I have barely a fragment of a memory of seeing this movie when I was a kid, and that fragment is of one of the characters being menaced by a swarm of bees. I remember being disinterested in the movie as a whole (I can’t recall if that was before I tried to watch or during) because the bees were normal sized. Back then, and to a degree still, I like my “nature run amok flicks” to be about either giant variations or mutant, giant variations. Though I have a very faint notion that fragment I remember creeped me out, which may be of no surprise since my brother and I had been attacked by a swarm of hornets when were little kids.
The hornets had taken up residence in the ground near this huge, half buried boulder at the end of the lawn near the road. They had been there for some time keeping us from playing on the rock. Then one day my brother gets it in his head to take a long leaf and shove in the opening to their nest. I remember telling him to not do it, but he didn’t listen. The second after he shoved it in there, he ran. I ran with him. But not really thinking they’d come after us we stopped a little ways away and looked back. What I remember seeing was a swarm of hornets come out of the ground, swirling straight up in the air en mass like an actual tornado, then making a bee-line (pun intended) right at us. He and I were stung all over the arms and legs. We screamed. My grandmother ran out of the house, grabbed the hose and started spraying us. When the hornets were gone, we sat on the front steps crying as she packed our horrendous wounds with mud. Days later our parents had an exterminator come up and wipe the nest out.
Having little to know memory of this flick at all I was surprised by several things in the opening credits: It’s an Amicis production; Frank Finlay is in the movie; screenplay was written by Robert Bloch and that it’s an adaptation of the novel A Taste For Honey by H.F Heards. Oh, and Freddie Francis directed it. I’ve never read, much less heard of the book, but all those other things I just mentioned were pleasant surprises. To me Frank Finlay is synonymous with Lifeforce (1985) where he played Dr. Hans Fallada, the lead scientist battling and studying those space vampires. I also kind of remember him from another horror flick, Cthulhu Mansion (1990), even though I’ve never seen it, I just remember the Fangoria coverage and some pretty bizarre photos of him turning into a creature or getting diseased. I can’t remember which. I’ve never seen him in anything prior to Lifeforce, so seeing Finlay so young in The Deadly Bees was a trip and he’s almost unrecognizable too. His voice though was a dead giveaway.
Suzanna Leigh (whom I always confuse with Suzan Farmer for some reason) plays singer Vicki Robbins who suffers a nervous breakdown while filming a television show. Her doctor sends her to Seagull Island for some much needed R&R, but this is the worst place to get R&R. She ends up at the farm of Ralph Hargrove (Guy Doleman) and his wife, Mary (Catherine Finn). From what we see of the Hargrove’s they cannot stand each other and Ralph comes of as your basic aforementioned asshole. And he’s a beekeeper, so an asshole beekeeper he is. There’s another beekeeper on the island too, H.W. Manfred (Frank Finlay), who’s not an asshole. He’s many things, but an asshole he is not. One of these beekeepers is a psycho though, for in the opening, a psycho beekeeper has been sending letters to officials claiming he’s created a strain of killer bees and he wants to test them out by seeing if he can get them to kill someone. We naturally assume it’s Hargrove, and he hates Manfred, for reasons we’re never quite sure.
What I liked about this flick is how they handled the basic plot of good versus evil beekeepers which effectively throws you off from who’s who. The good guy is an asshole and the bad guy is a congenial chap. Having never seen the movie in its entirety I was sure Finlay was the good guy, until the final act reveal.
Through means of manipulation by Manfred, and by Hargrove just being an asshole, Vicki ends up leaving the cottage and takesg up residence with Manfred presuming she’s safer there. She is relatively, for Manfred needs to know things about Hargrove before he kills him and Vicki. Hargrove knows Manfred has developed killer bees and knows he’s using some kind of trigger to get them onto a specific person, but he doesn’t know what and has been experimenting to find out. In the meantime, Manfred gets delight out of terrorizing Hargrove’s farm and killing his wife and dog with his bees. Vicki is just a pawn to which she naturally becomes useless at the very end, once Manfred has what he wants, which was to know how much Hargrove knows about his work.
The bee attacks FX are pretty crude but being 1966 I was okay with it. Let’s say they didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the flick. By the way Hammer regular bit player, Michael Ripper, shows up as the island’s barkeep. He’s kind of like Hammer’s version of Where’s Waldo. I’ve seen so many Hammer flicks that Ripper cameos in them you can almost make a drinking game out of it. When I saw him in this my usual reaction was, “Ha! It’s Ripper again!” He even has his own biography in print, Michael Ripper: Unmasked by Derek Pykett.
I’m glad I chose to do a re-evaluation of this movie. I’m a fan of it now.
The Deadly Bees has been released only once before by Legend Films in 2008. Now that Olive Films has gotten the rights they have given it a re-release on DVD and its first ever blu-ray release, which happened back on October 27th.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.78:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio—No subs
This is the third Olive Films flick I’ve reviewed (previous two were Breeders and Sometimes They Come Back) where the blu-ray transfer has been rather exceptional! Colors especially!
There are no extras on this disc at all.
If you’re a fan of this Amicus title this blu is the way to go!