Mardi Gras Movie Madness: the Savage Bees

I’ve mentioned it many times, but there’s not much I like more than a holiday. Holidays give the lay person something to look forward to. A day off. A special meal. Time with family and friends. A plastic skull at the store where there’s normally styrofoam coolers.
These are the peaks of a simple life. A life that most of us these days are forced to grow accustomed to.
It makes no difference to me. Like many people, I feel like being content is a quicker route to a happy life than always chasing the dragon of material wealth.

There are many ways to celebrate our favorite holidays. For film fans, and a lot of other people, watching movies set during their favorite holidays is a must-do for the season. I start lining up the movies I’m going to watch for October in June and July.

A quick lap around netflix or amazon will reveal that there are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of movies about Christmas. Halloween also seems to be catching up. Even Groundhog Day and New Year’s have their own Rankin/Bass specials.

But for a regional holiday like Carnival/Mardi Gras, the movie choices can be few and far between, and most of them aren’t available to stream anywhere, unless you count Candyman 2 or Hatchet. It’s really a shame too, because for people on the Gulf Coast, Mardi Gras is a holiday that is prepared for year-round, barring a brief hiatus during Lent.

It’s really hard to describe how big of a deal Mardi Gras is here. For many, including myself, the spirit of Mardi Gras is the spirit of the Gulf Coast and its people. It’s family, it’s excess, and it’s celebrating the common man ruling over the aristocracy… even if it’s just for one day.

So you can imagine what people would do if they thought a swarm of killer bees was heading towards New Orleans… during Mardi Gras!

If you can’t imagine that, I have some good news: you don’t have to! Because a made-for-tv movie in 1976 has a plot that is just that!

Let’s watch:

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The film starts with a boat being attacked by bees. This dvd I have is a straight rip of someone’s vhs tape, tracking problems and all. Could a swarm of killer bees from Brazil fly across the Gulf??? Writer of this film, Guerdon Trueblood (also known for writing Jaws 3-D), seems to think so.

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“Somebody poisoned my dog, and I’m gonna go to the Coroner in New Orleans and find out who!” – Small town Sheriff played by Ben “the Wild Bunch” Johnson. Sheriff Donald McKew is the law southeast of New Orleans.

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“During Mardi Gras???” Like most people from the area, the Sheriff’s wife, played by New Orleans local Lyla Owen, knows that only tourists try to get into New Orleans during Mardi Gras (which I think is referring to Fat Tuesday here). Most people are already where they’re gonna be, or are trying to get out to take the kids to Disney World or something (kids get out the whole week here).

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The acting Coroner, played by a young and soap-opera handsome Michael Parks (known for his roles in a lot of Tarantino films), retrieves a bee from the stomach of the Sheriff’s dog. “Yall got a bee problem down there in your Parish?”

There’s a whole lot of rigamarole that, as someone who grew up in Carnival, I found funny. For instance, they spend a lot of time trying to figure out who is going to actually do something during Mardi Gras. No one wants to work, so the problem keeps getting passed around. Our trash day is on Tuesday at our house, and I always laugh at the people who put their trash cans out on Fat Tuesday. No one who works for a city that celebrates Mardi Gras will be working on Fat Tuesday. Thus, the Sheriff has a problem.

But, enough plot synopsis. The real reason I wanted to see this film is because the internet told me it was set during Mardi Gras, so I was ready to see some Mardi Gras action.

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I tried to get a peek at that sign, for a clue as to what krewe this is, or what the float is supposed to be, but this is the best I could do. Float 20: Hold That ____.
Any ideas? To me, she almost looks like Giganta from Superfriends.

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I tried to get a screenshot of the revelers in the streets, but it was impossible to get a clear one. Everyone is just having way too much fun and dancing way too fast. There’s some good costumes in there, though.
One thing I’ve always loved about my home region is that having a good time isn’t restricted by your age. When I travel to other places, it seems that, for the most part, the only people out wining and dining and dancing are young people. Here, especially during Mardi Gras, everyone celebrates together and there’s no stigma attached to who can party and who can’t.

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I took this sceenshot mostly for the girl on the left’s costume. Is it a dog? An alligator? Who knows. My mom always dressed us up as clowns, but I always wanted to be something different.
That’s one thing that people don’t seem to realize. Growing up, Mardi Gras was a very family friendly event, even in New Orleans, as long as you stayed in certain areas. Kids would dress up and catch stuff. And look at this gal’s costume. These are the types of costumes I remember. Innocent. Fun. Nowadays, a “costume” is a thong.
Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy the bacchanal of Mardi Gras, but I also have a wistful nostalgia for a simpler time when locals were in the streets, in homemade gator costumes.

As far as the plot goes, who cares? As you can see from the shot, our heroes are still trying to untangle all the red tape and bureaucracy and laziness and revelling of the city government. Walking from official building to official building. This Sheriff is mad about his dog.

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This must be right at the start of the parade. I’m not too familiar with how the bands in Mardi Gras parades work, but according to the Savage Bees, they just chill on the corner until the rest of the band comes by, then they jump up and join in.
I wanted to share this shot just because the bands are one of my favorite parts of city Mardi Gras parades. The local high schools, and some colleges, march in the parade and you can hear them coming from miles away. When I first moved back home, hearing a Mardi Gras parade coming for the first time in years was a nigh-religious experience.

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A local news station is broadcasting live from the streets of New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Handsome Dan tries to tell the news that a swarm of killer bees may be headed to New Orleans. Somehow, it doesn’t get on the air. Actually, a woman who doesn’t want to panic the whole town tells the news that he’s not a real doctor, so they shut it down.


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This is a large night parade on Fat Tuesday, so I’m assuming this is the Mistick Krewe of Comus, as they didn’t stop parading until 1991. Being as this was 1976, I’m guessing their theme for the year was the obvious choice of the bicentennial.

