CURTIS HARRINGTON WEEK: The Killer Bees (1974)

When I was a kid in the 70s, killer bees were all we heard of. They were obviously going to get us and a story on the news every night for years and then, well…nothing ever happened.

The ABC Movie of the Week on February 26, 1974, The Killer Bees, directed by Curtis Harrington and written by former lawyer John William Corrington and his wife Joyce Hooper, who teamed to write the scripts for  Von Richthofen and Brown, The Omega Man, Boxcar BerthaThe Arena and Battle for the Planet of the Apes, as well as several soap operas and the syndicated show Superior Court.

Edward Van Bohlen (Edward Albert) has stayed away from his wine making family until his girlfriend Victoria Wells (Kate Jackson) asks him to go back home and try to reconnect. We all know that you can’t go home again and when your family uses African bees to make your wine better, well, you really should in no way go back home again.

Madame Van Bohlen (Gloria Swanson) not only runs the family and the winery, but the bees as well. She’s able to command them to kill everyone that she sees as a threat, but when she dies, who will the bees follow?

Bette Davis was originally going to be the star of the movie, but her doctor worried that she’d o into anaphylactic shock if she was stung by a bee. As for Gloria Swanson, she was so game for this movie that she agreed to have bees put all over her body. To create this moment, the bees were placed in a dry ice room to make them tired, then gradually warmed once they were put on Ms. Swanson’s costume.

The wine that got made by the Van Bohlen’s must have been good, because their home is now the place where noted winemaker — and yes, director — Francis Ford Coppola lives.

Frankenstein: Une histoire d’amour (1974)

AKA Frankenstein 95 and why does Frankenstein have so many movies with years after its name?

Obsessed with creating life, Count Victor Frankenstein starts on animals, moves up to cadavers and freaks everyone out around him — his teachers, the lcoal government and even his own family — as he dreams of getting a real person to try out his experiments on.

Man, this movie is just plain weird and nobody is talking about it, but then I realize that it’s a made for TV French movie from 1974 so adjust your perceptions, Sam.

Also, besides morally disgusting everyone he meets, the other people that Victor knows — his foster sister, a village fool — want to have steamy, sweaty and probably chemically smelling sex with him. He’s also mentally bonded with the creature, giving everyone else in town psychic visions.

Or maybe, just maybe, he’s crazy.

Vampyres (1974)

José Ramón Larraz went to school for philosophy, became a comic book writer and then made some wild movies, like Whirlpool, which Roger Ebert negatively reviewed — I mean, it sounds great to me — by saying that it was genuinely sickening film. It has to do with various varieties of sex, yes, but its main appeal seems to be its violence… The violence is not, however, the cathartic sort to be found in The Wild Bunch or the comic strip spaghetti Westerns. It’s a particularly grisly sort of violence, photographed for its own sake and deliberately relishing in its ugliness. It made me awfully uneasy.” He also directed the Spanish Western Watch Out Gringo! Sabata Will ReturnThe House That Vanished (which had so many titles, including Scream…And Die! and Please! Don’t Go in the Bedroom, as well as a campaign that made it look like Last House on the Left), SymptomsStigmaBlack Candles (AKA Sex Rites of the Devil) and three American co-productions before the end of his career, the underrated Edge of the AxeRest in Pieces and Deadly Manor.

The film starts with its leads, Fran (Marianne Morris) and Miriam (Anulka Dziubinska, billed here as Anulka; a former Page 3 girl who was the Playboy Playmate of the Month for May 1973, she was once married to Soupy Sales’ son Tony, who was in Tin Machine with David Bowie, Reeves Gabriels and his brother Hunt Sales) in bed together, which was probably quite shocking in 1974, but perhaps even more shocking is when they’re machine gunned before the credits.

They’re brought back as vampires that roam the British countryside and take in wayward male motorists, draining them of more than blood before disposing of these conquests. They have a different form of vampirism than you may have seen before, making grisly arm wounds that they continually feed from, closer to cannibals than bloodsuckers.

Beyond the gorgeous leads, the scenery is just as inviting, as this was not around Oakley Court, which Hammer used for The Man in Black, The Lady Craved Excitement, The Brides of Dracula, The Reptile and The Plague of the Zombies. William Castle shot The Old Dark House there and you’ll also see it in films like Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny, and GirlyAnd Now the Screaming Starts! and perhaps most famously, it was the home of Dr. Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. While it had no heat or running water when that movie was filmed, it’s now a luxury hotel.

This played double features with The Devil’s Rain! in England, which is my kind of night.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Scream Blacula Scream (1973)

If you’re trying to be the king of voodoo, don’t bring the bones of Prince Mamuwalde back to life. Maybe voodoo queen Mama Loa knew what she was doing when she chose Lisa Fortier (Pam Grier) as her successor instead of her son Willis (Richard Lawson, Poltergeist).

