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Film Review: The Deadly Bees

Posted on by sam

PRE-FACE

It’s been a slow week, one that’s involved lots of editing, audits, headshots and showreels for actors we owe the world to ………………………and maybe one or two games too many on League of Legends. The result is, I simply haven’t had time to watch many films and I’m in a bit of a rush to meet my (self-imposed) deadline. I did watch Oldboy, because after Stoker I wanted to remind myself of Park Chan-wooks greatness, but there isn’t enough time between now and the (self-imposed) deadline for my liking, it takes a lot of planning to box with god and explore true greatness. Instead here’s a review of the first film I found on Netflix that sounded worth reviewing, beginning with a perfect justification for that choice.

The Deadly Bees

Director: Freddie Francis (1966)

I like bees………………….

Plot summary in 3,2,1

The entire plot of The Deadly Bees is nicely summed up within the first ten minutes; we begin with a wonderfully 2 minutes showing the most boring stock footage of a bee-hive in existence. That’s accompanied by the type of wailing instruments you usually only find in the worst of schlock horror films, something like this. Oh and there’s also where we see BLOOD RED credits, then we get a scene of two men smartly dress in sixties corporate suits having the briefest important conversation in history;

‘We’ve got another letter from the madman who says he’s produced a batch of killer bees’

‘Oh, what does he say?’

‘He says if we don’t take him seriously this time he’s going to unleash his bees on someone’

That’s the entire conversation, the next second everything jumps to a performance by The Birds (Ronnie Wood of Rolling Stones fame was in them) who bop about and shake their heads like you could only do in the sixties: here’s the scene. Sadly that’s the only scene with the Birds, so I’m robbed of the opportunity of saying there’s quite a good scene of The Birds and the bees, ah well.

After The Birds have finished it becomes clear the performance was on a television show, following on from them is ‘popstar’ Vikki Robbins (Suzanna Leigh) who wears a fur coat. She starts well but then messes up by unceremoniously fainting to the floor.

Then it’s off to a hospital room, where we’re told that Vikki’s feinting was down to stress, and that she’s being sent to her manager’s friend’s house on the imaginatively named Seagull Island…………………. I wonder why it’s called that.

I imagine it looks something like this

 

The friend of her manager is Ralph Hargrove (Guy Doleman), a middle aged and incredibly well spoken man who lives in a big cottage with his wife Mary (Catherine Finn). Like any married couple in films, Ralph and Mary despise each other, and there’s some great middle England back and forth where they take turns saying the harshest things while the other doesn’t react. They also have a pet dog and a horse. I’m not sure that’s the ideal location for treating stress to be honest.

Also, I’m not sure how big Seagull Island is but straight after Ralph’s introduction, we see him drive to the local pub, where he chats with the fantastically monotone and glib bartender David Hawkins (Michael Ripper) and David’s flirtatious daughter Doris (Katy Wild, who manages to be an interesting character despite having very little to do). After buying David a half bitter (received with bored gratitude) Ralph arranges for Doris to help around the house while he collects Vikki.

Once Vikki arrives at Seagull Island she discovers that Ralph is quite the beekeeper and that a neighbour named H.W Manfred (a wonderfully fun Frank Finlay) is also a bee enthusiast.

That all happens in roughly the first ten minutes, and that’s all the plot there is, well except that after the bees start killing things, it’s down to Vikki to figure out who the murderous hive of bees belongs too, it comes down to either the stoic depressed man who was kind enough to take her in, or the odd neighbour who acts suspiciously and keeps a hive of bees in one of the walls of his house.

No prizes for guessing which.

Plot summary finishes.

I’ll admit to being surprised by The Deadly Bees, I expected schlock and while what I got wasn’t in the least bit tense, it was earnest and watchable. The acting was great, I have a soft spot for old British stiff upper lip stuff (except when I’m serving it at Crappy supermarket) and it’s actually quite fun just listening to old sixties middle class conversations. There’s also quite a surprising amount going on, with Katy Wild’s character representing the change of the times; she dresses colourfully bordering on provocatively while the older inhabitants of Seagull Island are all more conservative and boring.

If you read my reviews ( None-existent God help you!) You’ll know I’m a fan of character development and films that take the time to try and make me care, I don’t know, it just feels nice to be acknowledged as important and worth satisfying rather than as the ‘they’ll pay whatever so just give them sh…………. Any old rubbish’ that a number of Hollywood productions treat their audience as.

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s a total rip off of The Birds (film not the band), only with a director who probably didn’t enjoy abusing his lead character so much, actually while I’m at it, the bees are probably the most boring thing about this film. They use a colour blotching effect to create a bee swarm, but all it does is cover the screen in yellow blobs. It’s also horribly inconsistent, when we see the bees close up they’re just regular bees, but when they’re in the swarm the yellow blotches are about five times the size. Finally the effect looks like it was one of those all or nothing things done in post, so what you get is a lot of people with what looks like slugs taped to their faces, waving their arms round but not affecting the swarm at all, which looks lame to the point of comicality………………. Yes that’s a word.

‘But Sam, surely that’s just the limitations of the age, you can’t criticise a film just for being dated, that isn’t fair………………’

Yes I can, shut up!

Ok, so the acting’s good, the story’s a rip off of something more successful with dated and dull effects (that it’s totally fair to call it on), the question is do I recommend the film, well yes and no, if you make films, I reckon you may just enjoy The Deadly Bees because get past the dated effects and you have a well-made, honest piece of filmmaking that’s performed and executed with enthusiasm, however if you’re not a filmmaker, then while I don’t exactly not recommend The Deadly Bees, I’d say there’s at least 349,127 films you should watch first.

Written by Sam ‘Watched and reviewed in a day, what more do you want, quality!?! Get lost!’ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

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