Kingdom of the Spiders
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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 whose insecticides have depleted their natural food supply.
After livestock belonging to 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 the ranch. Soon the remaining residents of the town must barricade themselves at Emma Washburns lodge in an effort to save themselves from the eight-legged invaders in the ultimate man vs. spider showdown.
* All-New Interview With William Shatner
* Jim Brockett: Spider Wrangler Featurette
* Audio Commentary By Director John Bud Cardos, Producer Igo Kantor, Spider Wrangler Jim Brockett And Cinematographer John Morrill; Moderated By Hostel Producer Scott Spiegel And Lee Christian
* Rare Behind-The-Scenes Footage
* Interview With Writer Stephen Lodge
* Poster Gallery
* Original Theatrical Trailer
* New Wide-Screen Transfer
* And More!
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I love spiders. for a time, i had a pregnant black widow in a jar on my desk in virginia. after she made her egg sac, i released her and her unhatched brood back into the wild. in 1990, a friend who could no longer keep her, gave me his 4 year old tarantula. i'm looking at her right now, as she, alice, resides in a 20 gallon aquarium in our dining room. i spent many nights chasing tarantulas through the jungle in costa rica. i have two tattooed on my person. spider-man is the bomb. i love spiders.
i also remember, back in the summer of 1980, catching kingdom of the spiders, which came out in 1977, on tv. little did i realize that this was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, the melding of two of my favorite things--pulpy horror/science fiction movies and animals eating people. i was already a humongous star trek fan, so to see captain kirk battling hordes of beautiful tarantulas was just a breathtaking experience. and even though the idea of being covered with spiders is not remotely unsettling to me, i believed that shatner and the other town folk of verde valley were not excited about the prospect.
from the very beginning, kingdom of the spiders establishes a creepy--and honestly, patient--descent into death by spider, and like the poor frog being boiled alive slowly, the town does not realize how dire their situation until it is too late. first the crickets go silent, then all the pets disappear, and finally crop-dusters fall out of the sky, trucks careen off the roads, and people begin to get overwhelmed by what are otherwise shy and retreating, fragile, virtually harmless creatures. of course, much like the residents of amity island, the town is between a rock and a hard place, as the spiders have arrived just before the annual some-kind-of-festival-that-leads-to-everyone-getting-killed. the end, while not executed perfectly from a matte painting point of view, is sold to the hilt by the beloved shatner, who utters his lines with as much gravitas as can exist in the world.
and this is one of kingdom of the spider's great strengths: it's cast. william shatner is, of course, magnificent. playing a small town vet, he is just pitch perfect--crazy-dramatic, weird, thoughtful, flexible, and heroic. we all know how great william shatner is; let's talk about tiffany bolling. playing the self-assured entomologist diane ashley, she is just superb. she is commanding, and has no difficulty standing up to the charismatic shatner (at least until he turns on the charm). in one of the best scenes in the movie, diane is "stalked" by a tarantula while she takes a shower in what is constructed like a typical stalk and kill scene. however, when she discovers the tarantula, she greets the spider warmly, picking the spider up, talking to her with the fearlessness and compassion one would expect of an entomologist. then she takes the spider outside and releases her. no fear, no anger. beautiful. and despite her quivering hand, tiffany bolling sells the scene completely. woody strode, college football teammate of jackie robinson's and also a barrier-breaking professional athlete in the 40's, is awesome as farmer walter colby, whose farm is at the epicenter of the arachno-crisis' emergence. altovise davis is energetic and sincere as mrs. colby, and she participates in one of filmdom's most memorable scenes, involving her hand, a tarantula, and a gun. the entire cast is believable and entertaining, embodying the vibe of a small town, it's joys and concerns.
the movie, directed by bud cardos, looks great and moves along at a perfect pace. the mystery of what is happening is given time to develop, and when it gets rolling, kingdom of the spiders doesn't stop. the music is excellent, mostly stock (you might recognize the hyper tense music in the movie from episodes of the twilight zone, such as to serve man), but used to great effect, as well as tickling piano keys, which sound just like a spider's walk might. i also appreciate that diane ashley makes clear who is at fault--us, and our environmentally unfriendly, selfish, greedy, insensitive ways. this is 70's environmental/animal revenge at it's very best.
my only complaint with this movie is that real tarantulas were clearly killed. these are animals that can live a long time and must navigate many dangers to make it to adulthood. tarantula populations in the wild have suffered mightily over the years, and it is a shame to see them used so callously. the movie was made in 1977, and there surely were no limitations on the way movie makers had to treat invertebrates. also, tarantulas have a terrible, but completely undeserved reputation. their bites are painful, but like bee stings. they prefer to be left to themselves. i do appreciate that the movie speaks to these issues, and explains why the spiders are not behaving normally, i just wish they had treated their extraordinary eight-legged cast members with greater care. so, please be sure to discuss these issues with your kids.
kingdom of the spiders is a watchable, well-made b-picture, that also features both interesting environmental and race politics. it plays upon the basic fears of many, while reminding us that, as malcolm x suggested when trouble comes to our doorstep, the chickens are merely coming home to roost.
"Kingdom of the Spiders" is another 1970's nature-gone-crazy flick. It came out when a plethora of such films were filling movie and drive-in screens every week, movies like "The Pack", "Grizzly", "Day of the Animals", "The Swarm" and "Prophecy" all featured hapless town folk and tourists meeting the worst nature has to offer. I guess thanks to "Jaws" Hollywood saw a chance to make some money and pumped these suckers out left and right. "Kingdom of the Spiders" actually works and delivers the chills you would want. How could it not? I mean the movie's premise is that tens of thousands of highly venomous tarantulas are over-running a small town. If you are as creeped out by spiders as I am...you will get goosebumps. And what makes it better is that these are the genuine item, real creepy crawlie spiders...not CGI.
So if you are looking for a fun little movie, one that has some unintentionally funny moments as well as some real chills, you should pick this up. You can't ask for more than William Shatner and 10,000 spiders all trying to share screen time!