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  Bees, The The Sting
Year: 1978
Director: Alfredo Zacarias
Stars: John Saxon, Angel Tompkins, John Carradine, Claudio Brook, Alicia Encinas, Julio César Imbert, Armando Martín, José Chávez, George Belanger, Delroy White, Roger Cudney, Julia Yallop, Chad Hastings, Elizabeth Wallace, Al Jones, Gray Johnson
Genre: Horror, Trash, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: The threat of the African killer bee has been looming across both North and South America, and in the south it has become a reality, crossbreeding with local strains to create a new, ever more vicious and poisonous insect. Now the United States is under threat, but the authorities simply are not listening, therefore in Mexico the scientist Dr Miller (Claudio Brook) is conducting research to prevent the spread, and has his own hives of the bees to examine and experiment upon. Unfortunately, he does not take human greed into account, and the hives are broken into by a thief and his son hoping to steal honey, with the result that they are both badly stung and the boy dies. Cue a mob carrying flaming torches showing up at the Miller residence...

The Bees was the movie that made Irwin Allen nervous, for he had his own killer bees epic released that same year and did not want any fly by night cash-in merchants messing up its chances. As it turned out, the poor quality and general reception of The Swarm as that year's cinematic laughing stock put paid to any profits Allen might have made, but in one way it did succeed: when the subject of awful killer bees flicks is raised, it would be The Swarm that most minds would go straight to, and this Mexican horror was rather neglected. That in spite of it providing easily as many laughs in three fifths of the time, for director Alfredo Zacarias, who was to all intents and purposes as sincere as the American Master of Disaster, was inept in his own special style.

Too often when a bad movie is recommended to you, one that is supposed to be so bad it's good, your reaction may well be a few scattered chuckles but an encroaching sense of boredom too; with The Bees, however, it genuinely was as funny as it reputation, as limited as that renown was, thanks to a perfect storm of ridiculous science, baffling character choices, a self-serious demeanour and a resolution that was so preposterous that it became something to treasure as utterly ludicrous. John Saxon, no stranger to the trashier side of the motion picture industry, could by all rights have slotted into the cast of The Swarm, though not as the lead: here, on the other hand, he was the star of the show, sharing the screen with love interest and fellow scientist Angel Tompkins.

Now, Tompkins was playing Mrs Miller who sees her house burned down and her husband murdered by that mob at the beginning, so obviously days later she is snogging boffin Saxon as if none of that trauma mattered in the slightest. There was more, as her uncle Sigmund Hummel (played by John Carradine with a phony German - or was it Swedish - accent) is a scientist too, an expert in bee communication who happily perves over his niece in a supposedly humorous interlude from the otherwise deadly serious matter of those bees. Saxon even made an incest/insects pun about it. But mostly the storyline alternated between our heroes trying to get the powers that be to understand the gravity of the situation, and random extras and bit part actors blundering around in a cloud of the creatures pretending to die. Mere description may not be enough to convey how hilarious this was, but each time you thought it could not get any dafter, it managed that very feat.

The characters here, just about excepting the trio of scientists, were some of the stupidest in all of horror, doing precisely the wrong thing, blaming exactly the wrong people, and (spoilers!) working events up to a climax where the bees actually won and defeated mankind. This was all part of Zacarias' environmental message, one of many in this decade's genre movies, which was as sincere as it was wrong-headed in execution as after a plan to turn the bugs homosexual (!) to stop them breeding failed, Carradine worked out that the killer bees had become superintelligent and could speak to humans, offering a dire warning that our time was limited if we did not listen to them. Naturally, this meant a finale where they gatecrashed the United Nations building and announced they were now in charge. Add in corporate intrigue that turns murderous, stock footage galore (including that very recognisable plane crash test), a soundtrack by Richard Gillis that sounded more like incidental music from The Golden Girls, and a general air from the actors of "are we getting away with this?" (the answer was no) and The Bees was deserving of more fame as one of the funniest bad movies of its era.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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