DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

SATAN BUG, THE (director: John Sturges; screenwriters: James Clavell/Edward Anhalt/novel by Alistair Maclean (using pseudonym of Ian Stuart); cinematographer: Robert Surtees; editor:  Ferris Webster; music:  Jerry Goldsmith; cast:  George Maharis (Lee Barrett), Richard Basehart (Dr. Gregor Hoffman/Ainsley), Anne Francis (Ann Williams), Dana Andrews (Gen. Williams), John Larkin (Dr. Leonard Michaelson), Edward Asner (Veretti), Simon Oakland (Tasserly), Richard Bull (Eric Cavanaugh), John Anderson (Regan), John Clarke (Lt. Raskin), Frank Sutton (Donald); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John Sturges; UA; 1965)

"The slow-moving film was dull from the get-go and never picked up any momentum."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The 'thinking man's' biological warfare epidemic thriller sci-fi film is saddled with the wrong director, John Sturges ("Bad Day at Black Rock"/"Escape From Fort Bravo"/"The Magnificent Seven"), for such a paperback pulp story. Sturges tries directing in a different genre than usual and is a fish out of water. The slow-moving film was dull from the get-go and never picked up any momentum. It's based on the popular novel by Alistair Maclean, and is scripted by James Clavell and Edward Anhalt.

In a top-secret biological research installation in the California desert, Station 3, a flask containing a newly-discovered virus known as the "satan bug" and several flasks of a botulinus organism have been stolen during a break-in, and if released in the atmosphere it could ultimately destroy the earth. The war decorated ex-army intelligence officer Lee Barrett (George Maharis), a lawyer,  is chosen to head the investigation because he previously worked at the crime scene site as the security head and could be trusted. Working on the belief that the robbery was an inside job, Barrett soon discovers the culprit is a power hungry madman millionaire, Ainsley (Richard Basehart), who posed as Station 3 scientist Dr. Gregor Hoffman, whose accomplices are Veretti (Edward Asner) and Donald (Frank Sutton). The henchmen take Barrett and Ann (Ann Francis), the investigating general's (Dana Andrews) daughter, as hostages, and deploy the biological germs to wipe out a tiny community in Florida. Next Ainsley threatens to use the germs in LA if Station 3 is not ended, but the police track him down and the nominal action scenes get a chance to be used for the thriller's uninspired climax as the loony is stopped in time before the deadly explosive device is activated.

REVIEWED ON 5/8/2014       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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