Archive for the ‘killer bees’ Tag

The Swarm (1978)   5 comments

french swarm

Mile by mile, city by city it moves leaving in its wake a path of destruction.

The Pentagon calls Major General Slater (Richard Widmark) and Major Baker (Bradford Dillman) to investigate the invasion of a secret ICBM site in Texas. They arrive at the base to find the entire crew dead except for Dr. Brad Crane (Michael Caine). Crane explains that the men died, not from enemy fire or poison gas dropped by the Soviets, but from bee stings. Crane sends for Dr. Walter Krim (Henry Fonda), beeologist, who claims the war they’ve been expecting has arrived and sets to work doing autopsies and testing venom.

And you thought ants could spoil your picnic.

In this man vs. nature film, the military refuse to believe the scientists or do very much until some picnickers die violently at the hands of bees. Do bees even have hands? Then bees overrun a Mayberry-like town filled with old Hollywood stars which puts a damper on Olivia de Havilland’s annual flower festival. She and her suitors Fred MacMurray and Ben Johnson along with the rest of the town board a train to look for a town without bees. Cue Gene Pitney.

Meanwhile, back in the lab, Dr. Krim experiments with his bee venom antidote and we meet Richard Chamberlain and José Ferrer for some reason.

Yeah, probably not.

Scientists and airmen make plans, bees foil those plans, and things blow up…a lot. No one knows what to do until Dr. Crane stops ogling Katharine Ross for a second. Oh, she’s in this film too. Crane has a weird and brilliant idea ‘that just might work’. More stuff happens. The end.

Irwin Allen, directed The Swarm and directed and/or produced many of the best disaster films of the 1970s. He produced The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, The Night the Bridge Fell (?), and The Swarm with big budgets and big, star-studded casts.

From Errol Flynn to this?

Along with the actors I mentioned, The Swarm also stars Lee Grant, Slim Pickens, Patty Duke, Cameron Mitchell, and Alejandro Rey. I enjoy seeing so many A-listers all in one place, but I have to wonder if the Screen Actors’ Guild had a 2-for-1 sale or something. Jerry Goldsmith wrote the music and Stirling Silliphant and Arthur Herzog wrote the screen play based on Herzog’s novel.

I like The Swarm. It has a 70s dream cast, decent bee effects, and fun dialogue. At one point a helicopter pilot screams “Bees, bees, millions of bees!” right before crashing into a mountain. Dr. Crane remarks after a failed attempt to destroy the bees that “They seem to sense it’s something that will kill them.” Really, Brad? Later Richard Chamberlain says, “They’re brighter than we thought.” Henry Fonda replies, “They always are.” Wise words, Hank.

The film also boasts Bradford Dillman as an Air Force major trying desperately to decide what sort of accent he should use. He tries several so it becomes sort of a game to predict how he’ll sound next. A bunch of guys get covered in bees then catch fire and fall off buildings which is always fun. People who are stung also see other people as giant bees. Maybe the bees ate the brown acid.

four bee
Second word. Sounds like me?

Anyway, if you like 1970s stars, flame throwers, or bees, you’re in luck. The Swarm has all those and Michael Caine emoting all over the place and saying “Four minutes to flaming.” It’s a lot of fun.

I watched a making of segment on the DVD and apparently Irwin Allen took care of the actors and stunt people. He spends a lot of production time making sure they have the proper equipment and checking their condition after each shot. Fire and live bees, after all.

Oh I almost forgot the disclaimer.

I had to take a screenshot of this.

Some of my best friends are bees.

The Deadly Bees (1966)   2 comments

deadly bees

Vickie Robbins (Suzanna Leigh), a British pop star with a grueling schedule has a breakdown during a taping of a Shindig-like show.

I’m stressed.

Her doctor orders her to recuperate on a friend’s farm on remote Seagull Island. A few weeks on a quiet farm in the country sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Well, it would be if it weren’t for all those deadly bees. You see farmer and all around jerk Ralph Hargrove (Guy Doleman) keeps bees and spends most of his time experimenting with them to create a race of superbees or bees that can juggle or do your taxes or something. The film never quite tells you. That leaves Ralph’s wife, Mary (Catherine Finn) to run the farm. Their marriage leaves something to be desired as well. Ralph appears to be overly friendly toward the publican’s daughter and Mary is more devoted to her dog than any pesky humans. When Mary’s dog is attacked and killed by bees, the idyllic farm takes on a more sinister mood.

Why do they always pick on the dog?

Mary blames Ralph for the death of her beloved pet and an already strained relationship careens over an embankment. Vickie starts noticing odd things about her host and she soon suspects he’s using his bees to dispatch people he finds superfluous. She meets H.W. Manfred (Frank Finlay), beekeeper and gentleman farmer who fuels Vickie’s suspicions. After Mary meets the same fate as her pup, Vickie and Manfred pool their knowledge to try and thwart Hargrove.

face bees
Why can’t we keep our honey in a jar like other people?

