Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Horror Review #6 - #7: Rattlers (1976), The Swarm (1978)

Double feature Wednesday tonight, just because (because I missed posting one last night because I was too busy)!  Animal attacks are a pretty common theme in horror movies, and have been for decades.  Zoo (2015), the series by James Patterson that played over the summer, is a recent example.

Rattlers (1976) is a pretty typical example of a killer-snake movie that was probably spawned by the blockbuster success of Jaws (1975) the year before.  A herpetologist (an expert in reptiles) teaching at a nearby college gets a call from the sheriff of a nearby town.  Apparently there have been a small number of fatalities involving snake bites, and the sheriff is looking to get an expert opinion on just what exactly is causing the spike in snake bite deaths.  The professor heads down to find out, only to find a swarm of killer rattlesnakes on the loose!  :-o

I think my synopsis is actually more exciting than the movie.  Rattlers starts out pretty good, illustrating a number of rattlesnake-caused fatalities in fair detail, before falling apart about 2/3rds of the way through.  I won't give away any details, in case someone actually wants to check out the movie.  I watched it on Turner Classic Movies, on something called the TCM Underground, which is apparently what they call it when they show movies at 3 am.

The lead actors of Rattlers were pretty much completely unidentifiable.  Acting was passable for a cheap creature feature of the mid-70's.  Special effects consisted of a few rattlers stirred up and placed strategically near some actors.  No blood and gore to speak of, nor any nudity.  There wasn't a lot of action, and I didn't like the way the movie suddenly changed focus when the professor decided to check out the pattern of attacks.  However, I guess there needed to be some reason for the Rattlers to go on the rampage, so the, well, the side/main story was necessary, I suppose.  Still, there was a decent build-up, and then things just seemed to go south.  The ending was a bit of a disappointment, so not really worth watching again, but not a bad start if you haven't seen the movie.

The only actor of note was Darwin "Got a Smoke?" Joston, whom horror movie fans may remember from both The Fog (1980), where he played Dr. Phibes (the coroner), and Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), where he played Napoleon Wilson, the convicted killer who stops over at Precinct 13 and helps fight off the gang attack.  Assault on Precinct 13 was probably his best movie role, and should have led to other roles, but somehow never did.  In Rattlers, he plays a doomed army patrolman who is driving through rattler country, though I recognized him by his voice almost immediately.  He was actually John Carpenter's next-door neighbor for a while, as I understand it.  His appearance in this movie amounts to little more than work as an extra, though he does have a few speaking lines.

The Swarm (1978) is another movie about killer animals, although this time it's bees.  An army base is attacked by killer bees, and the force of soldiers sent to rescue the besieged base runs into Dr. Crane, an entomologist tracking a swarm of bees. The soldiers are so disbelieving of Dr. Crane's story, that a swarm of killer bees attacked and killed everyone on the base, that they immediately arrest him and set about confirming his crazy story.  When the story turns out to be true, and the killer bees are found to be still on the rampage, Dr. Crane quickly becomes the army's most valuable asset.  Can he stop the bees before they attack the nearby town of Marysville?  :-o

IMDB.com gives The Swarm a rating of 4.3, though I don't understand why.  Michael Caine plays Dr. Crane, and the supporting cast includes Richard Widmark, Olivia de Havilland, Jose Ferrer, Patty Duke, Slim Pickens, Bradford Dillman, Fred Macmurray and Henry Fonda.  With that kind of stellar cast, and an ample budget and the best special effects money could buy, you'd think this movie would have garnered better reviews.  In any case, the movie plays pretty well.  Killer Bees go apeshit and start stinging everyone in their path, and that path includes major cities and small towns.  Pretty exciting stuff, if you ask me, and the acting couldn't be better.  As with Rattlers, I caught this movie on TCM underground.  TCM may play it again at some point this month, or there's probably other ways to catch this movie somewhere.

I like the Swarm much better than I liked Rattlers, mostly for the acting talent.  The Swarm typically makes the rounds every once in a while, on Network TV or TCM, so it's at least reasonably popular.  If I'm not mistaken, HBO played the shit out of it for a few years before retiring it.  Both movies are prime examples of the killer-wildlife motif, though the Swarm most definitely had a bigger budget, better acting talent, and was the better movie, in probably all respects.  The Swarm is almost two hours long, so you know a crapload of things happen in it.  I suppose you could even call the Swarm one of those big-budget disaster movies, only this time, the natural disaster is bees.

Since neither movie is a comedy, and both focus on animals gone wild (typical horror movie fare), they certainly qualify as horror movies (though they aren't particularly horrifying).  The body count in the Swarm is much higher than in Rattlers, and neither movie contains any nudity, but both are worth watching at least once.  The Swarm I have seen before, and frankly is a good watch no matter how many times you've seen it.  Henry Fonda has a particularly awesome scene that he acts the shit out of, that makes me cringe every time I watch it.  Cringeworthy!  Very cringe-worthy.  And then, all hell breaks loose.  heh.  Yea, you knew that was coming.

That's all for tonight.  Hope you guys can at least catch the Swarm, either by watching it on TCM or some other means.  Killer Bee Hell on Earth.  :-D  Til next time!

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