Twisted Firestarters – Rediscovering ‘Bug’ (US 1975 – 99 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - June 14, 2015
Twisted Firestarters – Rediscovering ‘Bug’ (US 1975 – 99 mins)

The Seventies was the busiest time for killer creature movies, churning out such ‘classics’ as ‘Grizzly’, ‘The Food of the Gods’ (both ’76) and ‘Kingdom of the Spiders’ (’77). In fact there were countless of them, many involving insects such as the intelligent ant-fest ‘Phase IV’ (’74) and the star-laden dud ‘The Swarm’ (’78). Another insect offering was the mild but engaging little flick ‘Bug’, an entertaining and rather well-made schlock-fest.

After a minor earthquake awakens some long-dormant beetle-like bugs, they are soon causing mysterious deaths due to their special antennae which, when coming into contact with man or machine, causes their victim to catch fire. After a series of unexplained deaths, entomologist James Parmiter (Bradford Dillman) begins studying the bugs, but his obsession with finding the cause of their mayhem only makes matters worse when his breeding techniques result in a much more dangerous race of insect.

What I find most impressive with ‘Bug’ is the excellent close-up photography showing the bugs at work, something which had helped make the earlier ‘Phase IV’ such a riveting watch. Also, like that other film, the creatures slowly become educated, even to the point of being able to spell out words of warning by grouping themselves together.

Like other movies of its type, the talented cast take it all wonderfully seriously, especially lead actor Bradford Dillman who, after a distinguished career in such pictures as ‘Compulsion’ (’59) and ‘Francis of Assisi’ (’61), ended up doing a lot of B-movies and exploitation pieces, including ‘The Swarm’ and ‘Piranha’ (both ’78). Acclaimed actress Joanna Miles is also good as Dillman’s wife and former child star Patty McCormack suffers for her art, discovering a bug in her hair which causes her head to catch fire and in no time is writhing around her living room setting fire to everything in sight.

French born director Jeannot Szwarc broke out of television with this movie, and went on to make ‘Jaws 2’ (’78), as well as the popular time-travel romancer ‘Somewhere in Time’ (’80), and the Dudley Moore favourite ‘Santa Claus’ (’85), before heading back to television.

Although slow in spots and Dillman’s crazed experimentation with the bugs becomes somewhat tedious, there are enough shocking deaths and moments of slow-mo beetle-bursting to recommend this film. Also, with a fun and foreboding ending where the bugs have now grown wings, it’s a perfect example of Seventies sci-fi horror pitting helpless man against out-of-control nature.

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