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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973) review


William Smith (Neil Agar), Victoria Vetri (Julie Zorn), Anitra Ford (Dr. Susan Harris), Cliff Osmond (Captain Peters)

Directed by Denis Sanders

The Short Version: The director of STAR TREK 2 wrote this cult 70s sc-fi/horror favorite with a great cast and a trashily intriguing premise about women turned into sex-starved Bee Girls who give their male victims one helluva sting in the bedroom. The plot is never fully realized, but the end result is honey sweet just the same. We're also teased with multiple socio-sexual topics juggled about that were apropos to the decade (and still pertinent today) that could have pushed this beyond the B movie realm. In addition, there's lots of nudity and a moderately creepy ambiance as the female army of human Hymenoptera grows while the male population shrinks due to terminal sexual exhaustion. But what a way to go!

***WARNING! This review contains images of nudity***

A number of men turn up dead in a small California town apparently caused by heart attacks from extreme sexual exhaustion. A government agent named Neil Agar is dispatched to investigate the deaths which are connected to a government funded facility run by Dr. Susan Harris. As the death toll quickly rises, Agent Agar discovers a bizarre connection to the doctor, the dead men and radioactive experimentation involving bees and their mating habits.

The director of an Elvis documentary and writer Nicholas Meyer, the future helmsman of STAR TREK 2: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982) put together the ultimate 'B' movie; the word Bee in the title also acting as a homonym for the category of film the BEE GIRLS sexily wallow in.

The plot of this picture and the methods by which super sexy Anitra Ford transforms the female cast into lethal seductresses are of the typical 50s style scientific gobbledy-gook; but generously peppered in an R rated coating.

Aside from that, the film is a poster child for sex, sex and more sex. Either we see people doing it, or guys talking about doing it. Typical of 70s exploitation, the men are mostly depicted as the equivalent of cavemen; even those with reputable positions view women as little more than disposable sex objects till the next one comes along.

There's lots of flesh on display and the likes of Ford and Vetri (among others) do not mind baring it for the camera. For reasons never made quite clear, Ford's character, the bad doctor Harris, apparently plans to take over the world with her ever growing army of human
Hymenoptera. In what is quite possibly the ultimate Women's Lib/Anti-Men movie, these Bee babes hit the male persuasion below the belt in their bid to put us out to pasture permanently.

To transform a woman into a Bee Girl, one is exposed to various forms of radiation, slathered in some gooey substance and placed into a small chamber whereby thousands of bees envelope their bodies. Then the somewhat hardened cocoon is removed and this deadlier than the male now sports blackened eyes resembling the Changelings from KRULL (1983).

From there these women with a different kind of makeover (and predominantly seen wearing dark sunglasses) proceed to sex up the towns male population, dwindling them down in the process. That's pretty much it in a nutshell as far as the main plot goes.

Towards the end, the government cordons off the town hinting at the possibility of something bigger in the works; but William Smith heads back to the beehive and saves the day just in time for men everywhere to breath a sigh of relief that sex is safe once again.

Speaking of the sex quotient, there's a hint of lesbianism, or bi-sexuality just below the surface in Ford's character. She lords over her brood, but shows signs of possibly more than sisterly love for her feminine cohorts.

There's also a promising degree of sociological and sexual subtext contained within Meyer's script, but it's never given the chance to go all the way. With so many avenues to explore (frustrated housewives becoming sexually liberated women, wife swapping, venereal diseases, homosexuality, the dominant male/submissive female dichotomy), it's a shame this low budget wonder remains confined within exploitation movie conventions, although it seems perfectly content with this drive in cult status.

It's nigh impossible to find a bad William Smith performance. His hero roles are relatively few when put next to a resume filled with memorable bad guys that are about as massive as his 6'2" frame. Appearing mostly in movies and television of the action variety, it's a treat to see him headlining a science fiction-horror-exploitation-drive in movie such as this. You can read more about William Smith and his extensive career as a Tough Guy HERE.

Anitra Ford had a brief career in trashy movies such as her lead in THE BIG BIRD CAGE (1972); one of the doomed supporting characters that comes to a gruesome end in MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973); a sexy siren in Andy Sidaris's first 'Girls & Guns' movie STACEY (1973) and also opposite Cathy Lee Crosby on the original, yet failed WONDER WOMAN TV movie-pilot before Lynda Carter put herself and the show on the map.

The sultry brunette will most likely be best remembered as a one of the models on the long running PRICE IS RIGHT gameshow back in the 1970s.

Victoria Vetri is a statuesque lovely of Italian lineage; although her outside beauty is mostly hidden behind pinned up hair and glasses till it all comes off later in the movie. Vetri showed what she's made of in Hammer's WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1970) in which she was in and out of skimpy cavegirl clothes; and also in the thought provoking sex comedy-drama GROUP MARRIAGE (1973).

INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS (1973) was one of those movies that would occasionally crop up on Shock Theater late at night around 12 or 1am. The shots of the women with their black eyes and eerie grins on their faces gave me the chills as a kid staying up late after my parents had went to bed.

Years later it was a treat seeing it again on VHS courtesy of MGM's now defunct Midnite Movies line. It was later released on DVD paired with the lethargic INVASION OF THE STAR CREATURES from 1962. It should be noted that BEE GIRLS is missing a small amount of footage presumably due to print damage. Considering the amount of sex and nudity on display, a few missing seconds or so isn't much to complain about. It's not likely to ever look this good again, either. It was also released under the bizarrely titled GRAVEYARD TRAMPS!

INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS is a wonderfully titled, campy little movie with a semi-intriguing premise, a fine cast, lots of nudity and an end credit sequence utilizing Strauss's 'Also Sprach Zarsthustra'. The Bee Girls all look menacingly spooky with their jet-black sunglasses which hide even blacker eyes. It may only tease the viewer with loftier ambitions, but what we get is truly one of the great drive in treasures of the 1970s.

This review is representative of the MGM Midnite Movies double feature DVD paired with INVASION OF THE STAR CREATURES (1962).


dfordoom said...

A great little movie and a terrific review.

venoms5 said...

Thanks, D. Yes, this a very interesting little movie that definitely gets better on repeated viewings!

Maynard Morrissey said...

Cool review!
Already downloaded it from the Archive; will watch and review it later this year.

venoms5 said...

Nice one, Harry. I hope you enjoy it. :)

Unknown said...

Sounds nifty, CAC. Can never have to many bare hooterinis, I say. I saw this once, I think, on tv, back in the dark days before cable.

venoms5 said...

I saw it a few times on TV, myself. A lot of fun, this one. The DVD is still available, and it's cheap, too.

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