‘Hives of horror!’
The Deadly Bees is a 1966 British horror film loosely based on H.F. Heard’s 1941 novel A Taste for Honey. It was directed by Freddie Francis (The Skull; The Vault of Horror; The Ghoul), and stars Suzanna Leigh, Guy Doleman, and Frank Finlay (Twisted Nerve; Count Dracula; Lifeforce).
The movie was produced by Amicus Productions and is mainly notable as the first of a number of lacklustre ‘killer bee’ movies. In the US, it was released on a double-bill with The Vulture.
Though the screenplay was written from the novel by noted author Robert Bloch, best known for Psycho, critics invariably derided the film, generally citing its uninspired acting, ludicrous special effects (including plastic flies glued to actors’ faces to show them being “stung”), and continuity errors.
Bloch blamed the film’s poor showing on the fact he wrote it for Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff, who ultimately were unable to be cast due to scheduling difficulties, and on the fact that the director, with the aid of a writer called Anthony Marriott, decided to ‘improve’ his script. Consequently the film “soon buzzed off into critical oblivion, unwept, unhonoured and unstung” wrote Bloch.
In his autobiography, Bloch explained:
“Once the completed screenplay arrived in England, the problem of matching stellar schedules – and salaries – put the roles into other hands and the script itself into the hands of its director. As is often the case, he decided to improve it, with the aid of a writer called Anthony Marriott, but apparently without the knowledge of Rosenberg and Subotsky [Amicus Films’ producers], who left prior to production. Both of them had liked my original version, but by the time they returned, the screenplay had been improved past recognition and the shoot was already beginning.
Sometime during 1966, the film was released under a new title [which implies Bloch’s script was titled, as the novel was, A Taste for Honey] The Deadly Bees. Bloch is reputed to have been so annoyed by the interference with his script that he never bothered to see the completed film.
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Two men from an unnamed British government ministry comment on a spate of letters from a beekeeper claiming to have developed a strain of killer bees. They dismiss him as a lunatic, though his letters claim he will start killing people if he is not taken seriously.
Meanwhile, pop singer Vicki Robbins (Suzanna Leigh) collapses from exhaustion on television, and is sent to recuperate in a cottage on Seagull Island. The proprietors of the “rest home” are a depressed and disgruntled couple, Ralph and Mary Hargrove (Guy Doleman and Catherine Finn). Ralph is a beekeeper, as is his neighbor, H.W. Manfred (Frank Finlay).
Vicki begins noticing a spate of mysterious happenings. Mary Hargrove and her dog are attacked by the bees and killed, leading Vicki to suspect Hargrove. She and Manfred begin to snoop around. He encourages her to search through Hargrove’s papers. In doing this, she finds that Hargrove has managed to isolate “the smell of fear” into a liquid form…
The television sequence toward the beginning features a performance by British mod rock band The Birds (not to be confused with American group The Byrds). The group’s lead guitarist was Ronnie Wood, later of The Faces and The Rolling Stones and the sequence was filmed on January 14, 1966, at Shepperton Studios.
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“…an enjoyable, if somewhat predictable B movie (pun intended)” DVD Drive-In
“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.” DVD Talk