Poor Vicki Robbins (Suzanna Leigh), she has it tough as a super famous pop singer in the 60’s. All of her engagements pile up and next thing you know she’s swooning during a television performance. Luckily her agent knows good old Farmer Hargrove (Guy Doleman) and his wife Mary (Catherine Finn). Unluckily there are a swarm of deadly bees going around killing people. So now Vicki has to try to relax, avoid deadly bees and try to enjoy tea with the local eccentric Manfred (Frank Finlay). Does Vicki have a chance, or is she going to end up the latest victim.
It’s back to the British Isles again with this episode of MST3K, and this 1967 feature seems promising. You’ve got the British pop culture fusing with killer bees, how can this not work?
Truth be told, this isn’t a bad movie really, it’s just dull. Frightfully dull. Director Freddie Francis would actually go on to be a award winning cinematographer (check out his wonderful work on “Glory”, “The Elephant Man” and “The Straight Story”), but he doesn’t show a lot of skill directing, because the pacing here is what is really deadly – not the bees.
The movie never really takes off, even in scenes that are supposed to have tension, it never appears. You’d think that attacks by killer bees could be scary, but the combination of the poor effects with the lack of intensity makes the whole thing come across rather limp.
One of the really odd things about the film are the characters – not a likable one in the bunch! Vicki comes across a bit like an airhead, clueless to her danger until it’s too late. Before she actually encounters the bees we don’t get much of a sense of her stardom, other than the fact that she sings a fairly hideous 60’s style ballad (making me think of the cheesy theme from “Man with the Golden Gun”, without the funky 70’s guitar). She’s pretty enough, but that’s about her best attribute.
The tag team of Mr. and Mrs. Hargrove is amazing. Obviously there are marriage problems here, but you wonder how they even got married in the first place. They seem to loathe each other. And both are abrasive and nasty to Vicki, and even if she is a little dim, she didn’t deserve that kind of reception. It’s pretty sad that you start hoping either of them will get swarmed, instead of the poor dog.
And then there’s Mr. Manfred who is played very well by Frank Finlay, a veteran character actor. He nails the eccentric git part perfectly. He stammers and stutters in front of everyone as if contact with real humans is truly frightening. He is constantly dressed in tweed. He makes furtive glances around, as if expecting to get hit. It’s actually the most fun performance in the film. Unfortunately it becomes fairly obvious early on that Manfred isn’t just eccentric – he’s barking mad. So when he finally spills his guts and indulges in one of the longest flashbacks in film history – you aren’t surprised in the least.
That’s the final nail in the coffin. I’m not kidding when I say that Manfred dives into a flashback that basically covers all the events in the film from his point of view. It is endless, and if you have the IQ of a banana slug it may be helpful, but anyone who is remotely sober during the bulk of the film doesn’t need the flashback to explain the movie. Seriously, it isn’t that difficult to figure out what’s going on. But this guy doesn’t shut up, and it’s all capped off with a flashback to something that happened right before Manfred started his flashback. Tom blurts out, “You can’t flashback to something that happened three minutes ago!”
Mike and bots have another challenge with a dull film in this episode. And like “The Projected Man” a few episodes ago, this movie just isn’t bad enough to generate top notch comments. “Puma Man” and “Werewolf” were filled to bursting with odd characters, bad effects and silly accents, and oddly, the “The Deadly Bees” has all those things – but they just don’t add up to comedy.
Part of the reason is that the film is competent in the most basic ways. The story makes sense, the characters act as we expect, and even though the effects are bad, they aren’t laughable. You get the feeling that “The Deadly Bees” was a movie that was made by a polished film crew. Compared to the last couple movies , it’s a vast difference.
But the dullness in the script and direction are the killers here. Sure Mike and bots have fun with the silly 60’s television show and Vicki’s horrible wardrobe. But in the end they end up relying on riffs on being British and some bad bee puns. It’s just not a very good effort for the movie that needed some serious energy to the riffing
But the host segments are pretty entertaining. My favorite is the first, where Mike and bots take us into “Previously on Mystery Science Theater 3000” and proceed to add every evening drama cliché in the book and then some more into the mix. Watching Mike kiss Gypsy in a fit of passion is hilarious. Back in Castle Forrester, the two Observers from Season 8 arrive to take Brain Guy back to his home planet. This leads to a funny Gilbert and Sullivan inspired song in segment three between Brain Guy, Bobo and Pearl. The storyline ends with Brain Guy locked in a final battle with the Observers, with the fate of Earth in the balance. On the satellite, Crow sings a love song to the crotchety Mrs. Hargrove, and Mike dresses like a bee and attempts to communicate via dance.
Alas, fun host segments are icing on the cake for me, and don’t do much to push up the overall grade. This movie gets only two bees out of five.This episode is available on DAP.