Graveyard Tramps (1973)
So I get this DVD at a yard sale. Graveyard Tramps, the title says, and I'm excited. Just so you know in advance, though, every time I watch a movie about female zombies, I have to fight off bitter tears. You see, I too knew a zombie girl, and I once loved her. We met at work, fell in love, had lots of passionate sex, and moved in together two months later. It was only then that I realized that she was one of the Undead. At first it was just little things like she'd never blink or she smelled like decaying flesh, but after a while she started showing clearer signs, like the time she ate my cat Plato and when her arm fell off in the shower. She ended up sleeping with our boss while at a regional managers' meeting in Dallas, and then stole $150 from me and then tried to frame it on my mom. What the hell kind of woman does that! Clearly, a zombie bitch from the grave. [Editor Pam: To be fair, some people just don't like cats, but when your current significant other's arm falls off, this is a sign you need to find somebody else, because this relationship isn't going to last.]
Ok, here we go. I turn on the DVD player. Put the movie in. Watch the entire movie. Am annoyed. What! There were no zombies in this movie! What the hell? There wasn't even a graveyard! Let me check this out. Goes to imdb.com. Alternate title, Invasion of the Bee Girls? Well, that's certainly more like it! Why would they reissue this movie under such a blatantly misleading title like Graveyard Tramps? Isn't there some branch of the MPAA that I can call and complain to? Oh, well.
And now on to our show...
Our movie takes place in Peckham, California, which doesn't exist in real life. However, this movie was filmed in Santa Clarita, just north of Los Angeles, and that dovetails nicely with everything we see and hear in the film. Peckham is a sleepy little country town that happens to host a major private research compound. This place, the "Brandt Research Laboratory", seems to do mostly research into biological and health sciences, pretty much all above board. They do have some government contracts, however, but that point is never really that important.
Brandt is a virtually self-contained village, with all the benefits and problems of a small town. The locals don't really care for the scientists, thinking them instruments of the Evil Military-Industrial Cabal (this was 1973, remember) and the scientists usually stick to their private compound and don't socialize with the locals. This breeds all sorts of illicit affairs and bed-hopping with the scientists and staff, with back rooms and sleazy motels the frequent witnesses to workplace lovin'.
Brandt Research Lab, note the twin old school VWs.
We open at one of those said cheap motels, as a cleaning woman finds the naked and oh so dead body of one of the Brandt scientists, a Doctor Grabovsky. This man's specialty was bacterial warfare, a field funded by the government. As such, his death brings out to sleepy Peckham a Mulder-like special agent from Washington to investigate.
Victim #1, Doctor Grabovsky.
This federal agent is named Neil Agar, played by 39-year old William Smith, one of the hardest working men in Hollywood who you've never heard of. Seriously, just look at his imdb.com page, look at all those trashy b-movies full of zombies, bikers, barbarians, cults, aliens, dinosaurs, and lawyers. The man is a legend! Too bad I wouldn't recognize him if he was sitting next to me on a bus. At first sight, he looks a lot like Jack Lord from Hawaii Five-O, which is kinda cool, though he's too short.
Special Agent Neil Agar.
Agar's first visit in town is with the local sheriff who is handling the murder case. Captain Jim Peters is played by 36-year old Cliff Osmond, a long-time character actor who I recently saw in the great ufo-nut movie Hanger 18. I'll just call him the "Sheriff" from now on.
The Sheriff, check out that awesome 'stache.
The Sheriff is a small town guy with a small town mindset, and his initial reaction to Agar's presence is one of annoyance and envy. This big city boy from Washington thinks he's going to come in here and tell me what to do? However, Agar disarms the Sheriff quickly, letting him know that he's just here to do a job and he won't get in the way. They both go to the coroner, and the cause of death for the man in the motel room is determined to be a heart attack brought on by "sexual exhaustion"! I can think of worse ways to go...
Agar then goes to Brandt Labs to talk to some of the dead man's fellow scientists. The first person he runs into is a woman geneticist named Julie Zorn. Julie is one of those stereotypical nerdy librarian/scientist types, with the bad haircut, the mismatched clothes, and the huge plastic framed glasses, but underneath all that she has the body of a Czech porn star and the hidden sexual appetite of...well, a Czech porn star. Julie is played by 29-year old Victoria Vetri, a nearly-middle-tier actress best known for playing Sanna in When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Oh, and for being Playboy Playmate of the Year in 1967 under the stage name Angela Dorian (see, what did I tell you?).
