The Bees (1978)

Last week, we had ticks, now B-Movie Enema has a problem with The Bees.

It’s been a while since B-Movie Enema crossed the border to Mexico for a movie.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve looked at one since The Brainiac some two and a half years ago.  This time, it’s a movie that is more of a Mexican production more than a product of Mexico through and through.  This movie is about some evil businessmen bringing over some deadly bees from South America and when they get loose in the United States, they start destroying society.

Because this is a B-Movie from the 70s, you better believe we have us some John Saxon and John Carradine along for the ride.  Not only that!  But we also welcome back Angel Tompkins as our leading lady.  She appeared in one of the very earliest B-Movie Enema articles, The Teacher.  She played, well, the titular teacher.

Some interesting tidbits about this movie.  The 1970s had a thing for disaster movies.  The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, and Airport are just a few of the massively popular ones.  Each of those were also nominated for Oscars.  So it was a legit phenomenon in the world of entertainment.  They also still liked nature vs. man type movies too.  Food of the Gods, Kingdom of the Spiders, Frogs, Squirm, etc. so it was only natural to put these two types of movies together.  However, the movie was initially supposed to come out sooner than November of 1978 (say!  I should have done this movie last week on the eve of its actual 40th anniversary – oh well).  However, it’s reported that Warner Brothers paid a buttload of money to New World Pictures to delay the movie’s release until after Warner’s The Swarm could be put into theaters.

I guess 1978 was a big year for B(ee) Movies.

I’d ask if it is too late to reconsider that wall along the southern border, but this does not look like a well-executed plan.

The movie begins with some closeups of bees with some music that sounds like we’re about to hear about the great advancements to life the 3M Corporation has made in labs across the country.  We then hear about African bees coming to Brazil that mated with local species and spread throughout the entirety of the continent.  The narration basically states that North America is soon to be fucked.  So this guy and his kid sneak into a bee farm and plan to steal some honey, but they released a shitload of killer bees instead.

What’s a bunch of killer bees doing on a bee farm?  Is that normal?

So the guy who owns the farm, Dr. Miller, explains to the locals that he plans to change the killer bees into more normal, docile bees, but the locals ain’t so patient.  They want to wreck the farm.  He seems to talk them off the cliff a bit, but then that fucking idiot robber comes along with his dead idiot son and explains he was killed by bee stings.  So they destroy the farm and torch Dr. Miller’s fucking house to the ground.

Look…  I’m sympathetic to a dead kid, buuuuut…  The kid’s dad was planning to steal from the farm, and in his own ignorance, set free the killer bees.  I mean…  Fuck that kid for his dad being a goddamn moron, right?

So anyway, Dr. Miller is dead, most of the villagers are also dead, and the killer bees are free.  Double fuck that kid and his dumbfuck dad.

Back in America, Dr. John Norman (Saxon) is talking to a whole table of guys from other countries like he’s a goddamn James Bond villain.  He asks them for time and cooperation to help finish Dr. Miller’s work.  The head of the group is Dr. Hummel (Carradine).  Norman gives the pitch that their work can be of monetary benefit to all.  Cuba ain’t so sure.  They like selling sugar.  Honey as a substitute for sugar just isn’t their style.

Sandra Miller (Tompkins) returns home after husband’s death and gets jumped by some robbers (or possibly rapists, and maybe even both).  They tear open her little bag only to find a fuckload of bees in there and they get stung all over the place.  In 20 minutes, we’ve had no less than FOUR bee attacks where they just come out fucking hot on everyone and try to sting their eyeballs and dick balls all to hell.  Now, I’m no bee scientist, but is that how bees normally operate?  I’ve been around bees.  I’ve been around wasps and hornets.  Bumbly bees are my favorites because they are just super fat little guys doing their thing in flowers, but none of these have ever viciously come after me unless I worked real hard to piss it off.  I kinda feel like this movie caused people to be even more scared of bees than they ought to be.  Just sayin’.

Sandra meets up with Norman – because they are the movie’s top two billed people so they need to have lots of screen time.  Sandra has brought those scary ass bees with her in this little suitcase.  I guess she and Norman are going to continue her husband’s work.  I kinda feel like this might be sort of a bad idea.  These things are really angry.  They were bad enough in South America, but now you have them in not just some random place in North America but New York City!  The most populated city in the US.

