It has warrior-poet William Smith, hot mutant bee ladies, and balling, balling, balling, man! It’s the 1973 cult classic Invasion of the Bee Girls and it’s such pure schlock you may need a prescription to watch it. Long story short, a sexy mad scientist discovers the means of splicing bee genes into women, turning them into super-hot mutant sex machines whose main goal is to screw the men of Brandt Research to death. That’s really it. But what else do you need? Director Denis Sanders was a two-time Academy Award winner, for Best Short Subject in 1955 and then for Best Documentary in 1970 for Czechoslovakia 1968. Invasion of the Bee Girls was his first foray into science fiction, and unfortunately his last. He made a short documentary the following year, didn’t work again until directing the 1982 TV documentary Computers Are People, Too!, and then died too young at the age of 58. The script was the first produced work of Nicholas Meyer. Yes, that Nicholas Meyer. The man responsible for classics Time After Time, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Day After, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and many others. Legend has it he wanted his name taken off the film after seeing it, but was convinced to leave it by his manager. Thank you, Mr. Manager. Hopefully Meyer’s name might help persuade some sci-fi purists to give this film a shot (if loads of soft-core nudiness doesn’t do it). Oh they’ll hate it. But they should see it. Everyone should see it. Here’s why. Reason Number One: William Smith. William Smith is one of the main inspirations for this column and our sister-column Schlock & Awe. There has never been, and probably never will be again, a more pure example of AWESOME on film. He’s worked for 60 years, speaks five languages, was an award-winning bodybuilder, a teacher, a fireman, and an intelligence expert in the Air Force during the Korean War. On film he fought Fred Williamson, Rod Taylor, Yul Brenner, Clint Eastwood, and Joe Namath; he led biker gangs, slayed vampires, and was the go-to villain of the 70s. Plus, he was Conan’s dad, for fuck’s sake. You can buy his book of poetry here. Seriously. It’s good. You should get it. This was one of Smith’s first “good guy” roles (1972’s Grave of the Vampire – an upcoming Drive-In Saturday entry – and 73’s Gentle Savage being the others – although he was a great anti-hero in 1970’s The Losers), and his natural charisma shines through from his first moments on-screen. He’s completely devoted to playing this role as honestly and believably as possible – even when the script comes up short. There’s a nice casualness to the performance that carries through in most of his work. He’s comfortable in his own skin whether he’s playing nice or is about to beat the living crap out of you, and that shows no matter what role he takes on. If I can suggest a theory: I think this may be why he was so much more successful in his career as the bad guy on-screen. When he’s playing the villain he’s still charming and charismatic, but carries an element of danger and violence that is incredibly appealing. As Special Agent Neil Agar in Bee Girls, he’s the clear-cut hero investigating an epidemic of heart attacks killing the men of Peckham, California; heart attacks all linked to excessive sexual activity. It’s through Agar’s eyes that we are exposed to, with humorous, non-judgmental acceptance, the whole swinger scene that has developed among the workforce of Brandt Research. Reasons Number Two and Three: Anitra Ford and Victoria Vetri. The bad girl / good girl combo of Ford and Vetri is about as potent an erotic combo as I’ve ever seen. Ford was one of the original models on the game show The Price is Right from 1972 to 1976, when I was at a very impressionable age. It wasn’t until rewatching Bee Girls for this review that I realized she was my favorite of those ladies when I was a child watching, not realizing what was being done to my psycho-sexual development! In 1972, she had starred opposite future-legends Pam Grier and Sid Haig in The Big Bird Cage (another upcoming Drive-In Saturday column) and earlier in 73 had a supporting role in Messiah of Evil (which might also show up in Drive-In Saturday). The following year she would cement her place in geek history as Ahnjayla, the renegade Amazon in the Cathy Lee Crosby Wonder Woman TV movie. But it’s here, in Bee Girls, that she really shines. Her performance is subtle and sultry as the mysterious Dr. Susan Harris – the one woman at Brandt Research that all the swinging men want, but none can have. She is the mastermind behind discovering the way to transform ordinary women into the fabulous Bee Girls. And while the script doesn’t really give her any motivations to work with beyond that urge to create super-sexy mutant women, she sells it. Whether Dr. Harris is supposed to be a satire of the man-hating feminist or a satire of a parody or just a