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The Satan Bug

Satan Bug, The (1965) Movie Poster
USA  •    •  114m  •    •  Directed by: John Sturges.  •  Starring: George Maharis, Richard Basehart, Anne Francis, Dana Andrews, John Larkin, Richard Bull, Frank Sutton, Edward Asner, Simon Oakland, John Anderson, John Clarke, Hari Rhodes, Martin Blaine.  •  Music by: Jerry Goldsmith.
        When a flask bearing a recently discovered virus, the Satan Bug, disappears from a top-secret biological research laboratory along with several flasks of a botulinus organism, Barrett is assigned to investigate. Briefed by the general in charge of the investigation and one of its developers, Dr. Hoffman, he learns that the Satan Bug is so deadly that it could possibly set off a chain reaction that would wipe out all life on earth.

Trailers:

   Length:  Languages:  Subtitles:
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Review:

Image from: Satan Bug, The (1965)
Image from: Satan Bug, The (1965)
Image from: Satan Bug, The (1965)
Image from: Satan Bug, The (1965)
Image from: Satan Bug, The (1965)
Image from: Satan Bug, The (1965)
Image from: Satan Bug, The (1965)
Image from: Satan Bug, The (1965)
Image from: Satan Bug, The (1965)
Image from: Satan Bug, The (1965)
Image from: Satan Bug, The (1965)
Image from: Satan Bug, The (1965)
Image from: Satan Bug, The (1965)
This is a kind of doomsday thriller about a "bug" that will kill all life on earth, developed by a group of scientists at a secret government station in the midst of the Mojave Desert. One of the scientists turns out to be a maniac who escapes with a supply of the stuff and threatens to destroy the world. Can he be stopped? It seems to have a lot going for it. Written by Alistair MacLean and James Clavell; directed by John Sturgis; a plot of considerable topical interest; performances by a lot of respectable folks like Richard Basehart, Dana Andrews, Ann Francis, Simon Oakland; score by the perceptive Jerry Goldsmith; beautiful locations.

So why doesn't it work? Probably a combination of bad luck and budget. The bad luck was that practically everyone involved seemed to be taking the day off. This is known as sampling error in statistics. The low budget casts this effort indelibly in the configuration of a made-for-TV movie. There's a lot of talk and little action or suspense. I don't mind talk per se. "The Andromeda Strain" was filled with it, but it was necessary. Here, it's unfocused and sometimes confusing. Actually, I lost track of some of the vials at times. There are stray vials of the Satan bug, of botulis, and of botulis anti-toxin. (Or are there?) I didn't mind the absence of lots of action either. Nothing was more dreary than the frenetic pace and elaborate effects of "Doomsday." But, Jeez, it would be nice to be able to follow the plot. And to have more to the story than just a lot of guys standing around pointing guns at one another.

It's also the writers' responsibility to see to it that characters are differentiated, and they stumbled here. James Hong is distinctive because he's Chinese. But how about the rest? Look at their names: Hoffman, Barrett, Williams, Michaelson, Cavanaugh, Donald, Tasserly, Reagan, Raskin, Johnson, Baxter, Mason. What is this, a fraternity reunion at some diploma factory for the WASP elite? Not a Greek or Ginzo among them.

Two suspenseful and thrilling incidents. A flask of one of the toxins is discovered in the soft drink ice box at a baseball stadium and the detective who discovers it must hold still while another disarms the explosive device attached to it. Well, this is already a cliché. The reason we run into this situation so often in films is that it's a sure fire tension generator. It works every time. And yet here, Sturgis gives it no more than perfunctory treatment. The formula calls for a close up of the fulminate of mercury, the dreadful question of which wire to cut -- the red or the white -- and a close up of the sweating face of the poor slob who must stand motionless and hold the thing. But no. It's all done in medium shot with only a few cuts. The endangered actor looks concerned but not terrified, as if worried about a loose tooth. And no one releases the tension at the end with a wisecrack. The writers either didn't have time to deal with this situation properly or weren't being paid enough, and the director's mind must have been elsewhere.

Second suspenseful incident. George Maharis, a wooden actor from television, is holding a gun on Richard Basehart, who is holding one of the demonic flasks in his hand. "Put the flask on the ground and step away from it," Maharis orders him, and Basehart simply smiles and flips the flask in the air, catching it again. It's all over in a second and it's the best scene in the movie.


Review by Robert J. Maxwell from the Internet Movie Database.

 

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Mar 25 2017, 22:10