Amicus Productions, a studio considered a lesser Hammer Studios, produced some terrific low budget horrors in the 1960s and 70s. They often used Hammer actors like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as well as big name actors and some who once had big film careers. Amicus specialized in portmanteau horror films like The House That Dripped Blood, Torture Garden, and Vault of Horror and made some full-length horrors as well. Despite their reputation for low budgets, Amicus had good production values and hired talented actors and writers. Robert Bloch (Psycho-Strait-Jacket) wrote the screenplay for The Deadly Bees along with Anthony Marriott and Gerald Heard from his novel A Taste for Honey. The story originally appeared as Sting of Death as part of the Elgin Hour television series and starred Boris Karloff. Director, Freddie Francis (The Day of the Triffids, Trog) helmed a few Amicus films including several anthology films.

I like The Deadly Bees. Despite the bee effects (superimposing film of swarming bees over the actual film), there was some real suspense and the film had more surprises than I expected. The acting was really good. A lot of the cast straddled high and low budget films throughout their careers. The weird bee science was fun. I love the idea of attack bees that respond to scent and music. I recommend The Deadly Bees. I think it’s the first killer bee film so it started a genre I love. It also has an odd cameo. In the opening scene set during the taping of a pop music show, we see a band called The Birds perform. No, they’re not the Turn, Turn, Turn Byrds, but they are the band Ron Wood played in before he joined the Rolling Stones. Their tune isn’t bad either.


I could buy and sell all of you.

The Bees (1978)   2 comments

the bees

A man and his young son break into the South American compound of apiologist (bee guy) Dr. Miller to steal the valuable honeycombs. Ignoring the danger signs, they open a particularly nasty hive of killer bees which overtake them. The next day, the man returns with some friends and his dead son. He blames the scientist for his son’s death because he brought things to the area worth stealing. Despite this flawless logic, Dr. Miller (Claudio Brook) asks the men to leave. The angry mob refuses and, as angry mobs often do, they wreck the place. In the riot that follows the villagers release the bees, die violently, and catch fire. In an effort to retrieve his notes, Dr. Miller dies, but manages to save his wife Sandra (Angel Tompkins) by locking her in a walk-in fridge.

Cut to Sandra in the elevator in John Norman’s (John Saxon) California apartment building. Two muggers attack Sandra in the elevator and immediately open her cosmetic bag. Standard behavior so far. Sandra, a natural beauty, has no need for make-up so in her bag she carries bees. The killer bees run amok and kill the muggers. Sandra emerges from the elevator unscathed since she coos sweetly and bees like that.

She arrives at John’s apartment with her bag half full of bees and never mentions the mugging or the two dead guys in the hall. John and Sandra hit it off right away and make plans to go to John’s lab to look at bees and flirt a lot.

Meanwhile, massive clouds of killer bees form all over the country and leave destruction and death in their wakes. Behind all the mayhem, a large cave of bees hums with activity. It reminds me of scenes in The Haunting in which Robert Wise shows us an event, then cuts to a shot of Hill House to let you know the house sees all — only with bees.

John, Sandra, and Sandra’s uncle Ziggy (John Carradine with an atrocious accent) start working on methods of taming the bees or preventing them from reproducing. It helps that Ziggy (the Bee Whisperer) believes bees use a more sophisticated form of communication than most people think. There’s a cool scene in which Ziggy translates bee dancing. It may have been a bit embellished, but it was still fun.

bees carra

Fighting the scientists, “Big Business” wants killer bees to thrive so they can add them to their huge corporate hive. This would create superbees and a more refined and expensive type of royal jelly. The corporate baddies want to replace the sugar in most consumer products with honey thus becoming honey sheiks and ruling the world and getting all the hot chicks.

To that end, “Big Business” has a politician in its pocket who helps them with the copious bee legislation which crosses his desk. At a hearing before several pols, John outlines his plan to treat the killer bees with a pheromone which will make the drones mate with each other rather than the queen, which breaks up the panel because they have a mental age of seven. They crack a lot of bad gay jokes and say things like “adding incest to injury” and make plans to go get popsicles.

While John speaks in Washington, the bad guys send a couple of guys to off Ziggy. They try to escape after their crime, but the bees have other plans and John returns home to a blood bath in the lab. Worn out from cleaning corpses out of their office, John and Sandra go to bed. John wakes in the middle of the night and begins to make love to Sandra only to find she and he and their bed covered in bees. The lovers manage to extricate themselves from the bedroom because they speak bee.

This was the last straw. John, determined to inform the world about the plight of the bees and the reach of their power and avoid bee-us interruptus again, goes back to Washington to testify before Congress. As he speaks, a cloud of bees enters the room and begins to air their grievances through John.

Alfred Zacharias (The Pearl, Crime of Crimes) wrote and directed The Bees and while it’s not the best B-movie I’ve seen, it is the best bee movie I’ve seen involving John Saxon, hit men, and terrorists wielding jars full of bees. I enjoyed The Bees and it even won an award. Dan Genis won the award for Best Special Effects at the Catalonian International Film Festival. Besides, it was fun. John Saxon always entertains, John Carradine played a fun, quirky character, and I never knew what would happen next.


bees bed


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