The Deadly Bees (1966 – 1967) – Movie review – Amicus Films

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The Deadly Bees (1966)

Amicus Films
Directed by Freddie Francis
Screenplay by Robert Bloch and Anthony Marriott
Based on a book by Gerald Heard, A Taste of Honey

Suzanna Leigh
Frank Finlay
Guy Doleman
Michael Ripper

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 the deadly bees dvdinfatuation 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 The Deadly Bees pic 3but 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.

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Fun Facts:

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

Check out the master list:
Amicus Films Overview
see the many Amicus films I have reviewed thus far!

The Skull (1965) – Amicus Films – movie review

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The Skull (1965)

Amicus Films

Whenever you get Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in the same film it is a treat. Add to that, a screenplay based on a story by Robert Bloch and director Freddie Francis, you have the trifecta of old-school British horror goodness.

The film concerns the accursed skull of the Marquis de Sade. Christopher Maitland (Cushing) and Sir Matthew Phillips (Lee), are The Skull 1965collectors of occult artifacts. Maitland is offered the skull by a shady dealer and recognizes it as part of Lee’s collection. Knowing it must have been stolen he turns down the offer to purchase the skull. He contacts his fellow collector about the stolen item and Phillips tells him, he is happy to be rid of the accursed skull. He warns Maitland to stay away from it however, Maitland soon develops an obsession with the skull. When he re-visits the shady dealer, he finds the man dead and steals the skull. Once in his home the artifact haunts and torments Maitland, driving him to insanity and provoking him to kill.

The film is subtle, relying on atmosphere and mood to relay the psychological conflict between Maitland and the skull. The silent battle is brought to the screen superbly by Cushing. The visuals are dated and may be considered hokey by today’s standards, but none-the-less effective as the skull floats through the the skull pic 1rooms of Maitland’s abode, taunting him to evil deeds. The gothic atmosphere provides a visual appeal that I find interesting. The Skull is quite different than most horror of the time, relying on the psychological horror rather than blood and gore, and the battle of wills rather than the usual perversions associated with the Marquis de Sade. It is a fantastic film for those who like old-style horror.

This review is part of a series I am doing to review all the Amicus horror films.
You can check out all the reviews from links at this page:
Amicus Films – overview



Tales From the Crypt (1972) – movie review

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Tales From the Crypt (1972)

It seems quite fitting that I should be reviewing this now because last year I chose this film for top holiday viewing. The ‘All Through the House’ segment is quintessential holiday horror.

In 1972, Amicus Films gained the rights to produce a film of shorts based upon the William Gaines comics Tales From the Crypt and Vault of Horror. Milton Subotsky penned the screenplay himself based on the comic tales. The film stars Peter Cushing, Joan Collins, Patrick Magee and Ralph Richardson and is directed by Freddie Francis. These shorts pushed irony and the ‘surprise ending’ to its jarring best, shocking the viewer in the final moments of each segment. Even though they are somewhat dated, the stories are still entertaining today because of this aspect.Tales from the crypt 1972 poster

The film starts out with several people on tour through an ancient crypt. Five of them are separated from the group and sealed off in a room. Enter, the Cryptkeeper, who when asked, “What are we doing here?” is all to happy to show them. So, we are introduced to five segments:

All Through the House I love the way this first scene plays out. A woman (Joan Collins) is tending to the fireplace in her home with a brass tool. The husband is in his chair reading his newspaper. He brings the paper up to read it closely, blocking our view of his face. A moment later the newspaper is splashed with blood that quickly seeps through the printed sheets. The paper falls and the woman is standing behind the dead husband with the bloody fireplace ‘poker’ in her hands. What really makes me laugh is that the brass tool is bent from the blow – she must have really hated her husband. Brilliant scene. The story goes on to reveal an escaped lunatic that is wearing a Santa costume loose in the neighborhood. The woman struggles to clean up the evidence of the murder, fight off the psychotic Santa and keep her young daughter in bed. The segment has little dialogue and is made more ironic by the celebratory Christmas music being played throughout its running time. This segment was remade in the Tales From The Crypt series but I prefer this version.

Reflection of Death A man kisses his wife before heading out on a business trip. He and his mistress leave town by car with no intentions of returning. Unfortunately, they have a nasty car crash. The film then switches to first person POV as tales from the crypt 1972 pic 5the man wakes up in a ditch alongside the road and tries to find his way home. You can probably guess what has happened to him by the fact that everyone he sees flees from him in horror. But the reveal to himself is the clincher in this segment and it surely brings a smile to my face every time I watch it.

Poetic Justice Peter Cushing plays the old widower, Arthur Grimsdyke. He is a pleasant man, friendly to all the neighborhood children and townspeople, but living in sorrow over the passing of his wife. A real-estate investor who would like him to sell his home, starts a secret campaign to drive him from the neighborhood. After some particularly cruel acts, Grimsdyke commits suicide. The real-estate investor vows to keep his actions a secret, but secrets like this can never stay buried, if you know what I mean.

Wish You Were Here is probably the weakest segment of all. A man and his wife find a statue that can grant them three wishes. Naturally all these wishes backfire. It is the familiar ‘monkey’s paw’ story and I have seen it done better in other films. When the husband dies the wife wishes him back, but he has already been embalmed. He screams and writhes in pain as the fluid courses through his veins. There is one glaring continuity fault with this segment, which I hadn’t really noticed until viewing it several times.

Blind Alleys is my 2nd favorite segment in the film. The new head of a retirement home for the blind, an ex-Major in theTales from the crypt 1972 pic 8 military, makes some harsh changes to the home. In glaring attempt to save money in order to increase his own pay, the Major cuts the heat and rations blankets. When one of the members gets sick the men beg the Major to get him medical attention and to increase the heat. He doesn’t and the man dies. After that, the inhabitants of the home plot their revenge. When they spring their trap the Major must run a gauntlet of danger, a maze that will essentially have him making choices of pain and injury. It’s a nasty but well-deserved demise for the corrupt Major.

