On the heels of the 1970’s disaster movie fad came a subgenre of films that frightened moviegoers with the concept of an infestations by very ordinary pests turned rogue in a series of films that all seemed to borrow their inspiration from Hitchcock’s classic “THE BIRDS”. Well much as most of the sex laden films I review have taught me time and time again (even if only symbolically), you can’t have “the Birds” without THE BEES. Here is a prototypical film from the final days of the mass calamity picture which is unique in no special way whatsoever except that it is so absolutely awful that it actually becomes something of a disaster all its own. Let us once again kick the forgotten cult film beehive and see what awful, angry and unconvincing thing comes out to greet us.
At the start of the film a man and his boy foolishly try to steal honey from a scary trailer full of deadly bees with a large OSHA approved danger sign on the door clearly written in Spanish. Even though most of us cannot read the warning, they somehow can and yet ignore it anyway (of course they do). The man and boy are attacked by numerous bees and the two interlopers are driven away.
Next we meet the aged Dr Claudio Miller and his younger, pretty wife Sandra (played by Angel Thompkins). She flirts with him shamelessly as he prattles on about bees. Do Claudio’s lack of testosterone and the Miller’s May/ December marriage bother you? Relax, much like the other abominations of nature in these films, relationships between unlikely partners just seem to have a way of “regulating themselves” (usually in some brutal violent fashion). Suddenly they are interrupted by a noise outside. The man who stole honey in the opening scene cradles his dead boy in his arms and he is accompanied by a makeshift mob of very angry villagers brandishing all manner of torch, blunt objects and truncheon. Dr Claudio does his best to quell the villagers concern by explaining that his research is valuable for cross breeding a more docile species of bee that will allow for greater honey harvests and greater prosperity to the community. The villagers collectively ponder this for a moment and then voice their content by killing him with a rock, burning down the entire facility and generally releasing all the bees in the compound which immediately results in the stinging death of 99% the characters we have met in the film thus far. All of this would make no sense as a plot device (as the bees were released in the opening scene) except it does allow Angel to somehow survive the attack, escape and go to New York where she can continue her husband’s dream of creating a beneficial strain of killer bees. Does that sound insane? Well buy yourself a beekeeper hat and hang the fuck onto it, the stupid in this film is just getting started.
Eventually Sandra meets up with a bee scientist named John Norman (played By John Saxon who I will forever remember best as the only Caucasian guy in ENTER THE DRAGON). Together with her unconvincing German father Dr Sigmund Hummel (played by John Carradine). These three assumed etymologists work together to come up with a way to interpret the bees language and hopefully devise a way of communicating with them so we can formally ask them nicely to produce more honey and to stop arbitrarily stinging everyone to death for no apparent reason. The bees however, are inexplicably in no mood for signing treaties. And then the attacks start. From where the bees came is anyone’s guess. Did they arrive by the original lab riot in Brazil? Did they come over by failed corporate espionage by the sneaky industrialists who wanted to harvest their power first? Or were they released by one of the three main characters? It is no exaggeration when I say at various times in the film that the three main characters each allow bees to escape into the world from quarantine lab conditions either by their own accidental or indirect incompetent action. I can find no reason for this as they seem to be the only three people in America who take the threat seriously and spend every speaking line of the film encouraging others encourage the United Nations that the bees are the biggest threat to mankind as we know it. Maybe they just didn’t want to be proven wrong and lose their funding? I guess this is one of the dangers of a “hive mentality” in science.
