Thursday, March 10, 2011

Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973)

Directed by Denis Sanders
Starring Victoria Vetri, Anita Ford, William Smith

“We found him with his pants around his ankles, dead of a massive you-know-what.”

In the small town of Peckham, California, local men are dropping dead of heart attacks. Autopsies suggest death by sexual exertion. Now it’s up to security agent Neil Agar (William Smith) to unravel these bizarre deaths. With a cute librarian (Victoria Vetry) at his side and a stressed-out Sheriff (Cliff Osmond) looking over his shoulder, Agar has to stop the erotic executions before more men meet their sweaty demise. Could the killings be linked to the experiments of Dr. Susan Harris (Anitra Ford): experiments involving…bees?

The rest of the film is comprised of locals get seduced and shagged to death by a coven of leggy lovelies. Meanwhile, Agar bumbles from crime scene to crime scene, uncovering a scientific conspiracy so half-assed that the screenwriters seem too embarrassed to explain it. Something about bees, or sex, or something. Who cares?

Up to now, Invasion Of The Bee girls is extremely mediocre. However, right around the one-hour mark, we’re treated to an unexpectedly awesome spectacle. Deep in the underground lab, a small group of Bee Girls (wearing only sunglasses, lab coats, and go-go boots), transform a frightened normal girl into one of them. They strip her, stun her, then blast her with some funky blue light.

Next, they slather the now-passive victim with cake batter. (It could be anything, but I assume it’s cake batter.) 

Then they wheel her into a glass chamber, seal it off and fill it with bees. The bees swarm all over her, till she’s crawling with the buzzing insects.

When they wheel her out of the bee-chamber, she’s coated in a white rubbery substance. Peel off the cocoon and BAM, instant hot naked Bee Girl. As the soundtrack choir reverently coos in the background, all the lab technicians start pawing at themselves, and Anitra makes out with the new recruit. It’s all ridiculous, but who cares? There’s bees, cake batter, and hot chicks in lab coats. What’s not to like?

This scene, and a handful of photogenic T&A, is the only memorable aspects of Bee Girls. The poster looks like a giddy romp ala Doctor Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, but the actual film is woefully sedate and well-behaved. By not delivering either creature feature chills or goofy laughs, Bee Girls doesn’t give viewers much to remember. Still, the acting is adequate, the girls are cute, the script provides some (mostly unintended) chuckles, and there is some slick camera-work by prolific porn director (and Orson Welles collaborator) Gary Graver.

My primary beef with Bee Girls is over the design of the titular she-monsters. What do you expect a “bee girl” to look like? A woman-bee hybrid? Some nasty Cronenberg-ian monstrosity? A go-go girl in a stripey mini-dress with a pair of pipe-cleaner antennae? Too bad. The filmmakers were apparently going for subtlety (or cheapness), because these Bee Girls aren’t insect-like at all. Okay, except for their eyes. When the buzzing beauties get turned on, their eyes turn jet black (thanks to schleral contact lenses).

It is creepy, but looks more like a Hellraiser Cenobite than a bee. They hide this ocular abnormality behind giant bug-eyed Yoko Ono shades. As a dedicated monster maniac, I was disappointed by the films dearth of bee creatures. Still, it’s not like the film is skimping on the eye candy, and those black compound eyes do lead to some groovy multi-faceted bee-vision effects.

It’s a mixed blessing that Bee Girls avoids the fright-flick formula, because the murders aren’t scary at all. The modus operandi is, to quote Futurama, “Death by snu-snu.” The problem is, death by sex isn’t such a bad way to go. Sure, it would start to chafe after a while, but not enough for me to prefer a gunshot over a fatal bonk. The on-screen action seems reasonably pleasant, not some torturous marathon of back-breaking monster-humpage. This sexual normalcy is nice for the victims, but boring for the viewers. At least we can still oggle some wobbly bits.

While there aren’t any “name” actors in Bee Girls, MAGsters may recognize the two beautiful leading ladies: Victoria Vetri as the cute librarian and Anitra Ford as the mad scientist. For the unhip, Vetri was Playmate of the Year 1968 (under the alias Angela Dorian) and starred in When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth, an awesome Hammer caveman flick. Vetri’s character is a rehash of the familiar “sexy librarian” role, an intelligent buttoned-up girl with a naughty side. 

Anitra Ford was a “Barker’s Beauty” on The Price Is Right, and was also in The Big Bird Cage (which I still need to see, dammit!). With her knock-out bod and permanent bedroom eyes, Miss Ford is as sultry as her role demands; it’s a shame she couldn’t add a little madness to spice up the villainous vixen. Besides, she looks damn cute in a lab coat.

(Another nifty trivia tidbit, Bee Girls was written by Nicholas Meyer, who would later direct Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Cool, huh?)

The score is a wonky delight: a mish-mash of chicka-wakka rhythms, wobbly synth piano, bleepity-bloop R2D2 noises, and a cooing girl-choir. It’s a shame that they don’t play it over the closing credits. Instead, we get Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra.” Just five years after 2001: A Space Odyssey and movies are already parodying it.

With a bevy of perky babe-flesh, a freaky batter-sploshing centerpiece, and a brisk running time, Invasion of the Bee Girls isn’t a bad little flick. While it lacks any scares, narrative cohesion, or character development, there’s still enough nudity and silly charm to merit a recommendation.

-Paolo Phibes

1 comment:

  1. Goddamn it, the screengrabs make me want to see it again, even though it's a snooze. Proof that you can be bored and horny at the same time!


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