Monday, August 22, 2016

More About Bees and the 1970's

So, Nathaniel asked me why I forgot to mention the giant, hallucinatory bees in 1978's The Swarm.   And, he's right to ask, because it's probably the most stunning/ least magical visual special effect in the movie.

What's most interesting is that the bees inject a venom into their victim that make them not just hallucinate, but hallucinate a very large bee.

Now, as a kid I saw an ad for The Swarm on TV as the Late Late Movie on local UHF, and they kept showing the clips of the hallucinations.  Unfortunately, at age 11 or so, I was not qualified to stay up for the midnight to four AM shift, so I missed the broadcast and never saw the movie I assumed was all about giant bees.  At some point when SimonUK suggested we watch this movie, like, two years ago, I eagerly said "you mean the movie about the giant bees?"
"No, the one with Michael Caine."
"Right!  With giant bees!"
"Well... no."

I sent an email to an ex-boss who knew my great taste for not-great movies, and she'd always suggested a movie about bees to me.  But it wasn't clear to me, from her description, it had been the same movie.  Both featured people dealing with swarms of bees, but she had said the climax of her film ended in The Astrodome.  Reasonable enough, I figured, it's been a while.  They show the Astrodome in this movie.  She got confused.

"No," she said.  "It's amazing and they lure the bees into the Astrodome and then freeze it."
We both Googled it, and there is a completely different 1976 TV movie called The Savage Bees and it stars Ben Johnson who, just two years later, would appear in The Swarm.  And it has a TV movie sequel.

And... both take place in Houston.  I guess because those killer bees were supposed to be coming up through Texas (the only actual Killer Bee attack I recall took place in Phoenix, but everything in Phoenix is trying to kill you).

But, there was also a 1974 movie called Killer Bees starring Kate Jackson and Gloria Swanson.  And 1978's The Bees, starring Johns Saxon and Carradine.

Now, it's also key to know something I always kind of forget, and that's that every era has its media-induced panics.  The 1970's brought us Satan Worshippers and Killer Bees.  Basically, people were actually not un-reasonably afraid that African Bees would make sweet Bee-love to our American Bees and make Africanized Bees.  A less scary, but deeply racially charged, term for Killer Bees.

We're maybe more numb to the various scares perpetrated upon us by the media in a 24 hour news cycle, but in a pre-cable, one-or-two papers in your town era, when the news came on at 5 and 10, it was a bit more of a challenge to know what the story actually was.  And, man, by the early 1980's, I can confirm that people were still freaked out by both Satan Worshippers and Killer Bees in my Texas suburban neighborhoods.

The following clip will give you an idea how Saturday Night Live handled the topic, and how much better SNL really was back then.  But, also, how weird it was that America had this love affair with Elliot Gould, who always looks to me like the dad my friends had who was the distant Dad who had a den they weren't allowed to go into.

In conclusion, Gilda Radner was the best.

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