Article 3331 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-11-2010
Posting Date: 9-27-2010
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Featuring Bradford Dillman, Joanna Miles and Richard Gililand
What it is: Killer bug movie
A small community is hit by an earthquake which opens a fissure from which emerge insects capable of lighting fires. A scientist from a local college investigates their nature.
This was William Castle’s last movie, though he did not direct; he produced and helped with the script. The movie doesn’t have a very high reputation, and I suspect that’s because the movie starts off in one direction and ends up going in another. The first half of the movie sets up the usual killer bug scenario, and at certain points it looks like it’s going to explore just how this community is effected by the arrival of the bugs in an interesting way. However, once it has been established that the insects in question carry the seeds of their own destruction (they are sluggish and unable to breed due to having come from an environment from much greater pressure), the movie veers off in a different direction when the scientist, driven to madness by the death of his wife at the hands (or is it legs) of the insects, becomes inexplicably obsessed with finding a solution to the insects’s breeding problem. The problem here is that you spend the last half of the movie watching the scientist behaving with truly reckless stupidity. Throw in some bizarre PHASE IV style plot elements (Ken Middleham served as insect director on both movies, as well as THE HELLSTROM CHRONICLE), and a somewhat head-scratching ending with possible mystical overtones, and you end up with a movie that strains credibility. Still, I like that the movie pays a little more attention to details about the insects, which I suspect is from the original source novel; I also hear that the source novel doesn’t end at the same point as the movie does. Apparently, William Castle’s intended gimmick was to have it seem as if the bugs had invaded the theater, but I’m glad that he passed on the idea; I’m sure it would have backfired.