Wicked Wednesday: Killer Bees (1974)

Man, for a movie called Killer Bees, this sure was boring. As my last made-for-TV movie for March, I thought I’d pick something that sounded fun. Honestly, I did it myself by expecting a movie more along the lines of Them! or something similar. But this movie forgot to make itself fun (or even vaguely interesting). If you’re going to make a movie and call it Killer Bees – you better have a sense of humour.

But alas, Killer Bees is a mind-numbing made-for-TV film from 1974 starring Gloria Swanson, Kate Jackson (because all of the angels lived in TV movies before Charlie found them) and Edward Albert.

Edward Van Bohlen (Albert) and his girlfriend Victoria (Jackson) are returning to Edward’s hometown, where he hasn’t been in several years, so Victoria can meet the Van Bohlen family.

The Van Bohlens are a big deal. The town they live in is named after them. When the couple arrive in a local cafe, Edward is instantly remembered. But before they are recognised, they overhear a few men talking about the accident that occurred in the nearby used car lot. The man drove off in a hurry when he was attacked by a group of angry bees.

When Ed and Tori direct their conversation back to themselves, Edward reminds Victoria that his family aren’t all American but “European,” which means they like to keep to themselves (I guess).

When the young couple arrive at the Van Bohlen vineyard, they are coldly received. Edward left the family years ago and refused Madame is Ed’s grandmother. She’s the matriarch of the family and a total queen bitch. And the rest of the family aren’t much better. Despite telling Edward to leave, the couple stay.

At dinner, Edward’s brother arrives. He tells the family about the death in town, but Edward’s father already seems to know about it, despite not being in town that day. To make things even more awkward, when the family toast, Edward thinks it’s a great time to tell his estranged family that he and Victoria are engaged. They toast with the family’s wine, which Victoria notes tastes sweet, almost like… HONEY.

The following days are filled with “weird” incidents. The police go to the house to interview Madame about her bees. When Victoria sees the scene, Madame is covered in bees, seemingly unharmed by the little ones. She faults how well-behaved her bees are, waving her arms about unstung, but the police don’t totally buy Madame’s story and still seem to think her bees are the cause of the man’s death who crashed his car.

And the family is really a bunch of jerks. Despite having grand plans for their life back in San Francisco, Edward’s family want him to stay on their vineyard and make weird bee wine with them. Though Ed’s not thrilled about the idea considering the bees killed one of his friends when he was a young boy.

While out for a walk (and talking about their *surprise* pregnancy) in the vineyard, Ed and Tori see a telephone man fall from the pole he’s climbed. They spot that the transformer box is full of – shock – bees! Victoria runs into town to call for help, but is stopped by Edward’s brother, who tells the emergency services on the phone that everything was just a “misunderstanding.”

The telephone man dies, and it upsets Victoria.

At tea one day, she goes to confront the Madame, whom she believes is behind all the bee attacks. She also slips in that she’s preggo. Upset and angry, Madame stands up to leave, but trips over the table with one of the little bee houses. Then proceeds to die covered in her little friends.

After learning the news, the family gather together in the main room. Victoria tells them that she’s convinced that the bees killed Madame and the men find this HILARIOUS. They literally laugh Victoria out of the house. She runs away to one of the barns where she spots Sergeant Jeffreys. He tells her that he’s been long suspicious of the family and their African bees, and he enlists Victoria as an ally.

Despite wanting to leave, Madame’s death changes that and Tori and Ed decide to stay another night. During Madame’s funeral, Victoria stays home to pack. The bees begin to swarm during the service, and eventually make their way home to harass Victoria. She eventually faints from the panic when she reaches the attic. The bees cover her, and like the Madame, don’t harm her. When she awakes, she’s in a different frame of mind.

The men arrive back from the funeral and Victoria is sporting a new, severe look instead of her 70’s freewheeling style from before. And Edward is immediately suspicious. Victoria sends the sergeant away after reassuring him that everything is fine. As he reluctantly leaves, the remaining men of the family (minus Edward) toast to the Victoria, or rather the Madame.

Shocking twist ending? Well, I guess. But we could cut a good half hour out of this baby and call it a solid half-hour of television. The performances aren’t bad by any means but certainly pretty forgettable. But Killer Bee‘s biggest sin by far isn’t so much that it’s boring (and it totally is), but it doesn’t make the bees scary… or all that killer. There are two deaths and the bees are really only accountable for one.

You know, make them bigger next time. Like mega killer bees. Or, I dunno, make the Madame wield the bees and make them take revenge – not just get rid of mildly irritating neighbours.

 

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