Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Vinegar Syndrome - THE BEES on Blu-ray ""

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Vinegar Syndrome - THE BEES on Blu-ray

THE BEES (1978; Alfredo Zacharias)
Wow, do I love animals attack movies. Some call them "Man vs. Nature" movies or "Nature Gone Wild" movies. Regardless of the moniker, I adore them. I like disaster movies in general, but the ones with killer animals (or insects) on the loose are always a good time for me. Even something as deadly dull as FROGS, is a fun watch for me. I cannot explain my attraction to this kind of cinema. It may be similar to the fascism ruin people have with the post apocalypse. I'd just rather see animals running people down more than zombies. It might have to do with my view of humans as a pretty despicable and doomed species. We can be so arrogant about so many things, I guess there's something cathartic for me about seeing creatures lower on the food chain - the underdogs - rise up and defeat their evil human oppressors. Or maybe I just like animal movies. Not just scary ones, but stuff like DUNSTAN CHECKS IN TOO. 
Anyway, bees have always fascinated me. They were these malevolent little bugs that you could anger with the slightest wrong movement and get yourself stung. I once dropped an big old Tonka dump truck on a nest of bees that's as made a hive in a hole underground. They came roaring out and stung me all over. It was not fun. As a result u developed a fear of bees, wasps and Yellowjackets. This fear was in no way lessened by talk of "killer bees" making their way north from the southern states. I lived in Wisconsin, but the way we heard it was that the killer bees would be in our back yards in a few summers (this was when I was in grade school or middle school). So at a certain point, tots see a bee and wonder, "Is that a killer bee??". So naturally, I'm drawn to films like THE SWARM and THE BEES and TEROR OUT OF THE SKY. It's all made a lot scarier to me if it's a scenario that plays into my own fears and phobias. I'm guessing that the same logic that applies to the way that JAWS effected my view of the ocean also applies to the resulting brainwashing that happens when you watch a lot of other animals attack films. It makes you tend to see nature as this scary thing and that not only are the dogs, cats, mountain lions and other mammals after you, but the insects as well. So I have fully bought into the "nature strikes back" universe and very much enjoy most films in the genre, even the lesser ones. One of the draws of these disaster spinoff movies is their ensemble casts. THE SWARM (another killer bee movie from 1978) boasted the likes of Michael Caine, Katherine Ross, Richard Widmark, Richard Chamberlain, Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson and more. THE BEES has John Saxon, Angel Tomkins and John Carradine. Definitely not quite the same kind of star power (though Saxon was still riding his celebrity from ENTER THE DRAGON), but a fun cast for a fan of genre actors like me.
I've compared director Zacharias to Ed Wood before, but I mean this more in a complimentary way than you might think. For one thing, I do think of Ed Wood as a "get it done" kind of filmmaker. He would seem to have been a guy made the best of the movie-making my situations he found himself in and a guy who would trudge forward to the end. If it meant using stock footage or making things work with bad special effects and bad sets. There's less filmmaking talent there and more raw drive to finish. Zachariah seems a similar guy in terms of ambition and sheer drive to get his films to the screen and do so as economically as possible. I find it interesting how one film of a similar nature performs versus another around the same time period. Warner Brothers released THE SWARM in 1978 and it was a huge flop for them despite and all-star cast. THE BEES was released afterwards and did quite well financially in comparison, though it was a much lower budget movie. Roger Corman was involved in distributing THE BEES and I cannot help thinking that he definitely had a good deal to do with the film's success. It makes sense to me that Corman would know how to handle this kind of thing better than Warner Brothers could in the late 1970s. THE BEES would seem like a great drive-in movie and it's logical that Corman would have approached it just like he would have any of his own exploitation pictures as far as how he released it. I'm not sure if Corman had anything to do with the film's poster (see above), but it's clearly a better design than the key art for THE SWARM. It's a great example of exploitation film marketing and how a good lascivious movie poster could attract viewers. I wish posters were still like this today.

Special Feautures:
-Scanned and restored in 2K from a 35mm IP.
-"Get Stung! An Interview with Alfredo Zacharias"(11 mins) Neat little chat with director Zacharias wherein he talks about his memories of the production and the circumstances surrounding the film's release. He also recollects his experiences working with the principal actors in the movie. Hearing him describe the process of "de-sting-ing" the bees was particularly interesting.

Here is an Australian Video Trailer for THE BEES.

Just for fun, here is a TV spot for THE SWARM from 1978:

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