The Deadly Bees (1966)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Screenplay by Robert Bloch and Anthony Marriott
Based on a book by Gerald Heard, A Taste of Honey
When pop singer, Vicki Robins, has a nervous break-down from the pressures and rigors of touring, she is instructed to take some time off away from the business. Ralph Hargrove, an old friend of the family, welcomes her to stay at his country farm house on a secluded island for rest and relaxation. It’s clear early on that Hargrove has a strained relationship with his wife. He is also a bee farmer and very protective of his hives. When Vicki meets the neighbor, Manfred, she finds that he also has an infatuation with bees and keeps his own hives very close to his house.
At night, shadowed figures and dark silhouettes criss-cross the field and barn. The next day Vicki wanders into the barn to find a sick horse with many oozing open wounds. When the wife’s dog gets into the husband’s experiment, bees kill the dog. The effects aren’t so great, the bees look like yellow blobs floating around the screen. The wife, distressed about her dog sets the bee hives ablaze. Hargrove comes home just in time to put the fires out and saves one hive from demise. It isn’t long before the bees attack and kill Mrs. Hargrove.
While the investigation into Mrs. Hargrove’s death heats up, the last boat to the island leaves and won’t return for five days. The neighbor, with the help of Vicki captures some of Hargrove’s bees, and explains they are a breed of killer bees. But he has no proof to give police that Hargrove is purposely raising them for evil deeds.
One of my favorite scenes is when Vicki is in the bathroom brushing her teeth with an electric toothbrush. It’s buzzing loudly but when she turns it off, she still hears the buzzing. She turns around and the bedroom is full of killer bees.
The film is more drama/thriller than sci-fi but held my interest with its mystery. At times it has the feel and atmosphere of The Birds, though never gets to that level of intensity. There are some nasty shots of real bees stinging human flesh in close-up, some that made me squirm for sure, but the attacks were short enough to not become torturous. It’s a good old-style thriller with a light sci-to angle, perhaps not for everyone, but I enjoyed it because of its mystery storyline, crisp cinematography and charming character portrayal in Vicki. From what I’ve read Bloch was not happy with the rewrite of the script which he felt made the characters less menacing than his original screenplay and the book.
The band playing in the beginning of the film features Ron Wood (The Rolling Stones) on guitar. He sure looks young.
The lead roles were originally written for Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff, but neither could free up enough time on their schedules to commit to the film.
All of the interior and exterior of the farm were built as a set in a studio
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Amicus Films Overview – see the many Amicus films I have reviewed thus far!