Again, not a bee scientist, but I feel like this is risky.  I do know that this is one of the most 70s things ever caught on film, though:

Hummel comes over to talk beeswax about the bees.  He is Sandra’s uncle, but I’m not sure why that is important.  They meet with some businessmen who want the honey and royal jelly NOW despite the dangerous nature of the killer bees.  They want to take the bees and keep them for themselves.  They admit that they are not scientists, so I kind of think this is a really bad idea.  They threaten that if they aren’t given the bees, the businessmen will just go and get their own.

One of the slimy businessmen goes to Venezuela and gets a guy who will smuggle the bees into the US.  However, the belt fucks up and they make an emergency landing in Mexico City, where it’s discovered the guy is dead because of the bees.  The bees pretty much spread and start stinging people by the bucketloads.  Sandra tells Norman about the airplane accident.  He tells her that microwaves might do the trick to alter the genes of the bees to fix it.

There is a marvelous moment in which the bees invade and people on this beach start reacting to the giant cloud of bees coming.  One woman does the catholic cross thing and shakes her head.  One guy covers his face with his ascot.  Another guy just flat out faints.  In another place, a kid wipes her glasses off and only then realizes what the hell’s happening.  It is brilliant.

So while Sandra, Hummel, and Norman slowly work on their hypothesis like fucking science dorks, the world is getting our collective asses handed to us by these fucking bees.  It’s just a montage of bees attacking everything everywhere.  People, horses, peopehorses.  Everything!  One old man has arthritis and hires these kids to catch bees for him.  Uh oh…  You know what’s about to happen right?  This one kid is curious about what these little dudes are doing.  They tell the kid it ain’t none of his goddamn business.  So that other kid finds a giant hive of bees and starts tossing rocks at it.  Naturally, these are killer bees and these dumbfuck kids are dead.  As is that old man.

Norman and Sandra find a hive and do ultimately discover that they have discovered a way for the drones and workers to kill their own queen bee and that should help save the world?  To celebrate, Norman and Sandra make out.  Why not?

Cut to the Rose Parade (I guess this is New Year’s Day even though this just looks like a shitty little neighborhood parade, but, as I’ve said, I’m not a bee scientist).  Guess what happens?  The bees attack.  Fucking people falling out of the bleachers, out of the TV broadcast booth.  People flying off floats.  It’s nuts.

Can you guys fucking believe I’m the good guy in this movie?!?

Now, in Washington, DC.  Two of the evil businessmen are talking to a guy who awkwardly states that he is the undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture.  He wants all the bees fucking dead.  He wants their parents dead.  He wants their dogs dead.  He wants them dead.  The evil businessmen are like, “Whoa there guy who is clearly concerned for the safety of the public, we think not.  We just launched this project and goddammit, we’re in it to win it!”  The government guy sets up a meeting with Norman.  They agree they should work with Norman and his hypothesis and alter the bees.  The only catch is that they can’t endanger any other animals.

“Can you guys believe John Saxon isn’t the villain in this movie?!?”

Norman celebrates with Sandra and Hummel, but there’s still work to do.  For instance, the bees have been showing odd behavior.  They aren’t clustering like normal bees do.  So he has to figure that out.  And considering there is still 40 fucking minutes left in this movie that has mostly been scenes of people being attacked by bees, this is gonna take its fucking time.  And I bet there aren’t no twists and turns in this plot either.

Hummel does learn that the bees are communicating with each other.  He figures if they can find the proper cadence and such, they should be able to communicate back with the bees and tell them what to do, where to go, and deliver some “yo mama so fat” jokes just to rub salt in their wounds.

Naturally, Norman is talking to the government and the business dudes are trying to be dicks to him and impede progress.  Fucking capitalist scumbags!  However, while Hummel learns the bees’ speech patterns (that’s a fucking thing that happens in this movie that takes itself fairly serious), Norman helps mobilize the Air Force to drop some pheromone mist into the infected areas to get rid of the bees.

“Mr. Carradine, I just found out I’m in a movie with John Saxon and can you believe… Wait, how are you still alive?”

Reports are coming in saying the treatments are seemingly working.  Marvelous!  Looks like we should be able to put a tidy little bow on this movie…  Oh for cryin’ out loud…  There’s still 30 minutes left.

