Was there ever anything as haunting as Gloria Swanson’s deliciously deluded Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder’s classic, emotional noir Sunset Boulevard? Many refined and enthusiastic film buffs will probably, unanimously, agree that there isn’t.
Thankfully, almost 25 years after this macabre venture, Swanson returned to play another demanding diva in Curtis Harrington’s fondly remembered television horror Killer Bees. As the queenly Maria von Bohlen, Swanson ruled her fictional family with a tart grip even as the matriarch’s fuzzy flying pets began to draw the life out of members of the frightened local community.
Meanwhile, although she was never known as a singer, the always game legend tackled a couple of tunes in the early 80s on a variety of star studded specials.
Here, the Paul Whiteman Orchestra’s well regarded Wonderful Onegets the nostalgic treatment.
Next, Swanson is joined by Brooke Shields (Alice, Sweet, Alice, The Midnight Meat Train) and Barbara Eden (A Howling in the Woods, The Stranger Within) for a surprising version of Cole Porter’s What Do You Think About Men?
Indeed, 1966’s truly fun The Deadly Bees takes pop star Vicki Robbins (the exquisite Suzanna Leigh from The Lost Continent and Lust for a Vampire) from fur stained Top of the Pops settings to the green and relaxing countryside. Of course, her restorative vacation is soon endangered when a mad scientist (disguised as a kindly neighbor) starts sending his killer bees on a variety of death filled errands.
Obviously filmed long before the prevalence of CGI, The Deadly Bees does contain tons of blatantly artificial effects work. The actors, here, are (often laughingly) covered with mighty mounds of superimposed bees during the attack scenes. In fact, rumor has it that these blanketing creatures were created by dunking coffee grounds in vats of water. Mrs. Folgers must be really pissed, huh!?!
But, while this vicious entry, directed by the iconic Freddie Francis, is considered by Amicus scholars to be one of that venerable studio’s weakest efforts, time seemingly has been kind to this buzzing creation. Quaint and charming, it is enlivened by it’s distinguished British performers and the vibrant Leigh. It is truly a pleasant throwback and, certainly, as one of the first killer bees films available, a cultural artifact, as well.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!