Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Bees (1978)

Watching Not Quite Classic Theatre back in the 1980s, I saw a lot of movies about bugs. They were usually giant bugs, like in Tarantula (1955) or The Deadly Mantis (1957). I also saw quite a few made for TV movies, especially horror films, as I was always scouring the local newspapers’s TV Scene looking for anything that looked like it might be scary. I remember watching Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo (1977), Ants! (1977), and possibly The Savage Bees (1976) or its sequel Terror Out of the Sky (1978). My memory is a bit hazy on the details, but I’m sure I saw at least one movie about killer bees. 

I also remember hearing about The Swarm (1978), but the word on the street was that it was possibly the worst movie ever made. I did not see it until many years later, when I was well into adulthood – and I did not think it was the worst movie ever made, but that’s another story.

I did not see The Bees (1978) as a child, either. In fact, I had never even heard of it until relatively recently, but it conjured up memories of the various giant and killer bug movies of my past. I knew I had to see it, and last Friday I finally did.

The first thing most people notice about The Bees is that it stars John Saxon and John Carradine – both genre legends. I’m always happy to see those guys, even though their presence is not a guarantee of cinematic excellence. Saxon has appeared in almost 200 movies (so far), and Carradine a whopping 352! With numbers like that, they can’t all be classics – or Not Quite Classics for that matter. The third star of The Bees is Angel Tompkins, who plays Carradine’s niece and Saxon’s love interest. I remember her from such films as Murphy’s Law (1986), The Naked Cage (1986) and Relentless (1989) – not to mention appearances on TV shows like Charlie’s Angels, Knight Rider, and Simon & Simon. All in all, a pretty amazing cast for a low budget killer bee movie.

Someone asked me if The Bees is better than The Swarm. The short answer is, I really can’t answer that because it’s been way too long since I watched The Swarm. My response was a question: Would you define better as actually a better made movie? Or better, as in more campy fun (so worse, in a way)?

I have to think that The Swarm is a better made movie (in spite of its reputation for being horrendously bad). It has a much larger budget, a longer running time, and an even more star studded cast. The Bees, on the other hand, is the epitome of low budget campy fun. It rates a 3.7 on the IMDb, while The Swarm manages a 4.5 – hardly a definitive difference, but a possible indicator nonetheless. I think that what this is telling me, is that I really need to watch The Swarm again.

Regardless of which 1978 killer bee movie is the best/worst, I found The Bees to be a wonderfully entertaining throwback to the giant bug movies of my childhood (albeit with clouds of much more normal sized bugs). I could describe some of the jaw dropping moments of insanity, but why would I want to take the delightful surprises away from other fans of #NotQuiteClassicCinema? If you think this movie is up your alley you’re probably right. Check it out and experience the madness for yourself.

I will certainly be revisiting The Bees on some dark and stormy #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn of the future. But perhaps not before I revisit The Swarm and can make a proper comparison. Incidentally, Warner Bothers apparently paid New World Pictures to delay the release of The Bees so that it would not conflict with the release of The Swarm. I guess this makes them the cinematic equivalent of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, who had an agreement to never release their singles at the same time.

If that doesn’t convince you to see The Bees then nothing will!