Sadly, this movie has murky lighting, bad direction and a dumb story, but no matter what, William H. Marshall gives Blacula a dignity beyond this movie and Pam Grier is, well, Pam Grier. So if we just go with the magical power of this movie’s two main actors, it’s a success in spite of itself.

That said, I fully do not believe in the ending that has Lisa get upset when she sees Blacula take out some policemen.

The Medveds claimed that this was the Worst Blaxploitation Movie of All Time. Come on. In a perfect world, we also would have seen Taste the Blood of BlaculaBlacula On Sugar Hill and Blacula Sunday.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Sexcula (1974)

You kind of know what you’re getting into.

But how many Canadian vampires do you know? I mean, outside of the post-modern ones sex organs in their armpits or living in strange apartment complexes?

Then again, thanks to Rabid and Marilyn Chambers, the erotic and the vampiric and the Canadian have gone hand in gland before, correct?

A woman and her boyfriend find an old diary at the mansion home of her family and read about how Dr. Fallatingstein created Frank, the man from a lab to satisfy all of her womanly needs but ended up with an impotent monster. So she calls up her cousin Countess Sexcula to try and Emanuelle that sewn together lab man and transform him into the lover she needs.

Nothing works. Romance, hypnotism, strippers, nothing. So Sexcula has to harvest some sex cells — look, this movie isn’t based on science and don’t expect it to be — and then finally he gets his mojo because the movie is about to end, just as Secula is chased by Orgie the lab assistance and the ape that they keep in the lab.

Then the camera pulls back like the end of The Holy Mountain.

That whole chapel sex scene at the end feels like an insert from another movie and is some of the lone sex in the film, if that’s what you’re looking for. I mean, you’re not going to find anything scary. Strangely enough, the 1985 movie Overnight is about a Czech director named Vladmir Jezda making a porn that has a sex robot unable to get it up for Countess Sexcula.

Sexcua was lost for awhile, it was found and perhaps it should have stayed buried. But how many movies combine porno chic with gothic Universal horror? Not enough.

Locusts (1974)

There was a time in the mid 70s when we were going to be killed by insects. Maybe they would be ants. Perhaps they could be killer bees. Or locusts. Always locusts.

Richard T. Heffron — the director who took over I, The Jury which made Larry Cohen so mad that he got Q done before their movie — as well as the cheaper choice over Kenneth Johnson to make V the Final Battle, as well as man who made I Will Fight No More ForeverDeath ScreamFutureworld and lots of TV movies — made this from a script by Robert Malcolm Young, who wrote the Witch Mountain movies, along with The Ghost of Flight 401Starflight: The Plane that Couldn’t LandThe Crawling Hand and Trauma, a movie he also directed.

Ron Howard is our hero and he’s a kid always battling with his dad, Ben Johnson, who we all know and love from Terror Train. This isn’t really horror as much as it’s a family drama, with Ron’s dad Rance, Katherine Helmond and Belinda Balaski as notable castmates.

If you ever wanted the high action of men spraying down bugs, well — here’s where you find it.

Live Again, Die Again (1974)

Based on the novel Come to Mother by David Sale, the ABC Movie of the Week for February 16, 1974 tells the story of Caroline Carmichael (Donna Mills), who is frozen when her heart condition can’t be cured. She wakes up a few decades later only to learn that her husband Thomas (Walter Pidgeon) is now an elder gentleman. Even worse, her kids are now Vera Miles from Psycho and Mike Farrell, who are much older than her.

This is kind of a reunion for Miles, as screenwriter Joseph Stefano wrote the aforementioned Psycho, as well as The Naked EdgeEye of the Cat and The Kindred. Director Richard A. Colla made The Questor TapesThe UFO Incident, Battlestar Galactica and Something Is Out There.

Back in 1974, everyone was getting frozen. Remember when Walt Disney was supposedly lying all frosty in Cinderella’s castle?

JOE D’AMATO WEEK: Eroi all’inferno (1974)

Written, directed and filmed by Joe D’Amato — using the name Michael Wotruba — this film wasn’t seen much in the U.S. until Lightning Video released it in 1985 as Heroes In Hell.

Look, I saw the poster and I know that this was the second movie in a row that D’Amato made with Klaus Kinski, but I have to tell you, when Klaus strode on screen as SS-Brigadeführer Kaufmann, dressed in the finest death’s head costume that a beyond low budget Italian film can get, I jumped out of my chair and yelled, “Klaus Kinski is here!” Honestly, it’s such a good thing that we moved to the country and not the city where neighbors heard frequent screams of “Kinski! It’s Kinski!” and “I love Joe Don Baker!” and “I want to be George Eastman’s best friend!”

A group of American POW’s played by mostly Italians* have escaped from a German POW camp into the French countryside and are part of a plan to capture Kinski that involves stolen uniforms and escaping the very same soldiers that captured them before. And like Shakespeare, well, nearly everyone dies.