Very quickly, Julie admits to Agar that she was having an affair with the dead man! And that she was the last person to see him alive, that night in the motel! What the hell? Agar, for some totally unknown reason, does not pass this information on to the police, regardless of how relevant it is. This might be because he's strongly attracted to her from the first second he sees her. Julie is likewise smitten with the strong and burly Agar, though she's unsure about this whole love thing. Oh, and the whole affair thing never gets mentioned again, and really has no bearing on the plot. Just know that everyone sleeps with everyone at this lab.
Julie at lunch, looking totally different.
Agar then sits down with some of the other scientists at Brandt in the company lounge. He learns that everyone liked and respected the dead guy (Grabovsky), even though they are quick to give up his secrets about his affairs. Agar fits in well with these chauvinistic and misogynistic men, thanks in no small part to his manly square jaw and beefy eyebrows.
While they chat, in walks a lovely woman who sits down nearby. Agar's eyes instantly work her over, but he's warned by the other men that she's "an iceberg". The woman is Doctor Susan Harris, played by 31-year old Anitra Ford, perhaps best known as one of the original Bob Barker girls on The Price is Right in 1972. She's a stunning beauty, dark-skinned and black-haired, an exotic woman who looks a tad like Dutch softcore legend Laura Gemser, but with smaller breasts. Keep Harris in mind, she will turn out to be the most important woman in the cast.
Susan Harris, looking a whole lot like Cote de Pablo from NCIS.
Meanwhile, we cut away to various other locations in the little town of Peckham. A lot of men are dying out there, all being exhausted sexually by mysterious pretty girls. In one instance, two college kids are looking for a place to make out, which results in the girl ending up topless, her floppy boobs center screen, the first of many, many topless shots in this movie. They discover to their horror a naked frat boy dead in his room, which really had to have killed the mood, though the guy still tried to make a move anyway.
Nekkid Chick #1, sorority babe.
Victim #2, belly-up frat boy.
In another case, some balding dude is killed by a smoking hot redhead on a motorcycle, who sexes him to death out in an open field. Notice that as the naked woman walks around, she keeps her back to the camera, as do all the naked chicks in this movie. Full frontal nudity would get them the dreaded X rating, after all, and that's no way to make any money in Hollywood.
Nekkid chick #2, biker chick.
Victim #3, biker dude, chiggers going to eat him up.
Then the police deputy dies the same way, though we don't see his death.
Victim #4, Deputy Harv, not going to get that promotion now.
Then a certain Doctor Lyons from Brandt Labs dies the same way. His body is found inside Brandt, which seems to not raise any suspicion, which it should as this is supposed to be some sort of secret government lab.
Victim #4, Doctor Lyons.
Finally (finally!), the whole town is in an uproar over all these unexplained deaths. A town meeting is called, held by the Sheriff and an expert doctor, attended by a nice mix of local rednecks, concerned citizens and some scientists from Brandt. The Sheriff outlines all the deaths to this point (the way we know who and what those victims were) before turning it over to the expert.
The town meeting, not very many folks for such a serious meeting.
The expert, a mousy little man from Brandt named Doctor Murger, carefully explains their findings, namely that the alarming and titillating news that all the men died during sex. He thinks that maybe some virulent new strain of VD is in outbreak here. He offhandedly suggests that the men of Peckham refrain from having sex until they find the cause. This causes the men in the audience, mostly the drunken redneck cowpokes, to rise up and heckle the expert. The meeting pretty much comes to a halt now.
Doctor Murger, nice bowtie, loser.
Ha, check the beehive chick, she's not getting any lovin'.
The most vocal of the locals is a fat slob of a man (think Homer Simpson) who after the meeting leads a group of fellow rednecks down to Moe's Tavern for some beers. They complain about the scientists and the government and all that and generally curse their bad luck for being uneducated, unskilled, unkempt losers who will never amount to anything.
Homer Simpson, looking like a fatter Brian Cox here.
Homer, however, is later met outside the bar by none other than Doctor Harris! She was at the town meeting and watched Homer jump up and get all preachy, and now she's taking a liking to him. Now, what fat loser wouldn't give a hot woman a ride home? And, of course, Homer ends up dead (though I'm sure he died very happy).
Ok, you've guessed it by now. Doctor Harris killed him with sex, as did the other girls we've seen before. I might as well tell you now, because this movie sucks and I don't feel like writing this today. Doctor Harris was messing around with bees at the lab and somehow (?) managed to infect herself (?) with some sort of queen bee mutation gene (?) thus causing her to become a human/bee hybrid (?). Driven to have sex with men and kill them during the act (?), she also has been converting (?) other young women in town to act as her drones, sending them out to sex-to-death other victims. Confused? So was I, but hang in there, it will explain itself in a while. [Editor Pam: This is not how the wasp woman acted in the movie of that name. Are wasps and bees that different? This cries out for more research.]