Suffice to say, the bees soon strike; the attacks are always depicted in one of three ways, all of them terrible. There is the use of cliché, famous stock footage such as this particular clip of an obviously staged plane crash with “flying bees” crudely superimposed over the action that looks suspiciously like a wood chipper had been just placed out of frame. There are live action shots of actors and actresses milling about with special effect bees glued to their faces (with more wood chipper “bee debris” in the foreground, for dramatic effect). Finally there are long tedious vignettes of everyday folks going about their business until they randomly encounter the bees and do some everyday thing to enrage them until they are summarily killed. The long drawn out scene where the old man on the park bench hires two boys to catch him a paper bag full of bees in order to help with his arthritis is a living workshop on bad, predictable dialogues between stock characters and the tedium of a foregone conclusion in film. You just know by this point in the film they can only bring him a bag of South American killer bees but you still have to wait several minutes for this to play out as you have to wait for the boys to actually catch the bees from the most undramatic side view possible, just for the lackluster payout of seeing an sick, helpless old man stung to death. Yet on the plus side, it seemed the bees must have really helped with the old man’s arthritis after all, as his manic, spastic death dance was a lively choreographed number indeed when compared to most of the other wooden, uninspired flailing about in this movie that passed for acting by most of the principal cast. A final note is that whenever the Bees strike they play the first few notes of a goofy musical piece that many other reviewers refer to as a disco tune, but I think it is better described as the first few notes of the A TEAM theme. However you describe it, it is simply upbeat, arguably pretentious and certainly does not belong in a monster movie as a kill theme, unless of course you are rooting for the monsters by now which I admittedly often do by now in a movie this bad because experience has taught me that when all humans are dead it will finally end.
Yet sadly humanity is not destroyed yet. The scientists come up with a use of pheromones (which they mispronounce as furromones for the duration of the film). This will make the bees unable to mate with the queen and will entice all the worker bees to have sex with one another instead. From then on viewers should prepare themselves for several juvenile gay jokes and homosexual slurs at this scientific round table discussion that I couldn’t imagine any modern prepubescent teenager telling. As for me, nothing surprised me. By the time that John and “Ziggy” were actually joking about incest with one another when viewing a “sexy” video message left by Sandra, I had to admit that no delicate human behavior would shock me anymore, at least when relating to this films capacity to make dumb jokes about it. Even when John and Sandra actually became lovers it was barely noticeable (even to me) because this movie is incapable of depicting subtlety of any sort. To the viewer’s perspective it appears that they simply woke up in the same bed one morning in a bedroom filled with bees! Who saw that coming?
The ending is perhaps the sweetest, humanistic honey glaze ever to be brushed on a dry, cinematic ham of crap that is this film. John and Sandra are at the United Nations telling delegates from all over the world that the bees wish to communicate with them. Of course security is called and they are ordered to be removed from the floor at once. Just then bees flood into the room and cause mass hysteria, but no one is stung. The bees then communicate the message that they want to live in peace and harmony with us as long as we learn to take better care of the earth. Thankfully the film ends here. I don’t want to try and envision living in a world where bees run our government; a silly and speculative world where “bug bombs” are considered chemical weapons, Area 51 is renamed the “Honeycomb Hideout” and all free Americans are once again ruled by a “queen” for the first time since our nations independence.
Okay, I admit most of those aren’t even funny but obviously these dumb films are obviously starting to make me stupid as well. Yet admittedly even when I rate this film according to the the usual basic technical elements on which most films are reviewed, this had to be the worst film I have seen all year and by comparison it makes any of the forgettable Sci-fi channel “Creature Features” (where pretty young twenty-somethings are mauled by bad computer graphics) look plot driven, richly detailed and nuanced, almost like THE HOBBIT by comparison. I am surprised Mystery Science Theater didn’t catch this, but the film is such a running joke already that it was probably unnecessary as the snide backtalk would have paled to the prime stupidity already being seen and said constantly onscreen. There is an accepted reality in some circles that a film can be so terrible that it is actually somehow good. Yet when someone watches as many obscure, low budget, shit films as I do it constantly kind of takes away one’s tolerance for anything but quality and garbage film quickly becomes something apparent, ordinary and less than precious.
Yet, in the case of the THE BEES I will offer the following caveat, if you and your friends have bad film parties where everyone must show up with the worst film possible for a certain decade that no one has brought before yet it has to include movies that people of all ages can watch, and should that era be the 1970’s, this film is a five skull bottle of royal jelly. All others just stay away. THE BEES don’t sting, they stink.
Extras include a collection of Cheezy Flicks Trailers.