Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jay's Review: Kingdom of the Spiders

I invite you to enjoy this campy 70s drive-in "classic," Kingdom of the Spiders, and check out my review for If you like flims of the era or the genre, this is must! Sheer Saturday afternoon bad cable movie heaven from a time gone by...


William Shatner stars as veterinarian "Rack" Hansen in this cult classic about an Arizona town infested with a horde of arachnids that turn on the humans who's insecticides have depleted their natural food supply.

After livestock belonging to Rack's friend, rancher Walter Colby, fall victim to a spider attack, entomologist Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling) arrives and tries to help Rack deal with the crisis- but with the big county fair fast approaching, Mayor Connors refuses to let them quarantine Colby's ranch. Soon the remaining residents of the town must barricade themselves to stave off the eight-legged invaders in the ultimate man vs. spider showdown.

The first thing that happens is Kingdom of the Spiders is a laugh-out-loud moment where a placid moment is disrupted as a huge music stinger swells and a cow senses danger! Suddenly it's attacked by a cameraman! Let's just say this is a tongue-in-cheek opening to a movie about  rampaging tarantulas that's hard to take as seriously as it's played, but is sure a lot of fun.

William Shatner, Tiffany Bolling, Woody Strode, and Altovise Davis headline this very 70s cult/camp classic. Take the basic story-structure of Jaws (with the cow standing in for the skinny-dipping blonde and a Mayor unwilling to close the town's moneymaking seasonal events) and mix in a dash of The Birds, plop it all down on what I assume is the producer's horse farm and let Shatner chew the whole thing like cud and your end result is a very enjoyable night in with a movie.

Filmed in that flat, no-frills 70s-style epidemic to higher-end drive-in programmers of the era on land recognizable from a lifetime of exposure (even second-hand) to Westerns and scored with Country AM radio songs, the whole production  feels a little older than it's 1977 release date.  This whole package makes one nostalgic to a rainy Saturday in front of the TV, which is where many of us caught this and it's “nature run amok” peers like Ants!, Squirm, Frogs, and The Swarm.

The whole film has a healthy sense of fun about it. According to, the lovely, poised (and criminally under-employed) Bolling was cast because she had no problem working with the spiders. Her first scene handling one is reminiscent of a Disney Princess about to sing to her wild forest friends. I personally picture her rolling her eyes at a squeamish Shatner, but maybe that's just my imagination working overtime. Her scenes with Lieux Dressle seem like a friendlier version of the Tippi Hendren/Suzanne  Pleschette duo in The Birds. Another character dies here pretty much like the Pleschette character does in that film. (Such predictability is one of the real comforts of this kind of film.)

There's a few jumps, and lots of stale, stock Sci-Fi film confrontations between scientists and city officials. Most of all, there's lots and lots of tarantulas. Everywhere. And that's A-OK.

Kingdom of the Spiders
is presented widescreen, in the original stereo audio,  and includes the following special features:
-The original theatrical trailer along with those for Shout! Factory releases Audition, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 20th Anniversary Edition, and The Stepfather
-A trio of interview featurettes: a 4 minute one featuring writer Steve Lodge, one that's 16 minutes featuring William Shatner and a 12 minute one featuring "Spider Wrangler" Jim Brockett.
-Feature-length commentary track with the Director, Producer, Cinematographer, and Mr Brockett.
-17 minutes of behind the scenes footage and a poster gallery

Most people have an instinctual fear of spiders. Sadly, we’re not as averse to camp Sci-Fi nature run amok movies, especially when they sneak in a few genuine chills that play on our fears of the invasive power of nature.. Kingdom of the Spiders is a fine example of 70s Sci-Fi frommage perfect for any rainy Saturday.

Personally, I always have a few newspapers or magazines within reach and I wear size 13 wide shoes... I'm pretty convinced I could make it to the end of Kingdom of the Spiders.


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