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Film / The Deadly Bees

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The Deadly Bees is a 1967 British horror film from Amicus Productions, directed by Freddie Francis and adapted by screenwriters Robert Bloch and Anthony Marriott from H. F. Heard's 1941 novel A Taste for Honey.

The depressing story begins with overworked pop star Vicki Robbins (Suzanna Leigh) collapsing whilst lip-synching during a "live" television performance. Her doctor prescribes some immediate R&R for her, and packs her off to an old friend of his who has a farm on remote Seagull Island, isolated from the pressures of the outside world.

Said friend, Ralph Hargrove (Guy Doleman), is a surly and despondent beekeeper, married to an equally surly and despondent old woman who smokes and only pets their dog. Vicki's vacation really kicks into high gear once she meets the rival beekeeper in town, one Mr. Manfred (Frank Finlay).note 

As it turns out, there're killer bees on Seagull Island. People (and animals) are attacked, including Hargrove's wife, and Hargrove seems to be the prime suspect. Manfred enlists Vicki's help to find evidence to prove Hargrove's guilt and stop the attacks.

The film was the target of episode 905 of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1998, gaining it a certain amount of notoriety outside the British horror fandom. To read a recap of the MST3K episode, go here.


  • Adaptational Villainy: The Manfred character wasn't evil at all in the book, and is hinted to be Sherlock Holmes himself. Inverted with Hargrove, who was the villain in the book, but is innocent in the movie.
  • Asshole Victim: Invoked by Manfred on trying to kill Hargrove. He states no one would miss him because he was "rude".
  • Bee-Bee Gun: The bees are lured to their victims by a substance the killer calls "the smell of fear". However, by the time the film is over, everyone but the bees' intended targets is attacked, because the villain is actually extremely inept at placing the substance.
  • Brick Joke: Harcourt (the Bowler-Hatted Guy) at the end was one of the inspectors from the beginning of the film, finally showing up late to investigate the bee-centric goings on at Seagull Island. Adding to the strangeness is that he's sporting a goofy grin and looks absolutely delighted to visit Seagull Island — which makes a little sense, given he's ignorant of everything that's happened and thinks that at most he'll be having a conversation with some ridiculous poison-pen crank.
  • Car Chase: Late in the film, Vicki tries to drive off with Hargrove's Land Rover in a panicked escape attempt. As this was also the late 60s, she does this wearing only a coat and underwear.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Vicki isn't in the original book at all; the protagonist is a male "country squire" type.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: One of the guitarists for The Birds was future Face and Rolling Stone Ron Wood.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Manfred claims that he suspected Hargrove was interested in using the killer bees for his own ends. It's not elaborated on if this was pure paranoia on the killer's part, or if he had a point.
  • Fanservice: Vicki is seen in her underwear quite a bit in the film.
  • For the Evulz: It's not quite clear why Manfred wants to kill Hargrove, except for the fact that he's a rival beekeeper and a bit of an asshole; then again, the letters he's been sending over the years don't indicate a very logical mind.
  • From My Own Personal Apiary: In another Red Herring moment, Hargrove proudly informs Vicki that the honey she's enjoying with breakfast came from his very own bees.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Hargrove's wife suspects him of having an affair with Doris. His flirting with her doesn't help.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In about two seconds, Manfred manages to spill his smell o' fear juice on himself and break the tape player pacifying his bees. Simple Darwinism takes care of the rest.
  • Incriminating Indifference: Hargrove hated his wife. She's later killed by bees which everyone suspects to be Hargrove's, so we are led to assume that he's the one who did it. During the inquest, Hargove isn't sad at all, maintaining a proper British Stiff Upper Lip, which doesn't help his case on being innocent.
  • Jerkass: Hargrove. Apart from the way he treats his wife, there's also the fact that toward the end of the movie, he's perfectly willing to let Vicki move out of his house and stay with someone whom he is absolutely certain is a murderer. Granted, she is pretty annoying.
  • Just Between You and Me / Evil Gloating: Manfred becomes Mr. Exposition because he's sure Vicki is completely at his mercy.
  • Kick the Dog: Hargrove literally swats the dog away to keep her out of his barn. Manfred gets one in when he passively-aggressively twists the knife on Hargrove about his wife being killed (true, he hated her, but this still seemed to piss him off).
  • Late to the Party: Harcourt, told to go and investigate the claims of killer bees at the beginning, shows up at the very end set to silly music.
  • Lethal Klutz: Vicki ends up defeating Manfred and saving the day almost entirely by accident.
  • Mister Exposition: Shut up, Manfred. Shut up.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Hargrove, though a tad light on the "Heart of Gold" part. Turns out he's not a murderer, just a bit of a jerk, and he's very quick to rescue both Inspector Hawkins and Vicki when they run into trouble. In the original book, though, Hargrove is the murderer.
  • Monster Misogyny: Okay, so the bees aren't technically monsters, but throughout the course of the movie there are about four attacks on female characters (five, if you count Tess the dog) and only two attacks on male characters.
    • Of course, the intended target of most of the attacks was Hargrove. Manfred is just an incompetent nitwit.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Okay, honey is tasty, but you'd think Hargrove considers it to be ambrosia of the gods. (Then again, freshly made honey has a distinct taste to canned honey.)
  • Neutral Female: Doris, Mr. Hawkins' pleasant, helpful daughter who serves as Vicki's caretaker. So neutral, in fact, that the movie didn't have the heart to actually kill her off; she collapses in the middle of the woods during a bee attack, but ends up surviving because the bees were after the pheromone-soaked garment she was carrying and ignored her once she dropped it.
  • Pretty in Mink: Vicky starts out wearing a fur coat to film a music video, and then promptly collapses in the middle of the song, probably due to fainting from the heat.
  • Obviously Evil: Manfred couldn't be any more transparent if he tried. Hargrove is a subversion, being an outright Jerkass but not a villain.
  • Pastiche: The original book was one of Sherlock Holmes. In fact, it's hinted that the character who assists the hero is Sherlock himself. This character was turned into Manfred for the movie and made the villain.
  • Product Placement: There's no other reason for the appearance of The Birds, except to advertise their tour of the US, which never happened. What did happen was a UK tour by The Byrds, who The Birds' manager sued for having the same name; he was promptly fired by The Birds.note  Another song was shoehorned into the film: there was no reason for Vicki to blast "Baby, Let Me Love You" sung by Elkie Brooks, especially since she wanted peace and quiet.
  • Red Herring: The movie goes out of its way to make Hargrove seem like the bad guy.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Really, it should be obvious who the real killer is. Yet Vicki buys Manfred's flimsy, stammering explanation for why he wasn't harmed by the swarming that killed Mrs. Hargrove without hesitation.
    • Protip for Manfred: They had spray bottles back in the 1960s.
    • Mrs. Hargrove is (at most) ten feet from her open door when she's attacked by killer bees, but just stands there, apparently never considering just running inside.
  • Useless Protagonist: Apart from bumbling into danger, Vicki doesn't actually do much of anything. She does end up resolving the plot by throwing that stone bust at Manfred which spills the bee aggressor formula on his face, and she accidentally destroys the deadly bees by starting a fire.