straight-up sexy Dr. Frankenstein is debatable. Clearly the men in Peckham are targets, mainly because they are simple-minded animals who violently refuse to accept even a temporary period of celibacy – per doctors’ orders – as sex is the only pleasure they have in their lives. Even the scientists at Brandt can’t refuse sexual dalliances, even when they KNOW FULL WELL that they will probably die. So the men’s attitudes are just as satirized as the women in this film, making an easy critical reading difficult. But back to the super-hot ladies! Victoria Vetri plays the moderately good girl and although she’d had a successful television career in the mid-sixties, she was best known at the time for being 1967’s Playmate of the Month for September and went on to become the 1968 Playmate of the Year (the year I was born!!) and one of the most popular Playmates of the Vietnam War era. Hell, one of her Playboy pics even made it to the moon during astronaut Pete Conrad’s Apollo 12 moonwalk! She had also played the lead role, Sanna, in the Val Guest directed (from a treatment by J.G. Ballard no less!) When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970). Her character, Julie Zorn, is Agent Agar’s first contact at Brandt Research and helps him discover the secret of the heart attack spree – and almost becomes a Bee Girl herself before all is said and done. She’s charming and nice and plays down (without abandoning) the erotic elements, maintaining a solid balance to Ford’s overtly seductive approach. You just plain like her before you even know anything about her. She’s that natural. So when she is almost raped by a trio of Peckham thugs it actually carries an emotional impact and doesn’t just serve as an exploitative element in the film. The men in this town are borderline sex-maniacs and maybe the Bee Girls are doing the right thing, taking them out one-by-one. Reason Number Four: Mad Science! There’s a lot of sciencey stuff going on at Brandt Research, and the government is involved – which is why Agent Agar is sent to check out the mysterious deaths – but really, except for Dr. Harris’ Bee Girl project, everyone seems more interested in swinging than in doing real science. So when we finally see the super science behind the Bee Girl transformations it’s a welcome breath of fresh air and also something so weird and fetish-tastic that it immediately makes Invasion of the Bee Girls something special. In a kinky kind of way. Here’s the process: First a woman, usually the put-upon wife of a sleazy scientist, is injected with something that puts them into a responsive state. They are then stripped by scantily-clad Bee Girls (in mini-skirt length lab coats and huge sunglasses that hide their black bee eyes) and subjected to a weirdly psychedelic light and sound show. Once that’s done, the Bee Girls return and place her inside a large-windowed chamber. They then proceed to cover her nudiness slowly, sensually, and completely, with a strange white substance that looks like they’re making a full-body mold. A swarm of bees is released into the chamber and they cover her completely from head to toe. Then, with a flip of a switch, the bees are gone and the Bee Girls return once more to free her from her cocoon. When she emerges, she is awesome, with Bee Girl glamour makeup, hairstyling, and solid black compound bee eyes!! The final step is another round of lights and sounds that apparently signifies some sort of radiation bombardment, while the Bee Girls all around the room get their tits out and begin masturbating. That’s fucking Mad Science right there. Invasion of the Bee Girls is a time-capsule of just how crazy low-budget sci-fi films of the early Seventies could be while still taking themselves completely serious. The work of everyone involved, from the scripting, to the directing, to the acting, is all as sincere as possible, which is what makes it all work despite its obvious shortcomings. There’s not a single element of this film that is being ironic. The film completely owns the genre of, as Roger Ebert christened in back in 1973, “schlock soft-core science fiction” and with the recent release of a wide-screen, re-mastered version of the film by Shout! Factory, it’s something all fans of schlock soft-core science fiction should see. And did I mention its closing credits are close-up shots of bees on flowers while Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra” plays? YES. Invasion of the Bee Girls for the WIN. See larger image Cult Movie Marathon (Unholy Rollers, Invasion of the Bee Girls, Devil’s Eight & Vicious Lips) New From: $8.56 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 2 Responses Adam Barraclough April 7, 2014 Well this just got bumped up to the top of the list. Log in to Reply Paul Brian McCoy April 7, 2014 And I didn’t even go into all the random nudity scattered throughout! Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.