Written by: George Pacheco on March 10th, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: Mexico / USA, 1978
Director: Alfredo Zacarías
Writer: Alfredo Zacarías
Cast: John Saxon, Angel Tompkins, John Carradine, Claudio Brook, Alicia Encinas, Julio César Imbert, Armando Martín, José Chávez
BluRay released: February 23rd, 2016
Approximate running times: 92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $27.98
The Bees is a campy, ridiculously over the top film from the “when animals attack” subdivision of 70s drive in/disaster cinema. Directed by Mexican filmmaker Alfredo Zacarias-he of Demonoid infamy-with a hammy and heavy hand, the picture struggles to deliver any sort of proper scares (or even proper storytelling, to be honest), but provides some severely enjoyable moments of comic relief.
The Bees centers around a corporate conspiracy to smuggle in deadly killer bees from South America in order to increase their production of honey and profits (???), and the horrible results when that plan predictably goes awry. Zacarias assembled a cast of both Mexican and American actors for this picture, the latter of which include Enter the Dragon star John Saxon, veteran character actor John Carradine and the lovely Angel Tompkins, from the classic drive in exploitation piece, The Teacher.
All three of these thespians seem bewildered and amused at the chaos going on around them, particularly Saxon, who delivers all of his lines with a mixture of check-cashing smugness and confused disinterest. Meanwhile, Tompkins puts up an uncomfortable amount of positive energy, considering all of the horrible things going on around her-she loses her husband to a bee attack within the first fifteen minutes-although it should be said that he bright personality and charisma do wonders to brightening up each scene in which she is featured. Elsewhere, John Carradine is clearly in poor health and probably half drunk during all of his scenes as the doctor who can speak the complex language of the bees (???? again), but he brings to the screen his typical class and professionalism.
There really isn’t much to speak of in the way of blood and gore in The Bees-a sentiment echoed by Zacarias himself in the video interview provided as an extra-but this never impedes the film in its mission of rollicking fun and animal attacking madness. In fact, a good solid chunk of the film’s first half is devoted solely to episodic sequences of various people getting done in by deadly bee swarms. These scenes never lack in hilarity, and are probably the most memorable moments in the film, despite the fact that none of these characters are ever seen again: they just show up, die, and make way for the next group.
As such, it isn’t wise to watch The Bees with any sort of intent or focus, but rather with a group of good friends, good food and plenty of alcohol.
Vinegar Syndrome’s DVD and Blu-Ray combo pack of The Bees looks fantastic, with warm colors and solid audio. Zacarias shot his film in that very classic late 70s style with fashions to match, so seeing such a well preserved print of this one is really fun. There are small moments of minor dirt and damage, but it’s never anything glaringly obvious, and doesn’t impede any enjoyment whatsoever. The aforementioned interview with Zacarias is the sole extra included here apart from the film’s theatrical trailer, and it’s a fun look back at the production of the film, the behavior of the actors and how The Bees achieved distribution, thanks to Zacarias’ friend Roger Corman.
Overall, The Bees receives yet another great release from Vinegar Syndrome.