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October 27th, 2012


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11:58 pm - 31 Days of Halloween: The Invasion of the Bee Girls
1973's The Invasion of the Bee Girls is about the invasion of the bee girls.

Look, I've got less than half an hour to write this if I want to get it in by midnight. Think I'll make it? I have my doubts.

I can't remember why I was interested in Invasion of the Bee Girls. Possibly it is an infamous movie that I'd decided I should see. It might be the fact that it has also been distributed under the title Graveyard Tramps, which seemed an unlikely fit for what sounded otherwise like a '50s sci-fi film. Incidentally, the fact that I just watched The Wasp Woman is a total coincidence. I had this one in one of those 50 Movie Packs from Mill Creek Entertainment, and when I was scanning its contents today, this title jumped out at me, and I recalled that I'd been planning to see it. For some reason.

What that reason is eludes me. The Invasion of the Bee Girls takes place in a small, southwestern town, possibly in California, possibly not. The DVD is taken from a print of the film that has both a dark picture and fuzzy sound, but not so bad that it can't be watched. At any rate, whatever town this is has a problem: men are dropping off like flies. Each body is found in a state of undress, apparently having suffered cardiac arrest mid-coitus.

A press conference is held, and this explanation is given, amid the giggles of the townspeople. The phrase "venereal disease" is met with more giggles, as if everyone in town is thirteen. Witnesses are sought. One man explains that the victim was in the adjoining hotel room, and had left his television on all night: "the station had gone off the air, and all I heard was that buzz. You know, zzzzzzzzzzzzz."

The real culprits, of course, are the bee girls, who, we eventually learn, have been genetically engineered by a mad scientist with Y-chromosome. The bee girls may be superior to the rest of us in most ways, but they can't reproduce without a man, and like real bees, they have a tendency to kill their mates.

The Invasion of the Bee Girls was made during an awkward period of the '70s when the MPAA ratings system was new, and the film industry was still trying to figure out the correct proportions of sex to violence, and just how much of either was too much. As a result, R-rated movies from that era tend to be extremely graphic in one way or another. There's also always been quite an audience for taboo subjects, so a lot of these movies -- particularly the ones we classify as "grindhouse" pictures -- were made by barely competent directors who knew what people wanted to see, but not how to make a good film.

The Invasion of the Bee Girls is one of these. There's a lot of nudity, and the sex -- though they've managed to obscure it by keeping it just out of frame -- is explicit. The movie is also flat and artless. It reminds me of one of those '50s sci-fi movies where the aliens don't have men, just gorgeous blondes who need another demonstration of this Earth custom called, what did you call it? "Kissing"? It's weird. The '70s were a more permissive time in cinema, and much less politically correct, and the sexism feels wildly out of place. In my mind, a movie can have either explicit nudity and violence, or the male protagonist can overpower the female civilization using only brute force, rugged good looks, and an assault rifle. You can't have both; they're elements from drastically different eras, and they don't belong together.

Come to think of it, that's probably why this movie is so famous: rampant sexism. In 1973 it wasn't quite an anachronism yet, but it had mostly fallen out of favor in Hollywood, and most writers and directors were smarter than to do that sort of thing. Director Denis Sanders was not, apparently, above this sort of thing, and neither were the writers, Nicholas Meyer and Sylvia Schneble. I've never heard of any of these three. In fact, the only names connected with this movie that I recognize are Anitra Ford (professional Hollywood sexpot who played the mad scientist), and Charles Bernstein (soundtrack composer). Neither of them did their best work on this picture, but I suppose that one has to make a living.

It's a watchable film, but not a good one. It's also not a horror movie, which is what I get, I guess, for choosing without reading up on the movie first (and really, doesn't Graveyard Tramps at least sound like horror? Zombies, maybe? Necrophelia?). What can I say? People made these movies in the '70s because other people were willing to pay money for them. Now we have the Internet, and you can see adult material without pretending to legitimize it by surrounding it with a crappy science fiction movie. People in 1973 were probably expecting personal jetpacks and meals-in-a-pill by now, but if nothing else, we've taken some of the tedium out of porn. That's progress, I guess, or it would be if someone would take the time they've been saving and pour it into jetpack/meal-in-a-pill research. Oh well.

Anyway, here's the trailer.

Two minutes to spare. Booya, as they say.

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31 Days of Halloween: The Invasion of the Bee Girls - Garmonbozia for the soul.

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