Satan Bug, The (1965)

The Satan Bug (1965), produced and directed by John Sturges.

A secret, heavily defended desert lab has been penetrated and bodies left behind. Missing: several flasks of botulinus, a contact poison that kills in seconds, and one container of a new unstoppable virus that will kill everyone on Earth.

(Q: why would you invent such a thing? This is like the doomsday weapons in Dr. Strangelove (1964), but that was a spoof, and this is a serious thriller. At least there is an antidote... right? Right? Oh, brother).

Anyway, deploy all the secret agencies and call back into service that trouble-maker, the trim clean-cut intelligent man of action who is Bond without the quips and who focuses entirely on the mission, romance can wait. Find the villains and don't break that flask!

This is an odd artifact, a techno-thriller that plays like a intelligence procedural: tracking down leads, discovering the plot bit by bit. It is from that era just before 1960s fashions changed and the haircuts and men's suits are plain and dull.

The result is interesting without being a good movie. Too much plot, many holes, almost no character involvement. They obviously had no science advisor for the lab sets and the designer faked what he could. The cast complained that they had no time with the director and that his attention was on his next film: The Hallelujah Trail (1965).

On the good side we have an exciting score written and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith and photography by Robert Surtees.

The cast is a huge collection of familiar character actors and former film stars who had turned to television. They include:

From a book by Alistair MacLean, screenplay by James Clavell and Edward Anhalt.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. No subtitles but one of those fact-filled commentary tracks by a fan. He gives a complete history of germ warfare in film.

He points out that the actors have an impossible job: they are always going to be upstaged by the Satan Bug lurking in that fragile glass flask.