Jeannot Szwarc's Bug actually spearheaded a full-on assault of nature-run-amok flicks waged on moviegoers during the tail end of the 1970's, so this film's success helped pave the way for such classics as Kingdom of the Spiders (1976), It Happened at Lakewood Manor (1977 aka; ANTS!), Squirm (1976), and even the film everyone associates with this peculiar sub-genre, Food of the Gods (1976). Bug was also unique in that it wasn't simply a man vs. nature film, but also a strangely fascinating look at one man's descent into madness, with the film's final act seeming like something straight out of a Kafka novel.
Loosely based on the Thomas Page novel The Hephaestus Plague, Bug was adapted for the screen by none other than the P.T. Barnum of horror cinema, William Castle. Eschewing much of that novel's sci-fi leanings, Castle whittled the story down to it's core, showing us a small town ravaged by the effects of an earthquake, and the strange, pyrokinetic insects that seem to have infested the area as a result. Professor James Parmiter (Dillman) studies the creatures in hopes of containing them, but this crisis could not have come at a worse time, as Parmiter is already slowly losing his grip on reality, and his actions do more harm than good.
I found it strange that Castle included Parmiter's gradual loss of his own mind seeing as how he otherwise seemed focused on making a gimmicky gross-out bug movie. I've read The Hephaestus Plague and my memory of that book was fresher than my memory of Bug (which I haven't seen in nearly twenty years at least!), so, as an adult viewing Castle's adaptation, I found myself actually more than a little impressed by just how faithful Castle was to the book; at least for the second half of the film. The first half of the film is your typical creepy crawler squirm-a-thon, filled with carbon eating, fire starting bugs getting in places you'd rather they not. However, once the film's focus shifts to Parmiter's experiments and the bugs "communicating" with him, the whole thing feels downright sophisticated. While the film's ending is pretty hazy when compared to the novel's doomsday message, it's pretty clear what the secrets of the titular bugs are, and what this means for mankind.
Paramount releases Bug as a part of a whole group of horror/b-movie classics for budget prices. Being that this disc will cost you less than a pizza, I can't fault it for not having anything other than subtitles as extras. The film itself looks fantastic, with a very nice widescreen transfer and a solid Dolby soundtrack.
While, for the most part, it's the silly, creepy bug movie William Castle set out to make, this film has a deeper, more disturbing subtext that really surfaces during it's final thirty minutes or so. It makes the whole film seem a little schizophrenic, but, come to think of it, maybe that's what Castle intended.