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directed by Walon Green
USA 1971


Actor Lawrence Pressman, in the fictional personage of Dr. Nils Hellstrom, provides a strong case for insect species eventually taking over the Earth in this 1972 Academy Award-winner for Best Documentary. Throughout scenes of mating, metamorphosis, insect species cannibalism, and brutal wars between enemy species, the overriding message is that each of these individual species have had millions of years to find ways to organize conducive to their continued survival while we have not. The problem is that the fictional Hellstrom seems more than a bit smug as he's supposedly trying to warn humanity about its certain end. Scripter David Seltzer is known to genre audiences as the author of the source novel and screenplay for THE OMEN (as well as the less successful horror films PROPHECY and THE EIGHTEENTH ANGEL), but he had previously written and produced a handful of nature documentaries (including the National Georgraphic special "Lonely Doryman: Portugal's Men of the Sea" directed by THE VANISHING's George Sluizer). The sequences featuring Hellstrom were directed by Ed Spiegel, who had also written, produced, and directed some National Geographic and other TV documentary specials. Walon Green, who directed the insect sequences, had also started out in documentary film but went on to work as a series producer and writer for shows like HILL STREET BLUES, E.R., and LAW & ORDER (and its various tired incarnations). The insect sequences were shot by National Geographic cinematographer Ken Middleham, who shot similar footage for the Saul Bass' ants-take-over-the-world sci-fi picture PHASE IV as well as the William Castle-produced BUG (Middleham also shot time-lapse sequences for DAYS OF HEAVEN and micro-photography for the Roger Corman production DAMNATION ALLEY).

Their combined efforts create a world that is simultaneously terrifying and moving. The ant and termite societies are particularly brutal and repulsive; however, the intricate amount of work and self-sacrifice that goes into the maintaining and defense of their worlds almost makes the idea (and simple execution) of wiping out their mounds apocalyptic (the plight of an insect trapped in a Venus Flytrap now also seems less "cool" than before). There are also some beautiful sights to behold, like the entire process of the metamorphosis from caterpillar to Monarch Butterfly. The filmmakers even try to inject some humor into the usually fatal assignation between male and female Black Widow (scored here by DIRTY HARRY composer Lalo Schiffrin as if it were a make-out sesion); however, they are more successful with pathos in scenes where when worker bees cruelly eject exhausted drones from the hive once they have mated with the queen, or soldier termites who have defended their mound from intruders are now sealed out from the repaired structure and left to die. Clips from THEM! and THE NAKED JUNGLE are used to demonstrate man's fear of insects, while romantic scenes from IF IT'S TUESDAY, IT MUST BE BELGIUM precede the aforementioned bit of spider nookie. THE HELLSTROM CHRONICLE was an early credit in prolific TV actor Pressman's career, which included a supporting role in RICH MAN, POOR MAN, guest appearances in everything from M*A*S*H to MARCUS WELBY, as well as a regular recurring role on DOOGIE HOWSER M.D. The film's original title was PROJECT X (not to be confused with the sex comedy currently afflicting theaters).

Eric Cotenas


Theatrical Release: May 1971 - Cannes Film Festival

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DVD Review: Olive Films - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Olive Films

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:30:15

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: ~6.6 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English Dolby Digital 1.0 mono
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Olive Films

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• none

DVD Release Date: January 10th, 2012

Chapters 8



Olive Films presents this 35mm-lensed documentary in a barely dual-layer, progressive transfer in its original fullscreen aspect ratio (IMDb lists a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but it doesn't seem matte-able to that extent and the Blu-ray's 1080P version is pillar-boxed at 1.33:1). The insect and plant photography is crisp and colorful, with any softness resulting from the extremely shallow focus (making it nearly impossible for the focus puller to fully encompass details of the fight scenes between the insects). The scenes featuring Hellstrom onscreen (directed by a separate director and a different cinematographer) generally look softer and perhaps hastily shot. His visit to the drive-in is particularly grainy with somewhat grayish blacks, but it suits the documentary feel. The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio is more consistently clean. It is confined mostly to live and narrated dialogue, some sound effects, and Lalo Schifrin's diverse score. There are absolutely no extras.

Possibly as a means of copy protection, Olive Films has repeated the first 11 minutes of the film again as a 540 MB video segment not accessible from the menu, which edges the disc over onto a second layer. A
Blu-ray edition is also available (HERE).

  - Eric Cotenas


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