Monday, December 28, 2009

Sunday 3rd January 2010: Invasion Of The Bee Girls!

Invasion Of The Bee Girls

USA 1973 colour

Director Denis Sanders Writer Nicholas Meyer

Cast William Smith (Neil Agar), Anitra Ford (Dr Susan Harris), Victoria Vetri (Julie Zorn), Cliff Osmond (Captain Peters)

Tonight on Schlock Treatment marks the start of a month celebrating the Grindhouse features of the Seventies – equal parts sleaze, horror, action, and class as well as ass. Schlock Treatment's Grindhouse 101 kicks off with the 1973 B film classic Invasion Of The Bee Girls.

Welcome to Peckham, wife-swapping capital of America, or so the residents proudly proclaim. Tough guy B King William Smith (that's B-Grade, as in the letter B) plays Neil Agar, schlump from the State Security Department, called to Peckham to investigate a number of mysterious deaths – all adult males, all with their trousers down, and all suffering from sexual exhaustion. Suspicion falls squarely on the local science research facility Brandtwood, an on the icy yet alluring Dr Susan Harris with her long legs, black eyeballs under Jackie Onassis sunglasses, soft-core photos of bees reproducing on her office wall, and her 12 sugars in her coffee.

Dr Harris, it seems, has been experimenting with splicing bee genes with human ones in a giant radioactive hive, creating a sexually-preoccupied superrace of honeysuckers whose only primary urge is to kill while mating. And, I might add, it's a particularly alluring superrace, equal parts Stepford Wives and Vampyros Lesbos, with film noir's classic femme fatale and the addled pseudo-science of classic schlock sci-fi like The Fly (1958) thrown in for an extra buzz.

Invasion Of The Bee Girls has a dream B-cast: William Smith is the thinking woman's thug with fists of steel who has graced many biker and action films, most famously slugging it out with Rod Taylor in Darker Than Amber's brutally realistic fistfight. Even as a low-level beaurocrat, Smith gets to fight and fornicate his way through the picture, Seventies drive-in style. Playing opposite Smith as Dr Harris is B Queen AND Bee Queen Anitra Ford, a former Price Is Right model who steamed up screens throughout the Seventies in The Big Bird Cage and Revenge Of The Screaming Dead. She gets the film's most erotic moments, as well its crowning visual gag of her preening herself in front of a multi-faceted mirror. It's just one of many iconic moments, all captured in Gary Graver's Bee-Vision camera, not least the shot of the Black Widows at one of their husband's funerals, all in matching black dresses and sunglasses.

The idea of women as sexual predators is nothing new to exploitation cinema. But Invasion Of The Bee Girls is no vampire film, and these women would rather lick the pollen off a bee's dick than contemplate sucking your blood. Yes, people, we're in Grindhouse territory, in which the suggestiveness of the Sixties is almost realized in the Sick, Sick Seventies. So sit back, Drones, as we unspool a B film that will leave you humming: the 1973 Invasion Of The Bee Girls.

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