So a guy who looks like and impersonates Jimmy Carter shows up to congratulate the scientists.  Hummel receives an award for his work.  What more is there to do in this movie?  Are the bees dead or not?  Hummel talks to the undersecretary about Miller’s books that shows someone in the Department of Agriculture was stealing money.  Only Hummel, Sandra, and Norman know about the stealing.

The undersecretary hires assassins to kill our heroes.

Let me type that again…  The undersecretary, in a movie about killer bees, has turned this movie into a political thriller.  A movie about killer bees.  A member of the government is planning the deaths of people who know too much.  In this movie about killer bees.

And love.

A couple real serious guys with guns comes into Hummel’s lab while he’s working with his bees.  They just straight up shoot Hummel, but like a buncha dummies they also shoot the glass protecting everyone from killer bees.  As soon as John Saxon shows up at Hummel’s, he hears the bees and realizes something’s off.  They find one of the dead assassins.  He tells them the bees know everything.  They are a new species and too smart for the pheromones?  He says they can think like people.

I want to call bullshit on this, but at least it keeps the movie about killer bees on track to still be about bees.  Just that they are super smart bees now.  That’s okay.  The movie The Bees is still about bees.

The other assassin is killed with some bees.  Like John Saxon shoves bees into the dude’s face.  It kills him.  As for the undersecretary guy?  Well, he gets Jaws 4’d.  The super smart bees make it personal and show up at his office and throw him out the window.  Everyone knows that killer bees’ main mode of killing is to throw people out windows.  I mean, c’mon.  That’s the first they they learn in bee school.

Alright, so now the bees are in Washington and they are straight murderin’ slimy government fools.  The Air Force scramble in some stock footage to the location to give these bugs a dose of John Saxon juice.  And by “John Saxon juice” I mean they dump bombs onto a field and parachute out of planes.  The bees are in Washington DC, not some field.

Anyway, a new outbreak of bees show up across northern cities where they had previously been in southern locations.  It’s bedlam as scores of stock footage clips of people running screaming through streets of cities that don’t even look like American cities play.  Norman loads up the military with new versions of the sauce to try to kill them.  The bees, now wise to these shenanigans, cause the army van to wreck and cause the canisters of anti-bee stuff to catch fire.

We are then shown stock footage of Air Force vehicles being downed by bees and…  I think that’s real footage of airmen being killed in botched test flights.  Yeesh.

With the sauce no longer working to kill the bees, Norman and Sandra are left with trying to sort out the communication stuff with the bees.  After hours of trying to sort out what the bees are saying, they decide to go to bed.  And because Sandra is a pretty lady, they are just about to fuck when the bees show up to cock block him.  They notice they are making sounds like the monolith did in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  So they do what any sane scientists would do – they talk to the bees and tell them they’ll keep trying to decipher their language.

But… why?  Why do the bees want them to break their communication code?  Seems like the bees are fucking pissed off with people.  Why are they asking them to talk to them to… what?  Help them relocate?  Help them get tickets to Hamilton?  So John Saxon goes to the U.N. and tells them the bees are super smart and communicated to him and Sandra that if people don’t stop polluting and shit, the bees will wipe out humanity.

That’s how the movie ends, people.  John Saxon pleading with the U.N. to be cool with the Earth and share it with the bees or they are totally boned.  They ignore the warning and the bees bust in and start killing everyone until Norman tells everyone that we will dominate Earth together.  Man and bee – finally on equal ground.  The end.

In the sequel, mankind invents the cell phone and the bees lose.

This is a weird movie, man.  I mean it’s not terrible.  It’s interesting for a disaster movie.  People lose at the end.  The bees win.  And they win because of corruption and bad human behavior.  That’s a kick to the nuts, ain’t it?  One corrupt politician and three businessmen more hungry for money than advancement doomed us all.  The relationship and banter between John Saxon, John Carradine, and Angel Tompkins almost feels like they spent six months together prepping for the role before the cameras began rolling.  It speaks to us like Birdemic does in the sense that we are terrible shepherds of the world and, while that is true, it ends almost as abruptly with bees attacking then Saxon saying here’s the deal, fools, either we’re with them or we’re fucksville.  It’s a movie that does a lot of things in its 90 minutes and almost not enough to be a full movie.

It’s sooooo weird.  But you know what?  I heard the bees did garner a lot of… BUZZ for some Academy Award nominations!

Thank you, everyone!  I’m here all week!  Next time, I’m talking about a brand new movie called Amazon Hot Box and I’m not kidding when I say it has literally changed my life.

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