The Hellstrom Chronicle (1971)

hellstrom chronicle

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bugs rule the world.

Basically this is nothing more than a nature film quite similar to the ones you saw in grade school. The only difference here is that it is overblown with silly dramatic elements and ‘scare’ tactics that make it seem much more important than it really is. Pretty much it’s just microscopic photography of bugs and insects as it examines their behavior and the fact that they are more adaptable to their environments than humans and therefore in the long run the survival rate of their species is higher.

When it sticks to the science part it can be interesting and even captivating. Raw nature up close can’t be beat just seeing the basic transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly is fun. There is also a cool close-up view of a Venus flytrap plant catching its prey and an exciting battle between fighter termites and army ants trying to invade their fortress. There are also an intriguing look at the bee community, fire ants, and the ugly habits of a black widow spider.

Where the film falls apart is when it tries to be this faux documentary and brings in actor Lawrence Pressman to play a fictionalized scientist named Nells Hellstrom. At the time Pressman was just starting out so not many viewers knew that he was actually an actor. Now it is quite obvious and it seriously hurts the credibility of the entire picture. What’s more is that they overplay the whole ‘mad scientist’ bit. They have his hair disheveled, his eyes glazed over and he talks about how his obsession with bugs has cost him many friends and jobs. It becomes laughable especially when you realize all of his ‘major findings’ are rudimentary and generalized.

There is also a segment where they have ‘Candid Camera’-like experiments showing everyday people’s reactions when they come across bugs at unlikely places. Supposedly these are non-scripted, but they come-off more like a set-up. One has a man sitting at a restaurant eating a salad. When he finds a bug in it he merely pushes it away and continues to just sit there. Anyone else would most certainly holler at the waitress and demand a new salad or their money back.

The technology at their research labs looks horribly dated. Their own thesis, which is in the end bugs are superior to man, is really full-of-holes. So what if they are able to survive in a chemically infested polluted environment where man could not. Who would want to live there anyways? Simply watch this film for its nature aspect and tune out the rest of the drivel. Some of the scenes get a bit explicit so don’t watch on a full stomach either.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: June 28, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated G

Director: Walon Green

Studio: Wolper Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray

3 responses to “The Hellstrom Chronicle (1971)

  1. What, you watched this as a “nature film”? It’s purposefully subverting the “nature” film genre and creating a sinister science fiction experience… argh, clearly, you’ve missed the point.

    • I realize it was trying to create a ‘sinister science fiction experience’, but on that level it failed and was even pretty lame. There is actual nature footage, so in that regard I liked it.

  2. Okay, yeah, from that tag line was NOT expecting this to be a film about insects and the such, lol. Sounds…um…interesting? Maybe?

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