|Review||Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)||Director||John "Bud" Cardos|
|Writers||Richard Robinson and Alan Caillou (Screenplay) – Jeffrey M. Sneller and Stephen Lodge (Original Story)|
|Starring||William Shatner, Tiffany Bolling, Woody Strode, Lieux Dressler and David McLean|
“It’s not just a bunch of spiders! It’s a migration caused by some sort of imbalance” – Diane Ashley
A cow drops dead on a farm in a rural town in Arizona. Veterinarian Rack Hansen (Shatner) can’t figure out why and sends a blood result to higher ups in the city. A littler later entomologist Diane Ashley (Bolling) shows up and informs Rack that the cow died of lethal doses of spider venom. Seems that over usage of DTS has not only reinforced the arachnid’s immunity to them but it has diminished their natural food supply. Before long thousands upon thousands of tarantulas go on the warpath against humans and the friendly little Arizona town is in grave danger.
The 1970’s gave birth to the Disaster film (“Earthquake”, “Towering Inferno” – 1974 – for example) and a sub-genre came from that and focused on nature striking back at humans. It started with a bang with the near flawless “Jaws” (1975) but fairly soon money hungry producers came on board and a bunch of B-movies came into the fray. A carbon copy of “Jaws” came just a year later with “Grizzly” (1976) by master B-movie filmmaker William Girdler and he delivered after that the eco-friendly warning that was “Day of the Animals” (1977) and another sub genre had taken off. Into that category “Kingdom of the Spiders” falls conveniently as it paints a doomsday picture of arachnids taking revenge on humans thanks to their tampering with Mother nature. The B-movie treatment of spiders was nothing new as it was treated fairly well with “Tarantula” (1955) for the atomic age of pro-war entertainment and in the 70’s with the schlocky “The Giant Spider Invasion” (1975) but those featured giant monsters and had a big sci-fi feel to them. The arachnids in “Kingdom of the Spiders” are just your natural size with their strength based solely on their numbers.
“Kingdom of the Spiders” was a low-budget production but a big portion of it was spent on procuring 5.000 tarantulas to stage the attacks and display a town riddled with them. Director John “Bud” Cardos (“The Day Time Ended” – 1979), a B-movie specialist, stages a number of effective set pieces involving huge amounts of tarantulas and thanks to a committed cast it really does look like those spiders are attacking them. It really is a minor miracle as tarantulas always run away from humans instead of approaching them but basic movie magic here creates another reality as this is years and years away from CGI. As the films draws to a close the survivors are cut off and the arachnids have them cornered and Cardos beautifully builds a foreboding and suffocating atmosphere and maintains it for the creepy climax.
The script ain’t half-bad either. Though the characters aren’t exactly multi-dimensional the viewer gets invested in Rack. An emotional core is struck when Rack informs Diane that his brother died in Vietnam and he tries to take care of his wife and daughter. Other characters are fairly believable and none behave in stupid fashion when danger arises. You actually feel for some of these characters when they perish and that’s more than a lot of B-movies manage to elicit from viewers. The whole eco-friendly warning angle is well handled, not too preachy and sets the action for some gut wrenching scenes.
The cast is good too. Shatner had recently done another horror B-movie with good credentials (“The Devil’s Rain” – 1975) and delivers another solid performance but he’s one of those actors who’s simply likeable and while not a great thespian he coasts easily on charisma. Tiffany Bolling is just fine as the entomologist and Woody Strode is always a forceful presence.
The only negative here is the rather inappropriate and quite frankly boring country tunes that begin and end the movie. Most of the music score was licenced from pre-existing tracks and they fit well.
In short; in the category of “Eco-friendly B-movie horror” this flick sets the tone and delivers. Then check out “Day of the Animals” and you will get sucked into this sub-genre and want more.