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Here’s a rabbit float. The head was turning around. I like this shot because you can see the riders and their creepy masks (which I love).

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This float looks like it was a garden or courtyard somewhere.

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The first thing I noticed about this shot is that there are no barricades. I can’t quite tell where this is. Claiborne, maybe? The overpass was built in 1968, so it could be. I just like that there is nothing separating the revelers from the floats here. I feel like the barricades are a physical and metaphorical divider between the people who are “high and mighty” up on the floats, and the peasants on the ground, begging for the scraps. When I was a kid, there were no barricades. We were all there together.
I’ll make a “lawn” joke soon, I promise.

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I suppose this is the King of Comus’s float, Comus himself. Anyone have any thoughts who this would be in 1976? Of course, being a movie, this parade wasn’t necessarily on Fat Tuesday.

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Getting back to the flimsy plot, they find a guy who has been stung to death by the savage bees, floating in the Mississippi. Being a made-for-tv movie, this is about as gnarly as it gets.

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Also because this is made-for-tv, they throw in some soap-opera style romance. I don’t really know who this was for, but this scene lasts forever and could have easily been cut. I think it’s to set up what happens at the end, so you care about these characters, but it doesn’t really work. I know, I am way over-analyzing this.

[Jaws-style announcer voice]: Just when you thought Fat Tuesday was bad, you weren’t prepared for the horrors of…. ASH WEDNESDAY!!!! [/END]

The authorities wake up, hungover, on Ash Wednesday and decide that, miraculously, now is a good time to go try and do something about those daggum bees!

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“Two knuckleheads to the Sheriff, over.” [on the radio]
“Sheriff, over.”
“There’s some kind of symbol out here in the marsh, over.”
“Leave it alone, dummies! It’s Voodoo! Sheriff OUT.”

Good call, Sheriff. Best not to mess with things and things won’t mess with you. For half a second, you almost think this might take a Voodoo turn, but it doesn’t and these two fellas go back to looking for where the Savage Bee Gang is hiding out.

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They find the bees inside Broux Fine Eats. Can’t say I blame them. I bet that place has good boudin. Maybe the bees are cooking up some manflesh in there, mixed with rice, in a Motel Hell-style plot twist!

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From out of nowhere, and to raise the body count, two reveling pirates show up and get out of their car. I can only imagine the meeting that created these two characters.

Person in charge: “According to Corporate, it’s not a horror film if we don’t kill at least 6 people! And we at least hafta show someone getting killed! Maybe just throw a couple random pirates, coming home from Mardi Gras, in there somewhere.”

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Bad mistake, pirate lady.

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“Now the bees are attacking my Super Beetle!”
“Don’t worry, it’s airtight!”
Hahahahaa! Ok.

Here’s the plan these geniuses come up with:
The bees must be frozen, at least down to around 49°. But if it’s too cold, the bees will run away. They need to take the bees somewhere where it’s not already cold, but can be cooled down quickly. If we drive the Super Beetle really slow, we can take the bees somewhere. All of them. None of them will fly away. They are that mad.

But where should we take them?
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So, basically, no kidding, The Savage Bees has now effectively become a commercial for the recently-built Super Dome and its badass air conditioning system. Astrodome, who?

Yes. Their plan is to drive a killer bee covered VW Super Beetle from like Grand Isle or somewhere, up into the city, through the Ash Wednesday-quiet streets of New Orleans, and into the Superdome, where the Dome’s modern cooling systems will freeze them to death.

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Sheriff: “Everyone off the streets! We’re bringing a car load of killer bees through a densely populated area for no reason!”

There’s a few good shots of people with their ashes on scrambling indoors to avoid millions of killer bees that the authorities are bringing into the city. Thankfully, suspension of disbelief is one of my strong points.

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The BeeMobile enters the Dome. Is it gonna work? It’s almost time for the 10 o’clock news, so it better.
This scene is so obviously supposed to be tense, but it is not at all.

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Sheriff: “Turn that famous trademarked Superdome Air Conditioning down, old timer, before I plugs ya!”

Is the gun really necessary, Sheriff? Also, I can’t help but wonder who the old guy in the Superdome control station is. A producer, maybe? A real Superdome employee? I’m sure he’s been dead for 20 years now, so I don’t guess it matters.

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Are they really gonna do this? Are they really gonna drive out on the field?
You bet your ass they are.

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I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. I can just hear audiences in 1976 saying, “We need to go to a game in that Superdome! Nay, an event! It is climate controlled! Unlike most amphitheaters or concert venues in our primitive age, we won’t burn up! SEE? It can get down to daggum 49°! They just proved it!”

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The heroine gets out of the dead bee crusted car. The Superdome has successfully frozen the bees to death.

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“I still love you in your tight-fittin jeans!”


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OR IS IT??? DUM DUM DUUMMMMM!!!! (that’s a bee on a seat in the Dome)

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Yeah, the same Bruce Geller who invented Mission: Impossible back in the day.

I guess that’s a wrap. Thanks for reading, and come back! Maybe it won’t be a year before I post something again.

Just out of curiosity, is there anyone around who was around back then, who remembers this movie? Or better yet, who was in New Orleans and remembers when they made it?
Please comment below. Surely there’s someone out there who remember them closing down the streets in the Quarter for the climax, or who was working at the Dome on the day they drove a Volkswagen covered with bees out on the field.

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2 Responses to Mardi Gras Movie Madness: the Savage Bees

  1. And It's Not Even Father's Day says:

    The Dood LIVES!

  2. Linda says:

    I really liked it. I love Michael Parks. He was so gorgeous and so convincing in this role as always. I liked Gretchen too. It was a well made thriller!

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