Back to the movie. Doctor Murger, the expert at the town meeting, mentioned there that he had a really good theory worked out about what is going on, but he was keeping it to himself until he gathered more data. Special Agent Agar calls him later that night and sets up a meeting to talk about this theory. They are to meet late at night in a dodgy part of town (why?), so Agar and Julie go together and wait for him. Julie will be near constantly at Agar's side for the rest of this movie, by the way, showing her growing affection for him and making us wonder just what her job at Brandt is that she can just run off at all hours of the day to hang out with Agar.
Agar has awesome hair. Ladies love hair.
However, Doctor Harris was also at this meeting, remember, and she also heard the expert mention his theory. So it comes as no surprise that Agar and Julie suddenly see the poor man running for his life, chased by an unknown woman (Harris) in a Plymouth sedan! The car runs him over and kills him, before squealing off. Agar gives chase but loses the Plymouth, though he later finds it abandoned. Julie goes to Murger's side, but he's already dead. The police are called in.
Murger running from the Plymouth. Try maybe running down some alley or behind some parked cars or something, running down the middle of the road is pretty dumbass. Scientists, all book smarts and no common sense.
The Sheriff is really moody here, glum and irritated, though you would be too if your little town, once peaceful, was in the grips of a death wave. He offhandedly says that people are "dropping like flies". Remember this phrase, because Agar does later and it gets him thinking.
The police leave (much quicker than I would have thought, virtually abandoning the crime scene after just a few hours), and Agar and Julie remain behind to chat. He goes to a phone booth nearby and calls his bosses in Washington. He tells them what has happened so far and suggests strongly that a "military cordon" be thrown up around Peckham to prevent an epidemic (that's what he thinks it is) from spreading to nearby Los Angeles.
Agar on the phone. Mulder had a cellphone, you know.
While Agar is distracted on the phone, Julie walks back towards their car. It's dark, it's a bad part of town, and she's accosted by three drunken rednecks. They proceed to rip her shirt open and fondle her breasts in what is a very graphic and most likely unneeded scene. Though, the way the shot is framed, I think that's a body-double being roughed up. Just before she's fully raped, Agar arrives to break up the rednecks with a furious barrage of Chuck Norris-like punches and kicks.
Julie about to be raped on the hood of her car.
Astoundingly, Julie recovers from this attempted rape in the blink of an eye! In all subsequent scenes, nothing is ever mentioned about it, Julie seems perfectly normal, and even Agar clearly never tells the police what happened. Does that sort of thing happen a lot to Julie? Does that sort of thing just happen a lot in Peckham, California? Strange.
Agar now goes alone to Doctor Murger's house to do some investigating. The doctor was single (no surprise, just look at him) so no one is home to see him snooping around looking for stuff. He then finds a secret room, accessed through that most cliched entrance, the hidden pivoting door made to look like a bookcase. In the room we see that the meek, demure Doctor Murger was actually heavily into gothic S&M! In the room are all the usual trappings of a dominatrix dungeon--erotic sculptures, racks of whips and chains, and a big bed.
Unicorn? Am I missing something?
Ah, but it turns out that the good doctor wasn't into women, but was actually gay. I know this because his gay lover is hiding in the room! Look out, Agar! A lame fist fight later and Agar is questioning an embarrassed and black-eyed man named Joe. Joe is a minor character who we met earlier at Moe's Tavern with Homer, but didn't think much about him until now. He can only tell Agar that he saw the doctor with "a woman" in the Plymouth earlier in the night, though he doesn't know who she was.
Love note from Joe, which the prop department took the time to make all sappy and romantic.
Joe tells his story, even though he looks like Bob from That '70s Show.
Ok, back at Brandt Labs, Herb Kline (one of the more chauvinistic scientists) runs into the sultry Doctor Harris in the cafeteria, nearly abandoned now as the murder spree has made most people stick to their homes. They have some idle chit-chat, and you can tell that Harris is flirting outrageously with Kline, which is a bit icky as she's clearly way out of his league. We also see Doctor Harris eating sugar like it was, well, sugar. THIS IS A CLUE, PEOPLE! REMEMBER? SHE'S INFECTED WITH QUEEN BEE JUICE, OR SOMETHING. AND BEES LOVE SUGAR. THIS MOVIE SUCKS ASS.
