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Deadly Bees, The

Entry updated 4 April 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1967). Amicus Productions. Directed by Freddie Francis. Produced by Max J Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky. Written by Robert Bloch and Anthony Marriott, loosely (see below) based on A Taste for Honey (1941; vt A Taste for Murder 1955) by Gerald Heard, credited as H F Heard. Cast includes Guy Doleman, Catherine Finn, Frank Finlay and Suzanna Leigh. 83 minutes. Colour.

An unnamed London ministry department receives letters from a beekeeper claiming that he has developed a strain of killer honey-bees which will be deployed to lethal effect unless his demands are met; this is dismissed as a crank threat. Meanwhile pop singer Vicki Robinson (Leigh) collapses from exhaustion during a performance and is told to rest at Seagull Island, where beekeeper Ralph Hargrove (Doleman) and his wife Mary (Finn) have a farm. The Dolemans' relationship is strained and their neighbor H W Manfred (Finlay) is also a beekeeper. Soon Mary's dog is stung to death by bees, as are various islanders and finally Mary herself. Now suspicious of Hargrove, Vicki seeks help from Manfred; snooping together around the Doleman farm, they locate evidence suggesting that Hargrove has distilled "the smell of fear" into a liquid used to attract the bees to chosen victims. Vicki is attacked but escapes relatively uninjured and flees to Manfred's farm, where she discovers a secret laboratory: Manfred finds her there and admits that he rather than Hargrove is the Mad Scientist responsible for the whole affair. Attempting to kill Vicki, he inadvertently sets the bees on himself; she escapes after setting fire to the house.

According to Bloch, he originally scripted this Horror in SF film as a vehicle for Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee, neither of whom were available; Karloff had previously starred in the ABC Television adaption of the story as Sting of Death (1955). Amicus ordered Bloch to drop the book's central character Mr Mycroft (evidently Sherlock Holmes incognito) entirely. The director Freddie Francis (1917-2007) brought in co-screenwriter Marriott without Bloch's knowledge to revise the screenplay extensively; the final film bore little resemblance to Bloch's script. The Deadly Bees did not do well at the box office, being further hampered by such unconvincing visual effects as plastic bees glued to performers' faces during the attacks. [GSt/DRL]


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