The film became the most successful of the Amicus anthologies. It’s legacy lived on for many years to come, spawning an HBO series from 1989 – 1996 and several feature films baring the Tales From the Crypt moniker.

Worth a watch for nostalgia and historical footnote.

The All Through the House segment is fun horror viewing for the Holidays.

Related articles:
Amicus Film Overview
 (you can link to all the Amicus Films I have reviewed from this page)

Torture Garden (1967) – Movie review

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Torture Garden (1967) 

Directed by Freddie Francis

Torture Garden dvdTorture Garden has one of the best set-ups of all the Amicus anthology films, not surprising considering the screenplay was written by Robert Bloch. The film builds on the excitement of carnivals and the strangeness of Carney folk. A midway soapbox pitchman attracts a small audience into the Torture Garden side show. Once Inside, Dr. Diablo (a masked Burgess Meredith) demonstrates torture devices upon wax figures. By the end of the ‘show’ the audience is moderately amused, but before they depart, Dr. Diablo offers a chance to see the bonus exhibit for an additional 5 pounds. He promises to show the patrons something they could not see anywhere else. He gets a few customers to shell out the additional payment and they enter another curtained section. Much to their dismay, they are confronted with a wax figure fortune teller. Dr. Diablo insists that all they have to do is step up, look into her eyes and they will see their future and certain danger that awaits them. Of course, theytorture garden pic 1 do and we enter each one’s story.

Colin visits his sick uncle looking for a big monetary hand out after hearing rumors of his uncle paying for items with gold coins. When the Uncle begins having an attack, Colin holds his medication out of reach until he reveals the hidden gold. The uncle dies and soon after Colin is ripping the home apart, looking for the coins. He breaks into a trap door in the basement and is confronted by a cat with hypnotic eyes. In a trance, Colin goes out and kills the neighbor with a pitchfork. The cat rewards Colin with gold coins upon return. It turns out the feline is some nefarious deity.  It is not long before Colin has a wealth of gold coins and the suspicions of the police.

A young woman, struggling to be an actress, double crosses her roommate and meets some wealthy Hollywood hot shots. Her torture garden pic 8career skyrockets until she learns the truth of how stars are able to sustain lasting careers and the sacrifice she will have to make to hold her place in the Hollywood elite.

The next story sounds ridiculous but is filmed with enough conviction that allows you to accept what you’re seeing. A concert pianist meets a young lady reporter and it is clear that she wants more than an interview. When they begin to fall in love his prize piano becomes jealous and is intent on ending the relationship.

The fourth story is my favorite and was worth watching this movie for, alone. Jack Palance plays Ronald Wyatt, an historian and rare collector of the works of Edgar Allan Poe. At an exhibition, he meets Mr. Canning (Peter Cushing) who owns some rare items himself. The two men hit it off and Canning offers an open invitation for Mr. Wyatt to visit him when he’s in the states. Wyatt does pay Canning a visit to view his personal collection. The two men talk about Poe’ s work, exchange stories about their collections and indulge in quite a bit of brandy. Near the end of the night, Canning unveils the holy grail of Poe collectables, a lost, unpublished manuscript, The House of the Worm. The story about how Canning came into possession of this work is as fantastic as…one of Poe’ s fictional stories. As a Poe fan, this tale had me fascinated and intrigued.

All in all, an good Amicus anthology with fleshed-out stories and an interesting wrap-around. Worth a viewing.
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Related articles:

Amicus Films – overview

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Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965) – movie review

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Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)

dr_terrors_house_of_horrors_dvdAlthough the stories may seem a bit simplistic and dated, this film has the distinct importance of being the first anthology film by Amicus Studios, a format that will become synonymous with the companies name for years to come.

The film opens with several strangers finding seats in a train car as the train idles at a station. Christopher Lee plays a skeptical businessman agitated with the commotion while trying to read the evening newspaper. Several men enter and take their seats, including a very young Donald Sutherland. The last seat in the car is filled by a barely recognizable, bearded and hat wearing, Peter Cushing. As the train departs, the bearded stranger begins to nod off and drops his suitcase, spilling tarot cards across the train car. When questioned, the doctor explains their purpose, much to the disgust of Lee’s character who calls him a Dr-Terrors-Housepic 4charlatan. Nevertheless, Dr. Terror asks who wants to see their future and as each passenger takes a turn at the cards, we see their tales unfold. The werewolf story is well written, wrapped in mystery and family secrecy. Next, a killer plant surrounds the home of a young scientist. In the 3rd story, voodoo music is stolen by a young musician but the pilferage is avenged through magic. Next up, an art critic is stalked by an artist’s severed hand in the Christopher Lee segment. Lastly, a newlywed realizes he has married a vampire woman. The film also stars, Michael Gough a familiar name to horror fans as well as, Roy Castle, Alan Freeman, Peter Madden and Neil McCallum.

At the end Dr. Terror reveals his true self, a white skull and black cloaked, grim reaper.  He informs the passengers that the tales told had already transpired, they are indeed dead and he was just here to collect them. So sets up the format for more than half a dozen Amicus Film anthologies that will follow, a familiar format that kept horror fans coming back for more.

The film was directed by Freddie Francis who did over 20 horror films during his career for both Amicus and Hammer Horror. Francis later took on the role of, ‘director of photography’ through the 80’s and 90’s, for such films as; The Elephant Man, Glory, Dune, The Man in the Moon, and Cape Fear (1991).

related posts:
Amicus Films – The Studio that Dripped Blood

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