BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE DEADLY BEES

By • Jan 18th, 2009 •

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For myself, THE DEADLY BEES brings back the memory of my Dad and I going to the movies in the late 1960’s and catching this, along with DOCTOR TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS, at the Lane Theatre in New Dorp, Staten Island, NY (Mom went into labor with me on Halloween and I arrived the following day – I understand I’m to be buried at a crossroad for some reason). I caught the film from time to time, edited, on regular television over the years until it gradually dropped from sight. Many fans, including director Freddie Francis, had little love for this movie but to tell you the guilty truth – I kinda like it! This was the first ‘Killer Bee’ film made and the idea of using bees as a bio-weapon is pretty novel when you think about it.

Based upon the novel ‘A Taste For Honey’ by noted British writer H.F. Heard, and a screenplay by Robert Bloch (rewritten upon Francis’s request by Anthony Marriott), TDB tells the story of pop singer Vicki Robbins (Suzanna Leigh) who collapses from exhaustion and is put under the care of Doctor Lang (Michael Gwynn, best remembered by fans for his roles in REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN and SCARS OF DRACULA) who decides his patient needs peace and quiet. The kind doctor calls his friend Ralph Hargrove (Guy Doleman) who owns an Inn/Farm on a small island – Seagull Island – off the coast. Arriving at the island Vicki gradually is plunged into a series of horrific events: Hartgrove and another islander, Manfred, keep bees, and one of them has developed a strain of ‘killer bees’ to be sold as, mentioned earlier, a bio-weapon (the government had written the offer off as a crank). The singer sees various individuals attacked (and in one case killed) before she ends up discovering and confronting the madman.

As stated earlier, Freddie Francis wasn’t too happy with the production, but he still developed an interesting film for for an afternoon’s entertainment – a harken-back to days when films had titles like THE DEADLY MANTIS or THE SHE CREATURE. The cast is a familiar one to fans of not only Amicus and Hammer, but British cinema in general: besides Gwynn, lead Suzanna Leigh also appeared later in Hammer’s THE LOST CONTIENT and LUST FOR A VAMPIRE, and does a good job in the role here with what she is given. Katy Wild, seen as the mute girl in Francis’s EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN, appears and pretty much walks through her role, as does Michael Ripper as her father. Guy Doleman as farm owner Ralph Hargrove (the actor had appeared in numerous productions such as THUNDERBALL, BILLION DOLLOR BRAIN, THE IPCRESS FILE and the 1959 theatrical version of ON THE BEACH) play’s the usual surley farmer type while Catherine Finn (TORTURE GARDEN, JOURNEY INTO DARKNESS, CREEPING FLESH) has the thankless, one-dimensional, frumpy bitch role here. Frank Finlay, who had appeared in several major productions in cinema, TV and the stage (fans of fantasy will recall him for his Quatermass-like role in Tobe Hooper’s LIFEFORCE) plays the harmless, likeable eccentric (or it seems!) who inspires Suzanna Leigh’s interest and does a good job in the role. But the real fun is catching future Rolling Stone’s guitarist Ron Wood in the band “The Birds” (not to be confused with “The Byrds”) during the tv studio scene at the film’s start.

LEGEND FILMS’ DVD is a no-frills release – no theatrical trailer or any extras – and does not have a subtitle option even though it is close-captioned. The picture and colour is excellent and the Dolby Digital mono English track is likewise very good. It is presented at a 1:75:1 Anamorphic Widecreen ratio and the image is well balanced. So-make like a bear, hang on to your honey, and get buzzzzzeeeedddd!!!

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2 Responses »

  1. Thanks for reviewing this guilty pleasure! I may have to do a Camp David on that dear old reprobate Guy Doleman who was a handfull to know in life. His long suffering wife Rita was a close friend when I lived in Hollywood in the 80’s. Guy was very proud of his work in the Michael Caine Harry Palmer films telling me fans actually recited dialogue as “Ross” Palmer’s boss in the series at conventions. “I am a cult star you know” well perhaps he was….I mentioned this film the very first time I met him and he began to realize maybe this was not such a bad film afterall. I don’t think he got on with the producers as his drinking was an off again problem throughout his life. He moved to Australia and I think he died there…I never discovered what became of Rita Doleman??

    This is one I must collect as well…..full marks.

  2. Thanks David, I appreciate the kind remarkes and to Roy for letting a hack like myself for letting me share my views. There are so many films once viewed, but now are forgotten films out there that deserve a new life. My own personal Holy Grail is the 1969 tv film “FEAR NO EVIL” starring Louis Jourdan and directed by Paul Wendkos (love to track him down and talk about this and “BROTHERHOOD OF THE BELL”!).
    Thankyou again!

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