Nature fought back in a major way during the 1970s. Whether it be the genetically tampered-with fish from Joe Dante's PIRANHA, Ray Milland being pitted against the ludicrous threat of FROGS, or an uncharacteristically serious Leslie Neilsen up against all manner of beast in DAY OF THE ANIMALS: man's casual disregard for the wild came back to haunt him in a big way during exploitation cinema's greatest decade.

No beast was more vengeful though than those honey-making little bees. Freddie Francis exploited the idea of bees as killers first, in 1966's THE DEADLY BEES. By the end of the 1970s, when the nature-runs-amuck cycle was really getting underway, there were at least three more notable films that sat alongside it: THE SWARM, KILLER BEES and this 1976 made-for-TV movie, THE SAVAGE BEES.

It begins with a Brazilian boat sauntering its way into a New Orleans harbour, the bulk of its crew lying dead upon its decks. Not so far away, small-town sheriff Donald (Ben Johnson) finds his pet dog dead and takes it to the local morgue in a bid to find out what bit the mutt in the nearby fields. But the viewer gets the answer first, by way of a constant buzzing in the shrubbery and the sight of little stripy fellows resting on a little girl's bugle...

Sure enough, assistant coroner Jeff (Michael Parks) is able to confirm that the bite is in actual fact a sting, and a particularly deadly one at that. Teaming together with his girlfriend and fellow scientist Jenny (Gretchen Corbett), Donald and Jeff set about attempting to save their town from what they have by now deduced is a deadly strain of African killer bees brought into the area on the aforementioned boat.

And that's it, in a nutshell. The set-pieces are minimal in this rather talky 90-minute offering, the effects work non-existent (shaky camerawork, abrupt editing and the use of thousands of real bees account for the crude 'terror' scenes) and the tension is null and void even when our protagonists reach the local baseball ground for a rather unlikely denouement.

Still, there's an odd charm to these films even if they are as crappy as this one is. Parks is always fun to watch, and is remarkably young-looking here when measured against his performances in the likes of FROM DUSK TILL DAWN and PLANET TERROR. Johnson has always lacked charisma for me, but Corbett's an amiable source of compensation. She's also the star of the film's best moment, as silly as it undeniably is: trapped in her Volkswagen and surrounded by bees, her situation is compounded by the fact that her vehicle is red: the very colour that drives this specific strain of bees into a murderous rage...

Elsewhere, Guerdon Trueblood's screenplay plods along and isn't helped at all by Bruce Geller's decidedly pedestrian direction. The photography is flat and ugly, the script is daft but never quite enough to be quotable.

THE SAVAGE BEES is a pretty rubbish film, all told, but one that somehow was afforded a sequel two years later, in the form of TERROR OUT OF THE SKY.

Cheezy Flicks' DVD is a typically cheap affair.

On the positive side, they present the film fully uncut and - according to the Internet Movie Database - the 1.33:1 framing is correct.

For the most part, the English mono audio track provided is also quite clean and consistent.


Considering the video quality during playback, I had to wonder to myself: who's actually behind Cheezy Flicks and how little must they think of their potential audience to release this fondly remembered film in such an abominable state?

In short, THE SAVAGE BEES looks like total shit. This presentation is sourced from VHS. And not a first-generation videotape either, from the looks of things. The first five minutes are riddled with jumping images and lines of noise flitting spastically up the screen. The jerking and interference make these opening moments virtually unwatchable.

When the image finally settles down, what we're left with is soft, overly dark and fuzzy in the way that only nth generation videotape copies could be. To think that someone could proffer this to the public in this day and age, even if it does happen to be a public domain title, is outrageous.

It's a shame because, as ropey as THE SAVAGE BEES obviously is, it would still be fun to enjoy it in some kind of credible manner. Evidently, the folk at Cheezy Flicks think that because they're releasing bad films, their fan-base don't give a fuck how they're presented. These people are clearly unaware of how "bad movie appreciation" works. I doubt they even care: all this presentation says to me, is "you like THE SAVAGE BEES? Cool, watch this and feel as though you've been anally raped by the end".

The disc opens to a static main menu page. From there, a static scene-selection menu allows access to the film by way of 10 chapters.

The only bonus feature on the disc is a showcase reel of trailers for other films available from the Cheezy Flicks roster: FRAULEINS IN UNIFORM, BLOODSUCKING NAZI ZOMBIES, INVASION OF THE BLOO FARMERS, DESTINATION INNER SPACE and THE NAVY VERSUS THE NIGHT MONSTERS.

THE SAVAGE BEES is a crappy film, but one not without the guilty charms of its era. Unfortunately the DVD from Cheezy Flicks is just shit and charmless.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Cheezy Flicks
Region 1
Not Rated
Extras : see main review