Field Guide to Invertebrates in Film: The Deadly Bees

The Deadly Bees (1967)
Critter: Genetically modified killer honey bees, Apis mellifera var. madmanicus
Size: Less than an inch long
Modus Operandi: Attracted to the distilled smell of fear, attack in swarms, stinging victims to death
How the Menace Emerges: These bees are reared and trained by a madman to attack anyone smeared with an adrenaline-derived “smell of fear” ointment
End Goal: Hapless victims of a madman sent on suicidal murder missions, they’d rather be making honey.

Our first entry into the Field Guide from overseas is Britain’s The Deadly Bees, from Hammer’s little brother, Amicus. Freddie Francis (Tales from the Crypt, The Skull) directs this Robert Bloch (Psycho) script, and it carries itself with that 60s British sense of class well above the material involved. The Deadly Bees is not a great film, but like most of Francis’ work, it is solid enough: decent acting, competent color schemes and good camera work. Its weaknesses include horrible bee effects, a plot full of holes and a lead gal that just can’t gain our sympathy, yet it still comes off OK. The pacing keeps it from being too dull, and the battle between the overly nice, friendly beekeeper and the overly rude, cold beekeeper on this tiny island is a nice touch. This is certainly Saturday afternoon fare, but you could certainly find worse in the dangerous bee film camp.

One of the nice things about The Deadly Bees is that, in true Amicus style, someone at least did a bit of their homework. The death’s head moth (Acherontia atropos) does indeed make a sound, and they do raid honey from hives. They do so by smelling like a bee, rather than making a hypnotic noise, but that’s creative license for you.

Nit-picking Science: I could complain about the claim that bees and all insects smell fear and attack, but I’d just feel silly being that picky.

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