Hot on the heels of his “31 Days of Hammer” in January, Jules is at it again in March, treating us to a chronological run through the classic era of British Horror, from the late ’50s to the end of the ’70s, with one review every day for the entire month.
You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of British Horror” by CLICKING HERE.
Starring: Suzanna Leigh, Guy Doleman, Frank Finlay
Director: Freddie Francis
You can almost hear the gears grinding in Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg’s minds as they looked at the success Alfred Hitchcock had enjoyed with his 1963 classic nature attacks flick The Birds.
“Amicus needs something like that. What’s like The Birds?”
Swinging sixties pop singer Vicki Robbins (Suzanna Leigh) collapses from exhaustion on live television, and is sent to recuperate in a cottage on remote Seagull Island, under the care of unhappily married couple Ralph and Mary Hargrove (Guy Doleman and Catherine Finn).
Both Ralph and his neighbour H.W. Manfred (Frank Finlay) are beekeepers, but they are far from friends. Shortly after Vicki arrives, Mary and her dog are stung to death in separate incidents, leading the singer to suspect Ralph himself.
Teaming up with Manfred, she begins to investigate the suspicious goings on, but the killer may not be as obvious as it seems…
Okay, first things first. The killer is completely obvious from the off, as long as your name isn’t Vicki Robbins. Considering the spine of the film is a kind of whodunnit, it’s shame that it’s so howlingly obvious who bloody dunnit so quickly.
Loosely based on Gerald Heard’s Sherlock Holmes-pastiche A Taste For Honey, writer Robert Bloch wasn’t able to catch the lightning he’d previously managed with Psycho, alas. The Deadly Bees has its great moments, but it also has its bang average moments too.
Suzannah Leigh is a decent lead as the pop star on the verge of a breakdown, but too little is made of that element, reducing her to just a pop star in need of a good night’s sleep. Leigh does well with what she has though and convinces as a sharp, observant and resourceful young woman.
Guy Dolman and Frank Finlay both do well as the suspect beekeepers, both equally as potentially dodgy as the other, while poor Catherine Finn gives a nice, bleak and slightly sad turn as the doomed Mary.
Naturally it’s the bee attack scenes that do the damage here and they’re pretty well realised. The overlay effect when people (or animals) are being stung to death is poor, but the intense close ups of real bees stinging coupled with the fake ones stuck to the actors build up a convincing illusion of what must be one of the worst deaths imaginable.
The real highlight is the brutally tense scene when Vicki is in the bathroom and realises the bees are swarming around her every exit. In a locked room, with bees all over the key, she ends up holed up in the bathroom (in her underwear natch) improvising a smoke device to drive them off. It’s gripping stuff, but there’s just not enough of that kind of thing to really hold the interest.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy