TV Terror Guide: Killer Bees (1974)


Air Date: Feb. 26, 1974 (ABC)

Production Companies: Robert Stigwood Organization

Running Time: 74 in.

Available on: YouTube

Written by: John Willian Corrington, Joyce Hooper Corrington

Directed by: Curtis Harrington

Cast: Edward Albert, Kate Jackson, Roger Davis, Don McGovern, Gloria Swanson, Craig Stevens, John S. Ragin

After raving about Curtis Harrington’s TV-movie prior to this one, The Cat Creature (1973), I really hoped to enjoy Killer Bees (1974.) Unfortunately, it’s uneven. The opening is scary and funny… the climax is creepy and unsettling… but the middle is lackluster at best. The way it’s constructed by writers John Willian Corrington and Joyce Hooper Corrington, it would be better trimmed by 15 or 20 minutes and presented within a one-hour, The Twilight Zone-like anthology series.

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The movie’s weakness lies in the fact that the titular monsters, with one exception, aren’t really “killer” bees at all. Their mere presence causes panic, which sometimes lead to deaths, but when the one person who is suspicious about the Van Bohlen family and their secluded winery (Sergeant Jeffreys played by John S. Ragin) questions the involvement of the bees, there’s never as much as a sting or mark on the bodies to prove they were responsible. If this is supposed to imply an intelligence among the bees, it’s an idea never explored.

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Instead of much action with the bees the focus shifts to the circumstances of the family for most of the movie. It’s an interesting, if familiar, situation, but not enough to pad the movie like it does. Edward van Bohlen (Edward Albert) brings his fiancée, Victoria Wells (Kate Jackson), home to meet his eccentric family: brothers Helmut (Roger Davis, Dark Shadows) and Mathias (Don McGovern), father Rudolf (Craig Stevens), and grandmother Madame Maria von Bohlen (Gloria Swanson.)

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Of course, they don’t approve of outsiders and would rather Edward had never left home two years ago to attend law school in San Francisco, especially when the woman they never knew existed announces she’s pregnant. There are a lot of uncomfortable family dinners and awkward encounters between Madame and Victoria. Isolated with these characters at the winery, there’s no opportunity for the bees to do any killing if they are indeed “killer bees.” That is, unless a lineman climbs a telephone pole and is startled by them, falling to his death. Is that their fault?

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This is not to say there’s nothing supernatural about these flying insects. They crawl all over Madam, and (SPOILER ALERT) when she dies unexpectedly, attend her funeral. I’m repeating myself, but they are there to do no harm, simply be close to her body by nesting in the flowers on top of her casket. I’d be angry, too, if that stupid little boy hit me with his big cross. This results in a swarm and the congregation running outside, but the incident isn't fatal to anyone. The only odd thing is that these bees fly at night, which I guess bees don’t normally do.

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The supernatural aspect takes center stage during the conclusion of Killer Bees and it’s extremely effective. Victoria discovers a horrifying secret in the attic and the result is a nice shocker. Sometimes I’ll reveal the ending of a movie, but when it’s the best part of it, and could almost be a scary little short film all on its own, I don’t want to do that. Instead, I’ll conclude simply by reminding everyone what an asset Kate Jackson is to any of the 1970s TV movies in which she starred, and this one provides her with a honey of a role.

Visit the TV Terror Guide: 70's TV Movies playlist at ClassicHorrors.Club TV on YouTube to watch Killer Bees as well as all the great movies from this series...

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