For the second time in as many reviews I am reviewing a film from Cheezy Flicks about simple social, honey producing insects gone so horribly wrong that they are poised to take over the entire United States. While admittedly, I am no stranger to “B” movies, this is just getting fucking ridiculous. Today’s film is THE SAVAGE BEES a TV movie from 1976.
This is actually the first “horror” movie I ever remember seeing in my life (I was 6 when it came out) and part of me has always wondered what the name of this long forgotten film, though just not enough to where I ever took the ten seconds to figure out which one of the three killer bee movies made in the seventies that it was. Let us examine this final film about insects stinging and killing people so I can get back to my usual film diet of softer, gentler, more civilized movies about…”Pollination”.
As the film starts a freighter with a mysteriously missing (they’re dead) crew mysteriously crashes into a New Orleans harbor, a tragedy made even more inexplicable by the films inability to depict the collision with anything but a first person view of the impending accident followed by depictions of some debris floating in the surf a second later. You just know it must be a good film if it makes you want to sit through James Cameron’s TITANIC again, even if only for a decent depiction of a shipwreck, but viewers should fear not, this made for TV movie will be something of a train wreck all its own by its conclusion.
Elsewhere in New Orleans, a small town sheriff named Donald Mckew discovers his dead dog Zeth. He assumes it has been poisoned and he drives it to the state medical examiner at once to help him find the exact nature of the toxin so to help track down the identity of the poisoners, men Sheriff Mckew “is going to feed some poison to” the moment finds out their identity. I like this guy; he gets all the facts before he goes on a vigilante path of murder and vicious retribution. Sheriff Mckew soon meets with the assistant to the Assistant County Coroner Dr. Jeff Durand who contacts his embittered entomologist ex, Jenny Deveroux and the three characters eventually work together to help figure out the ultimate significance of the dogs death and its consequence for the rest of New Orleans, a conclusion that takes tediously long to come to even after they discover that the dogs stomach is full of honeybees. Oh well, things always seem to run a little slower in the South, especially in a TV movie with an anemic ratio of budget to elapsed running time.
The three heroes eventually learn that we may be under attack from South African killer bees arriving on that fateful banana boat and that they simply cannot be wiped out and destroyed even in the remote hope they could find the colony for this would cause the remaining bees to “scatter”. Before you can ask yourselves “what has that got to do with the price of honey?” it is revealed that if a single bee separates from the deadly swarm and joins a different hive of harmless, American honeybees that would spell an ecological and financial disaster that may also result in the death of more than a few symbolic stock characters along the way. Compounding matters is the same “JAWS” backstory that has been redone in every monster movie ever played on the Sc-fi channel to this day. It turns out that it’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the town officials don’t want anyone making a fuss about definitive proof of the invasion can be made. As always in such a situation during a film like this, the creatures are all too happy to make themselves known in the only way they know how, by stinging anyone or anything they encounter, especially those people or things making noise or clad in red and black. Almost as if on cue, in the next scene a farmer driving a loud red tractor is stung to death. Sad, but you can’t say the film didn’t warn him.
Finally a plan is developed. A bee specialist by the name of Dr. Horge Mueller is flown in and with a special silver bug suit of his own design he hopes to walk into the hive and replace the even killer bees queen with a harmless honeybee queen. This will lead to an end of the crisis inside a generation or so. This whole gambit works as well as you might expect it to for any snotty, pretentious guy with a foreign accent wearing a shiny space suit wandering into the midst of a deadly bee hive in the rural south, he survives initial contact with the swarm only taken out by a drunk Mardi Gras couple; two cretins who speed past the police barricade (hooting and hollering as they do) happen upon Mueller in the middle of a sea of bees. As this couple is stung to death they compromise the Doctor’s protective suit by piercing it with a plastic sword during their death throes. A senseless way to die by two senseless people, yet admittedly, their first onscreen words somehow captured the whole spirit of this scene with impossible eloquence and depth: “Mardi Gras, Woo-hoo!”
From there the bees encapsulate the red Volkswagen of the pretty female love interest Jenny the Entomologist and it is up the rest of the characters to somehow save her without getting anyone stung to death, losing a single bee or getting viewers of the day to finally stand up an manually change the channel of their television sets as remote controls weren’t invented yet. Admittedly I must concede that the cinematic scenes of completing this puzzle successfully (complete with constant setbacks) was some of the best cinematic storytelling I have seen in a seventies TV movie since Spielberg’s DUEL. As such, I will not give away the ending but I will say that it was nice to see long interior shots of the famed Louisiana Superdome in its prime before the 2005 Hurricane Katrina aftermath footage when its floor was merely littered with fake killer bees and not actual human BM’s and the whole place had (literally) gone to shit.
This wasn’t terrible. The storytelling wasn’t decent, and the science was often false, contradictory and laughable but the actual use of hundreds of thousands of live bees in this age of cheap computer graphics is not something that is likely to be seen any more. Moreover, the human relationships and personal motivations of the three principals seemed realistic and plausible even and especially as they teamed up against a common threat. The finale was methodical and worked with a honeybee’s efficiency. This was a fitting testament to the seventies TV insect attack movie, where every killer had antennae and so did every television set.
Are we finally done with 1970’s Killer Bee movies yet Cheezy Flicks? I have already reviewed two out of three of them. Or was all of this just the calm before THE SWARM?
Extras include a collection of Cheezy Flicks trailers.
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