|Reviews & Columns|
TV on DVD
Reviews by Studio
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
The M.O.D. Squad
DVD Talk Forum
DVD Price Search|
Customer Service #'s
But by 1975 Castle had long-given up such films. He had produced Rosemary's Baby for Paramount Pictures but wasn't allowed to direct it. When the film proved an enormous hit, Roman Polanski rightly got most of the credit. The film's success did assure Castle a place at the studio until his untimely death in 1977 at the age of 63, but his last films were mostly disastrous. The very odd Shanks (1974), his last film as director, was a muddled horror-fantasy starring legendary mime Marcel Marceau. Bug (1975), one of countless "nature-gone-wild" films of that era, was more a return to familiar territory (the title creatures even look like little Tinglers), but it too breaks from genre conventions, and always in the wrong ways.
In a rural town in the American southwest, an earthquake unleashes a swarm of bugs, each about four centimeters long that resemble cockroaches with trilobite -like exoskeletons. The creatures are unusual to say the least. Like industrious Boy Scouts rubbing two sticks together, the bugs start fires with their little hind legs, and soon set about torching everything from cars to kitty cats to people.
As eccentric science professor James Parmiter (Bradford Dillman) investigates the menace, Metbaum (Richard Gilliland), a former student of Parmiter's, grapples with the loss of girlfriend Norma's (Jamie Smith Jackson) father and brother, killed when the bugs set their pickup ablaze.
Bug starts well enough, with a well-staged earthquake at a small church, in fact an imaginatively rigged set. But it's all downhill from there. Director Jeannot Szwarc, using a script by Castle and Thomas Page (adapted from Page's novel, The Hephaestus Plague), has no sense of pace. The picture could lose half its already short (99-minute) running time at no great loss. The first half is little more than a repetitious series of intended shock scenes. Ordinary citizens going about their business are unaware of the bugs scurrying around them; Charles Fox's overdone electronic music cues the bugs into action, and POOF -- someone's hair is on fire. Bug's second half takes a sharp turn into Weirdsville, with Parmiter inexplicably obsessed with cross-breeding the bugs with ordinary cockroaches, and the especially absurd outcome of these experiments. The last act, really the last 40 minutes or so, are unusually grueling and seem to go on forever. The payoff, such as it is, is thwarted by particularly inept special effects, matched in their crudeness only by the equally unconvincing stuntwork. Except for Dillman and Patty McCormick (as a friend of the Parmiters), the film has no name actors. (The IMDB lists Castle in the cast, but if he is in the film I didn't spot him). The entire picture couldn't have cost more than a million dollars.
Beyond the already nutty premise that the title creatures shoot hot little sparks out of their butts, the picture is chockfull of clunker lines ("Dad, I was scared shitless!") and goofy ideas (Bradford Dillman cooing at a squirrel, trying to hypnotize it). In one scene, Parmiter has an epiphany opening a can of beer, later concluding, "[the bugs] got the bends!" Fox's score is supposed to be science fictiony but instead is merely tuneless and irritating. In one scene Dillman's character wakes up just as one ominous cue begins, as if to ask, "What is that noise?"
Video & Audio
Bug, filmed for 1.85:1 cropping, is presented in a 16:9 anamorphic transfer that is functional but utterly unexceptional. The image is a tad soft and grainy, suggesting an inter-negative rather than an inter-positive was used (the long defunct Movielab did the original lab work), though it's just as likely the result of '70s era film stock. The mono sound is equally bland and, in this budget release, the disc includes optional English subtitles but no foreign language audio or subtitle tracks at all. There are no Extra Features.
Although this disreputable sub-genre has produced a few better-than-you'd-expect exceptions (the pretty good Kingdom of the Spiders, for instance), producers like Castle and Bert I. Gordon primarily saw them as a cheap way to ride the wave of bigger movies like Jaws. (Somewhat surprisingly, Szwarc's next feature was Jaws 2.) Loyal William Castle fans will want to pick up Bug but others be warned.
Stuart Galbraith IV is a Los Angeles and Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes The Emperor and the Wolf -- The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. His new book, Cinema Nippon will be published by Taschen in 2005.
|Release List||Reviews||Shop||Newsletter||Forum||DVD Giveaways||Blu-Ray||Advertise|