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Monday, January 29, 2018

Killer Bees (1974)

The made for T.V. madness continues. Today’s fun comes to us from the ABC movie of the week. It stars Kate Jackson and Edward Albert as an engaged couple heading home to meet his family. These are the same two stars that made up one of the doomed couples on Death Cruise that I covered during the marathon. Good times.

Edward and Victoria are off to meet his family. He seems reluctant to introduce her, but she insists since they are engaged, and she is pregnant. Both of which he insists they keep secret. As they arrive in town they come across a car wreck that we the audience know from a pre-credit scene was caused when the man angered some bees that then swarmed him. They finally make it to Edward’s family estate and both he and she receive a chilly reception.

The family is a big deal and run the local vineyard as well as the neighboring town. Right away we also notice that they have a strange relationship with the bees. The matriarch, played by the legendary Gloria Swanson, seems to have some control over them. It also becomes clear that the family knows they caused the accident and wants to keep it quiet. When more accidents happen, Victoria is horrified to the extent that the family goes to keep the hive safe. These special aggressive African honey bees are the secret to the unique taste of their wine and very important to the family. When the grandmother dies the bees go after Victoria, but do they mean her harm or are they after something else?

This is another case where I sat down expecting to get one kind of movie but ended up with something altogether different. To me Killer Bees indicated I’d see them rampaging across the screen collecting a nice body count, basically a creature feature with many little creatures. What we get instead is a well written and acted psychological story with a couple of twists and turns. The family and the bees have a symbiotic relationship that benefits both of them. And while the movie doesn’t blatantly assign intelligence to them you get the feeling that the hive has an idea of what is going on.

Be warned spoilers are coming… In anger Victoria tells Madame (the grandmother) about her engagement to Edward and that she is pregnant with his child. The older woman gets very angry and threatens Victoria while accidentally bumping into the bees. You think that she dies from heart failure, but Victoria claims the bees killed her. The family laughs since the bees would never attack the matriarch. But then we get to the end of the movie. It appears that the bees are attacking Victoria and chase her into the attic where we find a giant hive. But when the family returns they find her unharmed and a changed woman. Instead of leaving she now wants to stay and raise her family at the winery. We also realize that the bees crawl on her like they did Madame, as if they have chosen a new queen. Is this because she is younger? Or perhaps because she was carrying the next generation of the family? Regardless it is a creepy way to end Killer Bees.

I like this one a lot. Many of the genre outings in the ‘70s had that creepy ending where our protagonist doesn’t escape but is actually co-opted into the evil that they faced. Somehow that is worse than if they had just lost. The final scene of Kate Jackson’s character sitting with the family sporting a creepy smile was perfect. I recommend checking out Killer Bees. The link at the top of this review will take you to the movie. Check it out!

© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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