Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Spiders Baby! Kingdom of the Spiders

When cattle in a small town in Arizona turn up dead for no apparent reason, local vet Robert "Rack" Hansen (William Shatner, beefy) along with scientist Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling, gorgeous) investigate the mysterious circumstances only to discover that a shift in the balance of nature has given rise to a strain of highly aggressive tarantulas intent on feeding on the town folk...

Made in 1977, in the wake of Jaws, Kingdom of the Spiders is a superior example of the nature vs. man genre that was so popular in the 70's (Frogs, Squirm, Grizzly etc). The premise may sound schlocky on paper, but the film is anything but, delivering some real menace and suspense, successfully importing elements from The Birds and Night of the Living Dead, and bravely playing out with a quietly devastating ending. Interestingly the film's premise is close to the 1974 zombie film The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue, both films explore the consequences of mankind's interferenece with the natural order - in the case of Kingdom of the Spiders, pesticides have destroyed the tarantula's place in the food-chain, so they turn to humans for food.

Director Jon "Bud" Cardos gets great mileage out of the story with some slick low angle shots of spiders creeping around, and in particular two striking set pieces involving a crop-duster, and descent into a darkened cellar. Besides excellent work from Shatner and Bolling, the film benefits greatly from the extended cast - 5,000 Mexican tarantulas who are marvellous - there's no Fulci fakery here à la The Beyond, these creepy-crawlies are the real deal.


Worth applauding also the human extras who allowed themselves to be covered and crawled upon by spiders - no mean feat. Incidentally, Wes Craven would go one better in his 1980 film Deadly Blessing by placing a spider in Sharon Stone's mouth. Animal lovers should note that there is extensive stomping and other punishments doled out to the spiders, and the film if remade today would have to make extensive use of CGI to satisfy the American Humane Association. One to savour indeed.

My copy of Spiders is the 2002 Goodtimes DVD which was a good budget disc for its time, but can now be discarded for Shout! Factory's magnificent 2010 edition, with a superior transfer (and in its OAR finally) and worthwhile extras - commentary, interviews and some Super-8 onset footage). The film is best avoided by those with a sensitive disposition to the eight legged freaks of this world, but for those looking for a solid 70's chiller, Kingdom of the Spiders is highly recommended.

2 comments:

  1. YES! I think it's one of the very best of the 70's "Nature Runs Amok" movies - tying with Piranha (1978) and Alligator (1980) as my three Ultrafaves. I applaud you for not only giving this movie a positive review - which it absolutely deserves - but doing it in a completely irony free fashion that gives proper praise to the often underappreciated William Shatner and the extremely easy on the eyes Tiffany Bolling. I also have to shout out Woody Strode - always a cool presence. Too many people review this movie with maximum snark and rate it "So bad it's good." No way. Kingdom of the Spiders is a good movie, period.

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  2. Yep, a very fine film I think and because I have a fairly intense dislike of spiders I have to take this film very seriously. This really is a horror film for me. My wife hates spiders too so I'm thinking I might show her this film in the next few days - considering our house is being invaded by spiders at the moment as the weather is getting more chilly... Yeah, Woody Strode is so good, I watched him in John Ford's 1960 film Sergeant Rutledge last year and his performance moved me to tears - something that doesn't happen very often !

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