But you know, for forty minutes of B-roll footage, you get ten minutes of Kinski flipping out over Renaissance artwork, so you know, I’ll pay that fee.

*I mean, Lars Bloch — AKA Carlos Ewing — is Danish. Paul Muller is Swiss. And Rosemarie Lindt is German. The funny thing is, Both Block and Ewing’s names are in the credits even though they’re the same person. But hey — Kinski’s name is listed as Klaus Kinsky.

You can watch this on YouTube.

JOE D’AMATO WEEK: The Arena (1974)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Back on January 28, 2019, we wrote about this movie but now it’s time for Joe to take over B&S About Movies and we’re here for all of it. Here’s The Arena!

The assistant director of Johnny Got His Gun, as well as the director of Big Bad MamaLone Wolf McQuaid and Eye for an Eye, Steve Carver directed this exploitation roughie, where slave girls become gladiators and rise against their masters. But hey — it has Pam Grier in it! And you know why it’s probably so sleazy? I blame the director of cinematography — Joe D’Amato!

Actually, in Italy, they said that this movie was made by Michael Wotruba. You know who that is? That’s right, the same man who is Joe D’Amato, Aristide Massaccesi. In the book Erotismo, orrore e pornografia secondo Joe D’Amato, the man of many names said that Italian producer Franco Gaudenzi didn’t trust Carver, who was sent by Roger Corman, so he sent D’Amato to help as needed. Carver did the talking, D’Amato did the action and we have a movie.

Speaking of Corman, he offered this movie to Martin Scorsese after Boxcar Bertha. Let that rest in your brain for a bit. Instead of making Mean Streets, Scorsese would have been working with Raf Donato. Or David Hills. Or maybe Boy Tan Bien.

In the time after Spartacus, in the ancient Roman town of Brundusium, a group of slave girls are sold to Timarchus (Daniele Vargas, Eyeball), a promoter who puts together the fights in the colosseum. After the girls engage in a fight, she gets a big idea: make them fight to the death.

That’s when Mamawi (Pam Grier) and Bodicia (Margaret Markov) — who had just teamed up in Black Mama, White Mama — decide to team up again and get out alive. Rosalba Neri (Lady Frankenstein herself!, as well as Lucifera: Demon Lover and Amuck!) is in this too!

Markov met her husband, producer Mark Damon, while making this movie, but couldn’t date until production was over, as director Steve Carver had made a rule regarding cast and crew intermingling.

Your enjoyment of this will depend on how much you enjoy watching women battle as gladiators. I wrote that a while ago and come on, everybody loves that. They didn’ call this movie Naked Warriors for nothing.

KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: Mr. Majestyk (1974)

Directed by Richard Fleischer (CompulsionFantastic VoyageSoylent GreenMandingoThe Jazz Singer) and written by Elmore Leonard (Get ShortyOut of Sight), this film finds our pally Charles Bronson playing Vincent Majestyk, an ex-con, former U.S. Army Ranger instructor and current watermelon farmer who just wants to get his crop in on time.

Bobby Kopas (Paul Koslo, Vanishing Point) tries to get Majestyk to pay protection money and ends up on the end of his own shotgun. He turns the table on our hero by bringing assault charges against him and Majestyk goes to jail before he can harvest his crops, potentially ruining his finances. So he does what you or I would: when gangster Frank Renda’s (Al Lettieri, The Godfather) men try to busy him loose, he kidnaps the crook himself and holds him for hostage. All he wants is to pick his melons.

The rest of the film finds the two men continually going at one another. Well, to be fair, Majestyk is only concerned with melons, whether in the field or owned by his love interest Nancy Chavez (Linda Cristal, who was on the TV show The High Chaparral and in the TV movie The Dead Don’t Die). Every time Renda, Kopas or any of their underlings try to take him down, he just laughs and gets over on them. Hey — it’s Bronson, you know?

I also love Lee Purcell in this movie, playing the gangster’s moll who carries a Bible everywhere she goes.

You have to love the tagline for this film: “

They also tried: “Why are they saying it’s the one movie you should see this year? Ask anyone who’s seen it. Anyone.”

This came out the same month as Death Wish and to show what a star Bronson was, when The Man with the Golden Gun underperformed, Mr. Majestyk played as a supporting feature underneath that Bond picture. I mean, there’s even a Turkish remake of this movie, Karpuzcu, which shows you just how big Bronson’s appeal was worldwide.

The Kino Lorber blu ray of this film has a gorgeous brand new 2K master, commentary by film historian Paul Talbot, the author of Bronson’s Loose*,  interviews with Director of Photography Richard H. Kline and Lee Purcell, TV commercials and a trailer. You can get it from Kino Lorber.

*Check out our interview with Paul here.