Herb and Doctor Harris at the lunch table, note the Pepsi can, product placement at its worst.
Doctor Harris, looking damn fine despite those dorky Mary-Kate and Ashley glasses.
Harris offers to "entertain" Herb back at her place later that night, if he can convince his wife he's working late. And now we get an extended scene where the cheatin' bastard Herb Kline is seduced by the sultry Doctor Harris. This is actually a pretty erotic scene for such a low-rent movie, with less emphasis on the actual nudity and the sex act than the build-up and sensual foreplay. Harris loses her top eventually, showing a spectacular if smallish chest, and mounts Kline. The sex is awesome, so awesome in fact, that Kline has a heart attack as he climaxes and expires. We also get a shot of Harris' eyes while she's sexing, and they are now black (!). The soundtrack also helps out with this ominous buzzing sound, letting us know that the Queen is in command.
Doctor Harris nekkid, or maybe her body-double nekkid, hard to tell.
Herb, dead and in need of a chest waxing.
Some time soon after, Herb's wife (now a widow) is called on the phone by Harris. She tells the woman to meet her (Harris) alone at Brandt Labs if she wants to see her husband alive. Since we know he's already dead, this is clearly just a ploy to get the woman to come down quickly. Back to her in a second.
The wife on the phone.
Agar now goes to see Doctor Harris at her lab, seeking to question her about her relationship with the dead Herb. She's brusque and agitated and insists that he leave as she's busy with "an experiment". Agar leaves soon enough, after asking some asinine question about bees and drones and the like, and Doctor Harris goes back down into her lab. We follow her as she enters this large room where a lot of computers with blinking lights control some fancy mechanical devices with even more blinking lights attached to a huge tubular-frame "hive" thingie.
Agar and Doctor Harris aren't communicating well.
The hive room, very nifty, though we wonder how Harris constructed all this in the basement of the lab without anyone noticing.
We see that there are about five other women down here with her, all dressed in nothing more than short white lab coats (I can see butt cheeks so I guess they are naked, save for the coats). These are the "Bee Girls", young girls converted by Harris into drones to serve her nefarious needs. The girls are currently wrestling with a very annoyed Mrs. Kline! Doctor Harris called her down here after she killed her husband and kidnapped her, remember.
Doctor Harris at the controls, that's a lot of blinking lights.
Injecting the wife with...something.
They inject her with some sort of sedative (through a needle shaped like a bee, no less) and she becomes instantly docile. The girls then strip her nude and cover her entire body with this sticky yellow paste! Yes, you heard that right, this middle-aged naked woman is rubbed and fondled by these five hot young girls as they smear this stuff on her. What the hell kind of movie is this!
The wife nekkid.
Icky yellow honey stuff, maybe mustard or flour paste tinted with yellow food coloring.
The now-covered wife is led into a small chamber in the center of the hive, switches are thrown, lights blink, generators hum, and out she steps in a few seconds as a drone. We can tell she's now a Bee Girl because those black contact lenses (which have to hurt) and the oddly sensual way she rubs her chest and hisses in excitement. At her conversion, all the other Bee Girls start to rub themselves, pulling open their lab coats to expose their breasts. Again, what the hell kind of movie is this!
Ok, enough of that. So the State Department calls the Governor, who calls out the National Guard to seal off the town. We see a few big deuce-and-a-half trucks rumbling along a road, heading for Peckham. The cordon will be air-tight, only Special Agent Agar and other people with high-level security clearances can get in or out. We mostly see this cordon in the form of one particular roadblock, manned by two skinny soldiers with rifles.
California National Guard troop trucks on the move.
The cordon, holding up a number of six-tooth cowboys looking to get to their sheep.
A certain Stan Williams (yet another scientist at Brandt) has to be at a conference at UCLA that day, but can't get through the cordon. This pisses him off royally and he drives back to the labs to find Agar, who he just knows has something to do with all this.
Stan Williams, your typical scientist guy.
Stan argues with the soldiers to no avail. Note the GI's oddly plain uniforms and plastic-looking helmets, not the best prop department.
While all that is going on, the Sheriff goes to see Herb Kline's wife to give her the bad news of her husband's death. She, however, seems to have little concern over this, and in fact flirts outrageously with the Sheriff! He manages to extricate himself before anything unethical happens, but it's clear that she's one of the Bee Girls (we know this, of course, because we saw her earlier being covered in yellow honey and stuck in the machine). To drive that point home, we see her point-of-view as the Sheriff hustles off to his car. Her vision is bee-like, honeycombed in a well-done special effect. Several other times in the movie we get this bee-vision thing, which is pretty cool and explains why the Bee Girls wear sunglasses a lot. I guess.
