronary about the fact that a civilian is inside their base and is the only one alive, they calm down and work out the cause of the deaths - killer bees. It’s always handy to have an entomologist around when people are dying from bee stings, and in this particular case Crane happens to specialise in the Africanized Honey Bee variety.

    Now we hit what was supposed to be another tense scene when the President orders that Crane is to be the sole person in charge and that the military will report to him. Yeah, right  - the US military reporting to a civilian! Anyway, Crane orders a list of experts in the entomology field be flown in to the base because they have no time to lose.

    Things get worse when the bees look like they are going to attack the nearby town of Marysville which just so happens to be holding a flower show soon. The crew must work against the clock to either devise an antidote for the stings or come up with a way to wipe out the bee colony. Meanwhile, the military is becoming restless and wants to use brute force to wipe them out.

    At least two bees were harmed during the making of this film.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    Considering the age of this movie, the transfer is remarkably clear and problem free.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is surprisingly clear and sharp with no evidence of edge enhancement, evident on other titles from this era. Warner have obviously taken great care with the storage of this print. Shadow detail is not really a problem with the majority of the filming taking place out in the open and under full sunlight. Indoor shots also contain a high level of lighting so there is a great amount of detail evident regardless of the location. There is only mild low level noise.

    The colours were well rendered with some good examples of bright colour appearing from time to time. The red warning lights that hang above the doorways in the ICBM building are as bright and rich in colour as you would expect to see with your own eyes. The coloured tents in the city square at 83:03 are also bright and colourful. The numerous flowers at the local flower show are also as you would expect to see by looking through the local florist's window.

    There were no MPEG artefacts to be seen. Aliasing was also something that was not evident in this transfer. Film artefacts were quite common, with the occasional speck or light scratch also in evidence. On the positive side, the film artefacts were usually small and not overly distracting.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change at 76:19. It occurs during a phone call when there is a scene cut between locations without any dialogue. It was completely seamless on my equipment and it should not be too distracting on slow players.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The only audio track on this disc is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times. Audio sync was not a problem at all with this transfer, and was completely spot on.

    The musical score by Jerry Goldsmith was typical for the era and very similar in nature to many other 70s movies soundtracks. There are long durations throughout where there is no background music at all. In these instances, the silence is actually deafening and the movie suffers slightly as a result. The volume levels of the music did not drown out the dialogue at any point during the movie.

    The surround channels were predominantly used to provide effects sounds whenever a bee swarm attacked. One such example can be heard at 18:05 and this is typical throughout the movie. Other instances were for music ambience but these were usually limited to the same time as the swarm attacks.

    The subwoofer is not used by the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. There are some instances of deep bass, though, which come from the front channels - two examples can be heard at 57:58 and 63:10.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     A small selection of extras is present.


    The menu design is themed around the movie and is 16x9 enhanced with no sound.

Cast and Crew

   These are 2 pages of text listing the main cast members along with their character's name. There is no background sound.

Documentary (22:13)

   This featurette, entitled "Inside The Swarm", is an overdramatic attempt to alarm you about the documented fact of killer bees heading north into America. It focuses on behind the scenes aspects of the movie and contains interviews with some of the cast and their feelings about the movie and the looming bee invasion. It is presented in its original made-for-TV aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Theatrical Trailer

   This is of the same high quality as the main feature, being presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced but with only Dolby Digital 1.0 sound.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

   The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    The transfer has been taken from the same basic source material as the Region 1 version (although our version is PAL-formatted). Even the layer change is in the same spot. The only deciding factor here is in the choice of subtitles, and if the Spanish or Portuguese titles are something that you require. Because of the overwhelming range available on the Region 4 disc it is the undoubted winner.


     This movie cannot decide if it should be funny or serious. While it is classed as a classic, it is very drawn out and a good 30 to 40 minutes could have been ripped out and not missed at all.

    The video quality is wonderful considering the age of the print.

    The audio quality is acceptable and the surround-encoded bee swarm noises are effective and work well.

    The extras are satisfactory but not something you could watch more than once.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Peter Mellor (read my bio)
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersWhatmough Classic Series C31 (Mains); C06 (Centre); M10 (Rears); Magnat Vector Needle Sub25A Active SubWoofer

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