In the latest wave of MGM's beloved Midnite Movies line, there were very few new-to-DVD double features. Most of the discs consisted of previously-released films paired with new-to-DVD films. Thankfully there were at least SOME double-feature discs with both films making their digital debut, and this one pairs two space-invasion flicks of varying quality together. It's pretty strange that a black-and-white 60s artifact is double-featured with a kitschy 70s sex-n-sci-fi flick, but the "Invasion" theme is what ties these two together.
First up is Bruno VeSota's INVASION OF THE STAR CREATURES, a sci-fi comedy written by Corman regular Jonathan Haze (he should stick to acting). A pair of bumbling privates in Commander Cody's Space Patrol are separated from the rest of their patrol while investigating a strange crater hole near Bronson Canyon. They're abducted by VegeMonsters (you must see these guys to believe it!) and taken aboard an underground spaceship hidden in a cave. The aliens that run the ship turn out to be sexy amazon women intent on taking over Earth, but they change their minds when they're introduced to kissing by their idiotic prisoners.
Ugh. INVASION OF THE STAR CREATURES is probably the worst film I've ever seen with the Midnite Movies name attached to it. Any film whose first frame proclaims "R.I. Diculous Presents" is either going to be really funny or really awful. Point towards the latter here. Packed with sexist humor, a racist portrayal of American Indians who go crazy at the mention of "Custer," Abbott and Costello rip-off chemistry between the two male leads, and painfully unfunny pokes at the military, this 70-minute atrocity is a colossal waste of time for all involved, and the less said about it, the better. If it matters, the 1.66:1 letterboxed transfer looks and sounds pretty good, with an ugly white line appearing in the right side of the frame for a few seconds in the middle of the film. Apparently, MGM has released the theatrical version of the film, as alternate TV versions have been known to have expanded running times.
Moving on to the infinitely more entertaining flipside of the disc, INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS has been one of the most-requested Midnite Movies DVD titles for some time. It appeared on MGM's VHS Midnite Movies line, and has appeared on several budget DVD double-features (which actually boast more nude footage trimmed from the MGM release), but it's finally presented here correctly letterboxed at 1.85:1 with anamorphic enhancement and looking mildly better than its other video incarnations. Apparently the original negative has gone missing, so MGM has to make do with a 35mm print, and it looks acceptable. The small town of Peckham, California is plagued by a series of deaths, where various men are found drained of life after sexual intercourse. The deaths may be linked to Brandt, a local medical research center, where the sunglasses-wearing Dr. Susan Harris (Anitra Ford), who drinks coffee with endless packets of sugar, has secretly begun recruiting the local women to join a sect of "bee girls" who crave sex...with deadly results...
The pretty simple concept of the film gives way for lots of tongue-in-cheek dialogue, plenty of sex and violence, and all the drive-in fun you could want. Anchoring the movie is a bizarre script, which wisely doesn't take itself very seriously and instead plays up the exploitation angles for all it's worth. You get cheesy lab sequences; transformation scenes with flashing lights and an army of girls rubbing white goop all over naked woman recruits; interesting nature footage explaining how various insect species kill their mates after intercourse; excellent cinematography by shoestring cameraman Gary Graver, including multiple "insect vision" shots when the women become sexually aroused; Anitra Ford with glaring, huge black pupils a la John Agar in THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS (who probably influenced the hero's name "Neil Agar" in this picture); and a gay doctor mowed down in a car chase because he can't have sex with a woman!
To make the film as believable as possible, director Denis Sanders had a great cast to work with. William Smith is always a reliable performer in drive-in films, and he's a good-looking, capable hero in this one. He also relies on his stuntman background in two fight sequences. Lovely blonde Victoria Vetri is the love interest heroine in what would become her feature film swan song; after gaining cult status as the frequently nude star of WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH and playing her own look-alike (!) in ROSEMARY'S BABY, I wonder why she retired from the screen after this film? She contributes startling, but great nudity in a nasty back-alley rape scene and during the climax. Anitra Ford, a gorgeous former model who got her big break on "The Price is Right," became a fixture in 70s exploitation after a dynamite leading role in Jack Hill's THE BIG BIRD CAGE. She specialized in playing tough, gutsy gals who often had a lot going on behind her beautiful eyes. From WONDER WOMEN to MESSIAH OF EVIL, Ford has become a favorite exploitation face among cult film fans, not least because she could actually act and wasn't afraid to show it. If you're a regular follower of 70s drive-in classics, you will recognize Cliff Ormond ("Captain Peters") from his villainous role in Dimension's SWEET SUGAR. Among the bee girls you will find several of your favorite B-girls from sexploitation films of the 70s, all apparently on loan from the skinflicks of Harry Novak (!). Though her face isn't shown, it is undoubtedly red-headed vixen Sharon Kelly who balls a biker to death after arriving on her own bike in the nude. Brunette Kathy Hilton, aka Bambi Allen of TERROR AT ORGY CASTLE and EROTIC ADVENTURES OF ZORRO, and porno pixie Rene Bond (God love her) appear in a few group scenes, but it's tough to find them. It's easiest to catch them during the frenzied electric sparks-filled climax: Bond is the bee girl who is electrocuted when Smith throws a metal rod in her way to escape, and Hilton can be spotted with a freeze frame at 1:19:36, when she whips around to look at an explosion (and I believe Rene Bond is standing next to her). You'll also be surprised to see Beverly Hills (BRIDES OF BLOOD), billed by her married name Beverly Powers, as the frigid wife of a doctor. She looks completely different from her 60s sexbomb days, but still gives a breathy, enjoyable performance. Unfortunately, her nude scene is trimmed of a few seconds in MGM's print, but can be seen in previous video incarnations.
Another Midnite Movies disc with just trailers; in the case of STAR CREATURES, the preview is ten times better than the movie, and the BEE GIRLS trailers is filled with the nudity and violence that would sell the movie to its intended audience.
NOTE: MGM's August 24 Midnite Movies are in-store exclusives to Best Buy, but they can also be found online at CD Universe, as well as Canadian retailer DVD Soon. (Casey Scott)
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