The Sheriff is not comfy with this unwelcome physical contact.
Love the black contacts.
Ok, so Agar and Julie sit down with Stan Williams and another scientist named Aldo to discuss Agar's wild idea that Doctor Harris' experiments with bees have causes some rapid genetic mutation to occur. His grasp of the science is murky, however, so he wants Aldo and Stan's input. Stan thinks the whole idea is poppycock and walks out. Aldo, however, kinda sorta thinks it has some merit, at least enough to pursue. He agrees to dictate an analysis report that Agar can wire to the State Department about his ideas. With that, the meeting adjourns.
The meeting, note Aldo in his gay yellow shirt.
Julie at the meeting, looking very nerdish as usual.
Ok, we go to the funeral for Herb Kline now, attended by all the Bee Girls dressed in sexy black, including his widow. Agar and Julie are here and she has a little "gamma radiation detector" thingie, that at the meeting they suggested might be able to pick up on "Bee Girl radiation" or something. She turns it on and it pegs, of course, and strangely the Bee Girls seem to sense this and start to squirm a bit.
The Bee Girls at the funeral, this is what I imagine a porn star's funeral looks like.
In an interlude, we see Stan at home with his wife Harriet. She walks in on him as he's reading in the living room, and she strips down to her bra and panties! She's going to seduce him. As she mounts him, we hear that bee buzzing sound and see the black film milking her eyes. Stan sees it too and makes the connection, his formerly boring and annoying wife is now a killer Bee Girl! He's just about dead, but he manages to strangle his wife with a pair of panty hose before he expires!
Harriet Williams, nekkid old chick looking to cash a rent check.
Sex will kill you, don't you know.
In another interlude, and this one really pointless, we go out to that same California Guard cordon checkpoint. Off in the woods a scantily-clad young woman calls to one of the soldiers, asking for some help over that way with some "lost keys". The GI, either performing his civic duty to a civilian or just attracted to her bulging breasts, dutifully follows her into the woods. Of course, the woman is a Bee Girl and opens her top, exposing a lovely set of bare boobs as that bee buzzing rises on the soundtrack. This scene has no bearing on the rest of the movie, but does add one to the final body count and gives us yet another topless girl to ogle at.
Soldier. Note the gun, which looks like a simple civilian bolt-action .30-30 hunting rifle, not exactly what CANG units used but probably all the prop department had available.
Naked Bee Girl, sure hope she's of age because she doesn't look it.
Agar then goes to see Aldo to check up on the progress of his analysis report. Not surprisingly, he finds Aldo naked and dead. His dictation machine is still on and Agar plays back the tape, on which he can hear when Doctor Harris comes over to see Aldo for a "conversation". How Doctor Harris knew that Aldo was in on Agar's plans to expose her is questionable, but she is clearly eliminating all the witnesses.
Aldo has seen better days.
Agar makes the logical guess that his Julie might be in danger. He jumps in his car and rushes down to the lab, where he makes his way down to the basement. There, indeed, a kidnapped Julie is being "converted into a drone" by Doctor Harris and the Bee Girls. We see her nekkid (of course, every woman in this movie gets nekkid) and in that buzzing machine-induced half-trance that we saw the other woman in earlier in the movie. They are just about ready to start smearing her with the yellow honey when the door crashes open.
Julie about to become a drone, which might not be all bad.
Agar bursts into the room, gun drawn, forcing the Bee Girls to back off. He hauls the near-comatose Julie out of the room, firing two shots into the machines on his way out. The damage causes the machines to short out, crackling with white smoke and sparks. For some reason, the Bee Girls die along with the machine, writhing in agony before falling to the floor. Doctor Harris is the last to go, and claws the skin from her face in a most unconvincing effect before sliding to the floor one last time.
The hive goes boom and the drones die with it.
The Queen Bee expires, and the threat to the sexual health of Californians everywhere is over.
The rampage of the Bee Girls defeated, everything returns to normal. The Sheriff is glad that it's all over and invites Agar back to Peckham as "a tourist". Agar and Julie are now officially a couple and our ending scene is them rolling around in bed, smootching and hugging to the blaring sounds of Richard Strauss' Also Spoke Zarathustra...seriously. What the hell kind of movie was this!
Written in August 2007 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda.
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