Invasion of the Bee Girls
There’s something infatuating about how weird 70s science fiction can get. It’s hard to encounter those stories that haven’t been filled in with the jargon of the time, injecting it with a time capsule-like quality while further embellishing whichever angle the sci-fi narrative is presenting, usually a sociopolitical one.
Invasion of the Bee Girls feels like the polar opposite of something like The Stepford Wives — in effect an act of revenge against men for all they take for granted and continually & casually oppress. It’s just so fitting that it takes the form of mutated women seducing men to death, literally.
The film opens on Neil Agar (played by William Smith, Captain Devlin and Count Sodom from Hell Comes to Frogtown) who is sent to California to investigate the mysterious death of a bacteriologist at Brandt Research, a government facility. It’s when he talks with some of the other lead scientists that he notices a lot of them are quite the players, living extravagant sex lives on the side. More bodies pile up that fit the same cause of death: congestive heart failure caused by sexual exhaustion. What a way to go! If anything, death by sex might be too good for these people.
In an early scene the local sheriff holds a meeting for the townspeople that feels ripped straight out of a Jaws ripoff. In some ways this one kind of is, too. But what this scene has going for it is wonderful and breathes some much-needed air into the movie. It includes a amusingly dated V.D. joke that even gets the town chuckling about the murders. I mean, if you’re going to make a sci-fi picture about women experimentally mutating bee DNA to kill male playboys with sex, you might as well have a sense of humor about it.
We loosely follow Dr. Susan Harris (Anitra Ford from Messiah of Evil) during her bee escapades while she wears large gaudy black sunglasses which at first seem to just be her own weird fashion choice that she’s latched onto (or Ford’s insistence on wearing them during her scenes as if she were recovering from a hangover while filming, something Cameron Mitchell fans can identify with). But as we see more and more Bee Girls they all don the same style. I’d say it works for some more than others, and while you’d think it’s not really that creepy just think how a crowd of them staring at you would feel like.
There’s one thing inarguably chilling in this and that’s the transformation sequence in the film where we see the entire process of what it takes to transform someone into the titular Bee Girl and it’s equal parts intense and frightening. In a completely dialogue-free sequence, a hypnotic drone sounds with a heavy dose of blue light blasting onto the subject. Various assisting worker Bee Girls cover the subject with a weird white substance that looks a little too much like Fluffernutter, then seal them into a chamber where bees swarm and cover every inch of their body. Daniel Robitaille, eat your heart out. They then emerge and the white stuff is peeled away, exposing the newly mutated lady inside. Truly creepy shit, and all achieved visually with no need for dialogue. If nothing else this is what you came to see.
Invasion of the Bee Girls is director Denis Sanders’ last feature film and Nicholas Meyer’s first film writing gig — he actually almost removed his name from the film after rewrites but was convinced to keep it. Got to take those credits when you can, I guess.