Shady businessmen smuggle African killer bees into the U.S. for some reason or other connected with making a lot of money. Shockingly, they escape and begin a reign of terror in the cities. Three top scientists (no one else was available) attempt to come up with a way to combat the deadly aparian threat.
Irwin Allen’s ‘The Swarm’ (1978) was creating a big buzz (I am so sorry) in the film industry in the late 1970s. He had a big name cast and a big budget so a ﬁne spectacle was guaranteed. After all, he’d enjoyed runaway box office success with a string of big disaster movies; ‘The Poseidon Adventure’ (1972), ‘The Towering Inferno’ (1974) and ‘Earthquake’ (1974). So, given that, a few cheap and cheerful knock-offs of his latest project were inevitable. And they don’t come much cheaper and cheesier than ‘The Bees’ (1978), a true classic of no-budget, rip-off filmmaking.
Toplining the ‘action’ is John Saxon, a familiar face from many a midnight movie, and a more than capable actor. He’s best remembered these days for facing off against Bruce Lee in ‘Enter The Dragon’ (1973) and playing Heather Lagenkamp’s dad in the original ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (1984). Here, he’s the top boffin in charge of mankind’s defence, ably assisted by the lovely Angel Tompkins, and insect expert John ‘Where’s My Paycheque?’ Carradine (349 acting credits!) Unfortunately, it’s not only flying killers they need to worry about; the criminal forces responsible for the whole mess are still lurking in the wings. As the devastation increases, it’s a desperate race against time, and the rapidly expiring budget.
This really is a train-wreck of a film, lurching from one clumsy, awkward scene to the next; whether it’s military aircraft stock footage, smears of dirt on the camera lens masquerading as mankind’s stripey nemesis, endless scenes of exposition in the lab, or unconvincing fisticuffs courtesy of our generic villains. Even minor human interactions seem ridiculously forced and stilted, with the dialogue as atrocious as that in ‘big brother’ picture ‘The Swarm’ (1978) – but sadly not as hilarious. The three scientists endlessly explain the basics of their work to each other (wouldn’t they know?), and it turns out that Carradine can talk to the bees like Dr Doolittle. Perhaps they like his lazy attempt at a German accent.
Not surprisingly this was a ‘New World’ production from b-movie legend Roger Corman, but even he must have cringed watching the results here. Director Alfredo Zicarias went on to make horror flick ‘Demonoid’ (1981) next. It was not well received. Saxon and Carradine ploughed on regardless and, by this point in her career, Tompkins was mainly this week’s ‘damsel in distress’ on numerous network TV shows anyway.
But the actors do deserve a lot of credit here. Mainly for the climactic scenes. Saxon keeps a completely straight face (or perhaps he was just dying inside?) when delivering his ‘big’ final speech, and Tompkins screams ‘You have to listen!’ with some conviction. When the bees address the United Nations. Yes, you just read that correctly. When the bees address the United Nations.
Wretched stuff. I loved it.