In horror films the “When Animals Attack” subgenre really carved its niche in the 1970s with such classics as Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and then in less than stellar entries like William Girdler’s Grizzly, but while Great White Sharks and man-eating bears were all well and good but there was a subgenre of that subgenre which dealt with the threat of the killer bees coming to America. Cue musical sting.
But where exactly did the overall panic and fear of the killer bee and the impending doom originate from? A brief history lesson, in 1956 the Brazilian government wanted to improve their honey industry, so they hired Dr. Warwick E. Kerr, an American entomologist, to import African honeybees which were known to produce more honey than their European counterparts, now, African honeybees are of a more aggressive species but Kerr had planned to make interbreed them with the gentler Brazilian bee to create a calmer hybrid, unfortunately, twenty-six swarms of purebred African bees escaped from his laboratory and quickly began to overrun the Brazilian honeybee population. Typical mad scientist blunder but one found in real life and not in a Universal Monster movie and the very idea of these mean bees making their way north to the United States was enough to spur the imagination of various filmmakers, below you will find my collection of reviews dealing with this stinging subject matter, so just click on the poster or link below to dive into this swarm of Bee Movies.
This film didn’t actually deal with the threat of Africanized killer bees invading America, in fact, there aren’t a lot of bees in this movie at all, but it did have women being turned into “queen bees” who would then kill men by wearing them out sexually, and that’s something you don’t see every day.
The threat of killer bees really took off as subject matter for the “Movie of the Week” format and this also entry boasted Gloria Swanson’s television debut where she played a family matriarch who ruled the community with an iron fist and a swarm of bees that could be used to take out any perceived threat.
Airing as an NBC Night at the Movie this killer bee entry dealt with the annual Mardi Gras celebration being threatened by a swarm of African killer bees that escaped from a foreign freighter and a local sheriff and a deputy coroner stand in the way of this insect menace.
The killer bees are back for this sequel to The Savage Bees and it’s up to Grizzly Adams and company to stop these little critters from taking over America. That no actors were brought back from the original I found a bit odd.
John Saxon stars in what is easily one of the most ludicrous killer bee movies, and that’s saying something, and even John Carradine couldn’t make this entry anything more than a “You’ve got to see it to believe it” B-movie will leave you speechless.
In this Irwin Allen disaster flick, A huge swarm of deadly African killer bees moves into the American southwest, and Michael Caine is humanity’s only hope. Though this was the last of the killer bee movies of the 70s the genre does live on.
Those films depicted truly frightening “What If” scenarios of the killer bee arriving in America but when exactly will this insect menace actually arrive? Well, it turns out that they’ve been in the United States since 1959, thanks to a Department of Agriculture program that distributed Africanized bee semen to domestic beekeepers, but that probably wasn’t even the first time these little buggers visited America because as early as the 1800s bees were brought over from Africa for the exact same reason of improving honey production, so why haven’t we all been killed by this flying killer menace? Turns out that these “extra-mean” bees aren’t all that much of a public menace and you are more likely to be hit by lightning than being killed by an Africanized honeybee, of course, facts like that will never stop Hollywood from dramatically blowing any subject matter out of proportions if there is money on the table.
Killer Bee Movies of the 1970s
Entertainment Value - 7/10
Clearly, the quality of the “killer bee” movie was never much of an issue, with the special effects required to depict swarms of these killing machines often looking like popcorn painted black, but as a subgenre of the “When Animals Attack” they are often quite entertaining, even if it’s in the “So bad it’s good” category.