This 70s creature feature from legendary producer and gimmick-meister William Castle is an important film to me as it was the first movie I ever saw at Hackensack’s Oritani Theater. It was on a double feature with At The Earth’s Core (the movie I really wanted to see) and it was the only time I was at the theatre before it became a triplex. Based on Thomas Page’s novel, The Hephaestus Plague, this story of an earthquake unleashing an army of prehistoric, fire-starting cockroaches on a rural desert town, really spooked the heck out of me when I saw it at ten years of age. But a recent revisit has made me take a more objective look at this creepy chiller and it is, in ways, still very effective.
Bug has some great 70s nostalgic charm now as it takes it’s far fetched story quite seriously and director Jeannot Szwarc (Jaws 2) makes it work by doing exactly that. The cast also play it serious as these lethal, incendiary insects begin to set everything and everyone in town ablaze and science teacher, Prof. James Parmiter (Bradford Dillman) tries to study and stop them. And that’s where Bug’s script by Page and William Castle deviates from the norm as Dillman’s scientist becomes obsessed with these creatures and the film shifts gears in the final act to become more of a Frankenstein-like tale, as Parmiter’s studies lead to experiments, including cross breeding these creepy critters. And since we all know where Dr. Frankenstein’s experiments lead to, it’s no secret the good professor should have just let the fire starting bugs be. As his subjects start to show an uncanny intelligence, Parmiter may have turned a dangerous menace into a real monster, echoing Mary Shelley’s tale. This flick with it’s plot straight out of a 50s sci-fi movie, is creepy, fun 70s stuff. Check out the trailer below, it’s a hoot!