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Oscar Horrors: Killer Bee Costumes!

Happy Halloween! This month Team Film Experience has been celebrating those rare Oscar nominations given to horror films. Here's a true oddity from Robert Gannon. This mini-series was his idea! Take it away, Robert.

Here lies...the original costume designs of The Swarm. Three time Oscar nominated costume designer Paul Zastupnevich earned his second nomination for the epic killer bee film from 1978. As silly as the film is, the costume design is no joke.

Zastupnevich designed very detailed costumes for the entire cast of the film. They fall into three broad categories. The first is military uniforms, including the imagined design for the killer bee response team in orange and white jumpsuits. The second is business attire, worn by a large cavalcade of performers and professionals woven throughout the running time of the film. The third is casual civillian wear, designed in an American-hued palette of various reds, whites, and blues. 

Taken separately, it may not seem that impressive. It's contemporary costuming in a horror/disaster film. But the true beauty of the costumes is seen in the second half of the film, where military personnel, business people, and casual civillians are all mixed together. It makes it quite clear that Zastupnevich had a great eye for categorizing character types. With such a large cast, it becomes essential to be able to pinpoint who everyone is. If nothing else, there is no confusion as to who is doing what during The Swarm.

This is the rare case of the Academy nominating the strongest element of an otherwise critically maligned film. It's rarer still that a horror film that was a commerical failure could gain any awards recognition. 

Previously on Oscar Horrors...
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane -Best Actress in a Leading Role
The Fly -Best Makeup
Death Becomes Her -Best Effects, Visual Effects
The Exorcist -Best Actress in a Supporting Role 
The Birds - Best Effects, Special Visual Effects

Rosemary's Baby - Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium
Beetlejuice - Best Makeup
Carrie - Best Actress in a Leading Role
Bram Stoker's Dracula - Best Costume Design
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Best Actor in a Leading Role

King of the Zombies - Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture
Poltergeist - Best Effects, Visual Effects
Hellboy II: The Golden Army -Achievement in Makeup
The Silence of the Lambs -Best Director
The Tell-Tale Heart -Best Short Subject, Cartoons

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Reader Comments (4)

weirdly i recall this movie somewhat being a movie -- (since 77/78 is when i started paying attention to movies (like so many people star wars/grease is kinda what did it as a child) because i was a bit scared of bees. i think killer bees were a bigger story in the 70s/80s today. you never hear about them any more.

but what a strange Oscar nomination!

Has anyone seen this movie?

October 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

It was a strange year for nominations. All five costume nominees came from films that didn't break out of the technical categories. The most well-known is The Wiz, which is itself a strange costume nominee for being a fantasy musical.

October 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Thanks for highlighting this - what an odd nomination. Must look out for this on cable. I have a vague recollection of seeing it as a kid and being terrified!

October 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

That really is a curiosity of a nomination.

I hate this movie. Hate it. All evidence of its existence must be burnt. Why? Because I watched it as a youngster and now I literally run away when I hear/see a bee. "The Swarm" ruined my life.

November 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn
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