Like many drifting wanderers of the information age, I’ve recently discovered the joys of free movies on the internet. Movie Powder, as these sorts of sites go, is really not bad. Part of the excitement of browsing through and watching its library of films is the cap on quality. There are some conventional favorites that somehow found themselves in the mix – David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” and “Harold and Maude,” for example – but on the whole Movie Powder’s archive is curated around old films in the public domain or recent films so bad that nobody cares to renew the rights. The latter category is of course the more fascinating. A shot in the dark can be a risk (“Snowbeast,” the story of a Big Foot-esque creature who terrorizes a ski lodge during its winter festival, is captivating at first but quickly grows dull), but there is gold in the hills if you know where to look.
“Invasion of the Bee Girls” (1973) is one of those fabled 1970s horror / soft core porn films that are often parodied but were difficult to find or care about when found before the internet made them free to watch. Like the best kitsch films the writing is criminally bad; so many links and relationships are left unexplained that the plot is nearly avant garde. The story revolves around a federal agent (William Smith, a former Marlboro man) who is sent to investigate a mysterious rash of heart-attacks sustained during coitus by men working in and around a federal research institution. With the help of his bespectacled librarian love interest (Victoria Vetri, 1968 Playmate of the Year), he discovers that a mischievous entomologist (Dr. Susan Harris, played by one-time Price Is Right model Anitra Ford) is crossing the town’s womenfolk with bees in her basement lab, and that somehow this makes their lovemaking fatal.
Though the film is assuredly crap, loaded as it is with cheap thrills and shameless, dated misogyny, the density of its shit elements makes the search for moments of real beauty and intelligence all the more fun. If you don’t have time to watch the whole film, skip ahead to the bee conversion scene at 54:50. The choice of music is amazing, and the transparency of the acting makes the image of a sisterhood quite touching. Something about the uniformity of the costumes and the way the faces of the women are filmed is really mysterious and intriguing to me. The original music by Charles Bernstein is at times quite creative, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherezade” is put to good use during Dr. Harris’s seduction of Dr. Kline.
“Werewolf Woman” (1976) succeeds and fails for many of the same reasons. Dubbed from Italian (orignally La Lupa Mannara), the rushed English dialogue is often hard to follow, but the story is surprisingly coherent. A hysteric young girl (Annik Borel) begins to believe that she is a werewolf when she discovers that she bears a frightening resemblance to her great-great-aunt, who was killed, as legend has it, in wolf form not far from her father’s countryside villa. An hour of killing and sex ensues.
Basically the best reason to watch this film is Borel’s extraordinary performance, not in the talking way but in her extreme physicality and expression. Particularly in scenes where she is killing someone or struggling against captors, she is able to achieve a remarkable physical range. I have never seen someone open their mouth so wide while screaming, it’s really something to see.