When watching as many cult movies as I do, I get a tiny frisson of pleasure from the frequent appearance of certain character actors who made their careers in low budget movies. Case in point, this week’s movie, Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973), starring William Smith.
Smith is probably best known to cult movie fans as Conan’s dad in the original Conan movie, but for anyone growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, he was a staple of action TV shows, appearing variously on The A-Team, Hardcastle and McCormick, Airwolf, and B.J. and the Bear among other shows. He usually played a muscular villain, often Russian. So, whenever he shows up in a movie I’m watching, I get a little kick of nostalgia.
He also played Clint Eastwood’s antagonist in Any Which Way You Can, and I unironically love the hell out of that movie.
In Invasion of the Bee Girls, Smith plays Neal Agar, a special agent sent to investigate some strange occurrences at Brandt Research facility in Peckham, California. Many of the scientists at this biological research facility are dropping dead from heart attacks, and the strange deaths soon spread to all the men of Peckham. These heart attacks, it seems, are induced during bouts of intense sexual intercourse.
The facility is a swinging place for a government lab, with a hopping lounge and a bunch of hot female employees who wear sunglasses at all times. It turns out these women are actually human/bee hybrids who are killing the men by screwing them to death. In one fun scene, the film crosscuts between a nature film on bee mating and one of the bee girls with her next victim. Like the male bees we learn about, all the men in this movie are horny as hell, and they have no defense against this new breed of sexually aggressive women.
Only one scientist, Dr. Murger, begins to suspect that the connection to these deaths is through “overexhaustion in the act of sexual intercourse”; perhaps “some virulent form of veneral disease” is the cause, he proposes. Murger then makes a call for “total sexual abstinence” in Peckham, which doesn’t go over well with the local community, many of whom vow to screw anyway.
Like many of the other scientists, Murger dies from a heart attack, and as Agar investigates, he finds out that the doctor was in the closet (almost literally, as Agar finds some kind of sex dungeon hidden behind a secret passageway in the doctor’s home). So, this death becomes particularly suspicious. In Murger’s papers, Agar discovers that the doctor was investigating some kind of biological experiment to merge humans with insects. At the funeral of a dead scientist, Agar starts to notice how all the ladies in sunglasses seem particularly fond of one another, and this raises his suspicions that Murger’s theories may be right.
The Bee Girls are actually human women transformed into these bee hybrids through some extraterrestrial radiation, and they can be identified by their sunglasses (to cover their crazy bee eyes) and their cravings for sugar. The process by which these women are transformed is complicated, but pretty hot.
They are first stung by a mutated bee, and then they are exposed to some kind of light ray while standing inside a geodesic dome. Next, they’re covered in some kind of white paste that looks particularly hot when applied by the other bee girls. Finally, they are put inside a chamber and covered with bees. The tranformation ends with the queen bee girl giving the new recruit a big tongue kiss, and then all the bee girls feel themselves up, for some reason. Also, the bee girls seem to only wear lab coats. None of the science in this movie is really explained.
William Smith is completely sincere throughout this movie, and he really sells its goofiness. During a scene where Agar (whom I really hope is named after B-movie hero and Shirley Temple spouse John Agar) has to explain the human/bee hybrid theory to scientists, he truly seems to believe the it, even when centaurs are used as evidence that such biological experiments could work.
The film is clever, and occasionally hilarious, with a great ’70s sex comedy script by Nicholas Meyer, who went on to write and direct the best of the Star Trek films. It’s reminiscent of Terry Southern in its unbridled sexual humor and satire of ’70s American values, though sorely in need of the directorial vision and skill of a Russ Meyer. Invasion of the Bee Girls is, unfortunately, pretty poorly made. Some scenes shot in low-light situations are almost impossible to make out. It also doesn’t help that, as the film is in the public domain, a lot of low quality copies of it are in circulation.