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Friday, May 10, 2013

Invasion of the Bee Girls

Nicholas Meyer (writer) and Denis Sanders (director) created cheap sexploitation film for the summer drive-in market. Invasion of the Bee Girls (IBG) was almost excluded from this study of old sci-fi movies, since its primary mission is gratuitous boobs and butts. Yet, despite the producers' obvious low-brow intentions, they almost (perhaps unintentionally) made some interesting sci-fi moments. Almost. The "Girls" don't turn into bees (as Wasp Woman did), nor do they wear black and yellow striped swimwear (as in the poster). They become bee-babe hybrids. IBG is not a family-friendly film, but has managed to develop a cult following.

Quick Plot Synopsis
(Kept brief by consolidating intercut story threads) Men in the small town of Peckham, CA are dying of heart attacks, apparently while having sex. Since one of them is a scientist working on military projects, a federal agent, Neil Agar (William Smith), is dispatched. More men die the same way, though some are just random nobodies. The local sheriff has no clue. Agar has no clue, but looks for clues aided by Julie Zorn (Victoria Vetri). They slowly discover that the head of the research lab, was studying genetics, and bees. He is away in europe. The acting director, Dr. Susan Harris (Anitra Ford) is suspiciously sultry and wears sunglasses all the time. Any man who appears to threaten the Bee Girls secret is killed -- usually by luring them into sex. The widows of the dead scientists are lured into a secret lab by Harris. There, they are turned into Bee Girls via some nuclear ray orgasmitron thingy, a body cast of marshmallow fluff, and a lot of bees. (No, it makes no sense, but that's "science" for you.) Thus genetically altered, the widows are dowdy no longer, but become hot babes with big black contact lenses to suggest compound eyes. They all wear big sunglasses and short skirts. Harris's "hive" of queen bees adds members and protects itself. Agar tells Julia, Stan and Aldo his theory that Harris has become genetically part bee and is making more queen bees. They kill men with sex. Stan scoffs and leaves, but his wife (normally cold) is suddenly hot to trot. He sees her bee eyes and knows Agar was right. Stan kills his killer bee wife just in time. Julie constructs a gizmo that will bleep if a bee-person is around. It bleeps at a funeral for Herb, at which all the bee babes attend. Harris, seeing Julia as a threat, lures her to the secret lab. They begin the naked bee-ificaiton on her, first with the blue-light orgasmatron. Agar comes running to help. He barges in and shoots the machine. He rescues naked Julia. The room fills with smoke and sparks. For some reason, all the bee girls die. When all has calmed down, Agar tosses Julia on a bed. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
The soft porn aspect is somewhat annoying if one is after sci-fi. But the ruthless "colony" of mutants has some intriguing qualities. There is a sort of Stepford Wives quality to them, though in reverse.

Cultural Connection
Sexploitation films were not new, nor was soft porn. What was a rather early-70s phenomenon, was the obtuse-government-lab-gone-wrong trope. The government and military were popular as villains. The remote small town becomes a symbolic stand-in for America, ala Andromeda Strain. Beneath the low-brow pandering in IBG, lurks more of the 70s angst about government, the military, and science going wrong. Soft porn AND government conspiracy. Surely, a winning combination.

Lesbo-Feminist Angst -- There is a subtext in Meyer's story that suggests a fear of feminist lesbians taking over society. Harris and her bee girls don't "need" men (the way men want to be needed). They have their orgasmitron in the lab, but seem to auto-stimulate anyhow. There is the one woman-on-woman kiss when Harris "awakens" Mrs. Kline from the bee-ification process. They appear (at the funeral) as a socially bonded little group (in low-cut black dresses). There is the symbolism that they cannot reproduce via sex (despite being very sexy), so must recruit (abduct) new members. Agar, the man's man, rescues Julia and saves her for proper male-initiated hetero. One wonders if Meyer intended these messages, or just gave unconscious vent to his fears (and fetishes).

Amazons -- In some ways, Harris's "hive" of bee girls has affinities to a long-standing trope in film (and sci-fi in particular) -- the Colony of Lost Women. Sometimes, they're simply "lost" women (handily all in their 20s, svelt and pretty) as in Bowanga, Bowanga (aka Wild Women, '51), Fire Maidens of Outer Space ('58) and Queen of Outer Space ('58) -- a bevy of prime beauties, eager for some red-blooded men to "take" them. Often enough, though, in this trope the women are attractive, but also a threat (to men). Catwomen of the Moon ('53), Mesa of Lost Women ('53), and, say, Planet of the Invading Women ('67) show this. Harris and her bee girls are such a hostile colony. They are attractive. The hormonally imprudent men slobber for them. Yet, the babes are deadly to men. Therein seems to lurk a quiet cautionary tale for men. Look before you leap, or as the line from the old hymn said: "I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name."

Drone Death -- A biology fact that may have influenced Meyer's story, is that the male honey bee (the drone), does die after mating with the queen. It is not so much that the queen bee kills the drone as it is that sex for male bees is a one-time-thing. Just as female honey bees die after they sting (because their stinger parts rip out), drones' "parts" rip off after they've done their duty. They fly off and die. It's not the queen's fault. It's just how the drones are built.

Safe Sex -- Another curious subtext, whether intended or not, is the cautionary tale in parable, about unsafe sex. The local doctor tries to lecture about STDs, but is ridiculed by the crowd. There is the overt message. The parable form has all the men who throw morality to the wind (and seek out extramarital sex) die. Learn from their mistakes. The sheriff wisely declines Mrs.Kline's advances (she's in bee-mode at this point), so he lives.  Once Agar destroys the bee-maker device and kills all the Bee Girls, it's safe for sex again! He tosses Julia on a bed. Yay! Sex is saved again!  They must have worried about this in the 70s.

Alternate Title -- IBG was re-released on DVD with the title Graveyard Tramps. This suggests a zombie flick. It is still IBG. The re-releasers drew their title from the one graveyard scene in which all of the bee women attend Herb's funeral. They're tramps in that they eagerly seduce men, though with malice instead of "love.".

Bottom line? IBG is a very low budget, trashy soft porn aimed at a very low-brow audience. It's primary raison d'etre is to show boobs and butts. One should not plan to watch IBG while one's mother, boss or pastor may see you. The notes above may make it sound as if IBG is a more serious film than it is. There are plot holes aplenty and what little science is offered is insipid blather. The only reason IBG is included here, is for the interesting notion of an accidental mutant goes about duplicating "her kind" -- rather like the Pod People. IBG has its cult fans, but has only a little sci-fi lost amid the soft porn.


Randall Landers said...

It's mindless but cute fun. Decent script, but mediocre acting at best. Not something I look for, but I occasionally catch it on EPIC's DRIVE IN channelo.

Unknown said...

If you are in the right mood this film is a great deal of fun. It's what would happen if a seventies "gentleman's magazine" publisher like, say Hugh Hefner, were to script and direct a movie. It is sexist, non-scientific, and sloppily acted. That said, for some reason it is compulsively watchable.