FIRST TIME EVER ON DVD!
So reads a sticker slapped on the cellophane surrounding Legend Films' home video release in association with Paramount Pictures of this 1967 Amicus horror movie. Legend Films has been doing a nice job releasing cult film curiosities from bygone eras on DVD with good looking transfers. The Deadly Bees is no exception, and it's another reason to commend Legend Films for its work in distributing these little seen movies.
The Deadly Bees has two main reasons to be of interest to classic horror movie fans today. One, it has several notable cast and crew members. Suzanna Leigh, for example, is the lead. She's rather young here, but she'd move on to better genre fare, like the 1971 Hammer production Lust for a Vampire. Also in the cast is Michael Ripper, a character actor who appeared in dozens of horror movies over his career. The Deadly Bees, in addition, sports a screenplay co-written by Robert Bloch, of Psycho fame.
The second reason The Deadly Bees may be of interest is more dubious than the first. It was featured in the cult classic television series Mystery Science Theater 3000, and yes, Mike and the 'Bots riffed this movie mercilessly. In fact, as a fan of the series at the time, I remembered this movie quite well. When I received this disc to review from DVD Talk, I tried my hardest to give it an even shake and dismiss my memories of the funny running commentary MST3K gave it.
Surprisingly, The Deadly Bees held up a little more strongly on its own than I expected. I'm not saying it's great, nor even all that good. But the movie manages to keep its internal logic consistent, and the laughably unconvincing bee attacks do have a certain dated charm to them.
In a nutshell, the movie follows Vikki Robbins (Suzanna Leigh), a young pop singer in London. She faints during a television studio recording of her lip-synching her new hit song. Her psychiatrist decides to have her convalesce for several weeks and suggests Seagull Island is the perfect place for this, at the country home of a friend. Now, any person with intelligence would not have stayed at this residence for long. The owners, the Hargroves, are a dysfunctional married couple. While Mrs. Hargrove chain smokes, her husband is out with his bees. Manfred, who lives nearby, also keeps bees and doesn't get along with the Hargroves. As a mysterious swarm of deadly bees begin killing characters, it's up to Vikki, who almost incomprehensibly takes an interest in the proceedings, to play Nancy Drew and figure out who is responsible for this strain of killer bees.
The pace is slow here, and most of the supporting characters are rather unsavory. The acting is only so-so, with Michael Ripper perhaps coming off the best as his character plays a dual role as bartender and constable for the island. Still, the titular deadly bees show up frequently enough in laughably bad attack scenes that made the viewing experience fun in a B-movie kind of way. If you're interested in British horror movies from the 1960s, this one's worth a look - though it's hardly an exemplar of the genre and time period.
The Deadly Bees is presented in 1:78 widescreen, which I imagine is its original aspect ratio. It is anamorphic. Given the film's age, the image quality was surprisingly strong. Little in the way of dirt could be seen. Colors and sharpness appeared strong.
The sole audio track is an English language Dolby Digital 2.0. It seemed a little light, and I turned the volume up louder than normal on my player for a DVD. Otherwise, however, it sounded fine, with dialogue, sound effects, and the score mixed at a consistent level.
There were no subtitle options.
The only menu options on this DVD are Play Movie and Scene Selection. There are no extras on this disc - not even trailers.
Not nearly as terrible as its reputation (and ridicule on the cult television program Mystery Science Theater 3000) would suggest, The Deadly Bees is a mediocre 1960's-era killer insect flick. It's long-winded and full of unsavory characters, but it has enough cheesy, B-movie mayhem and shoddy acting to keep one entertained. Rent it, if you're interested.