I will be very clear here-I HATE SPIDERS. Anyone who knows me, knows I am not a fan of these bulbous monstrosities. There are good things that are bulbous like breasts-but NOT spiders. Spiders are pure evil and they find me often. The arachnids prey on my fear.
In the cinema, spiders have wreaked havoc many a time, and in 1977, they did so in Kingdom Of The Spiders a surprise hit that starred one William Shatner. Shatner got to overact a bit in this one, but he was actually quite good and so was the film.
Tell me why I wouldn’t be terrified of this poster as a child (or an adult)? I wanted to see it, but my Mom forbid it as she correctly knew I wouldn’t sleep for months.
Shatner plays a veterinarian in Verde Valley, Arizona who gets a call from a Walter Colby (played by the awesome ex-NFL player Woody Strode!) an African-American farmer who has had a calf fall suddenly ill. Shatner takes the animal back for an exam and she dies. What caused this? He does not know.
However, Shatner will send out a blood sample to Flagstaff to see what they find. Within a few days a pretty scientist played by Tiffany Bolling wants to meet Shatner and not just to see him overact.
Nothing wrong with some tasteful 70’s side boob from Tiffany Bolling. (Were the spiders watching? Damn straight they were!).
Bolling tells Shatner that the calf died of a massive dose of spider venom which he scoffs at. And he does so in THIS shirt.
They go together to the Colby’s farm to investigate and Mrs. Colby now has a dead dog. A test reveals that the dog also bit the dust from a spider. Shatner is still not convinced until Mr. Colby mentions that he had seen a giant dirt hill with spiders on it. Colby takes Shatner and Bolling to the hill and it’s a shitload of tarantulas partying like it’s 1977.
Bolling will then deduce that the spiders are attacking larger creatures and animals because their food supply has diminished due to pesticides being heavily used. So of course, once again who is to blame? MAN!
As they walk back to the house, our people see a bull running amok with spiders all over him-so at least the fella won’t be a burger anytime soon. Mr. Colby has had enough and burns the spider hill with gas, but as we see the smart arachnids crawl out of a back tunnel in the hill and get the shit outta there. Do spiders have fallout shelters? Guess so.
Psssssttt…they are going out the back of this hill, but by all means keep taking photos from just one side!
Mr. Colby obviously pissed off the spiders with his torching of the hill, and oh, how they remember! The poor bastard is in his wretched-looking Fred Sanford pickup truck when he notices some spiders inside and he starts screaming and is apparently getting bit pretty bad. Of course he will lose control of the truck, fall over the guardrail and BOOM!
From the Los Angeles Rams to fodder for tarantulas, I give you Woody Strode before…and after!
But wait-there are even MORE spider hills found on the dead farmer’s property and we will see Mrs. Colby (the farmer’s wife) under attack and brilliantly shooting her hand with a spider on it! Maybe I’m just guessing here, but maybe flicking the fuckers off of your hand would’ve been less painful?.
Halftime score: Spiders 2, The Colbys 0.
And, in the fine tradition of ripping off Jaws, the mayor acts like a boob ordering pesticides to be dropped all over town to eradicate the problem. The sexy veterinarian pleads with him not to do that because that’s what pissed off the spiders to begin with. She suggests letting birds and rats do their thing and eat the spiders, but nope…a crop duster piloted by a guy who looks like a total tool begins spraying the pesticides which is the exact WRONG thing to do.
Guess our inept pilot didn’t actually CHECK the plane very hard because a load of spiders in the plane take revenge on the idiot, who starts screaming like a cross between a little girl and an elderly woman on smack as he flies the plane like a lunatic.
Now, it’s worth noting that I would’ve jumped out of the plane and offed myself due to my crippling fear of these monsters of evil, but that’s besides the point. This scene is unintentionally hilarious and when the plane crashes and blows up, it’s back to the ‘ol drawing board! Here is the theatrical trailer which includes a snippet of this hilarious scene.
The music throughout the film is creepy and is mostly from old episodes of The Twilight Zone! Love those tinkling pianos and creepy strings!
The spiders will soon go nuts on the town and start killing everyone. It seems not to have dawned on ANYONE in the whole town to just simply run away, but people start falling and more or less throwing the spiders onto themselves because that’s what stupid people would do. At the same time, Shatner’s brother’s wife (whom he’s also messing around with) gets attacked and her little daughter is left behind in arachnid hell.
Shatner gets there too late for his piece of tail (his actual wife at the time by the way), but he will save the little girl. It is at this point that I ask what sane parent would let their child be traumatized by these things for ANY amount of money? These spiders were real folks!
“For Christ’s sake Mom! You didn’t even get me the residuals for when this hits cable-you suck!”.
Shatner and Bolling will head to the Washburn Lodge where others have holed up under attack. When the power goes out, Shatner searches for some help in a shed outside which means walking through loads of the creepy crawlies. But wait? Where was the old man who said he was going to get something and nobody saw him again? I think we will find him. Ah, what a tangled web we weave.
“You are ours now old man! Today we kill the elderly, tomorrow we rule the world my arachnid friends! And we will barbecue with our newfound Kingsford charcoal!”.
Back in the lodge, the power starts flickering, so of course it’s up to Shatner to go into the basement to check on why it happened. This is where I would become the shittiest friend in the world. Sorry guys-no way in hell I’m going in a basement of spiders to check the fucking fuse box. Do it yourselves and pay the consequences.
Here we have a phalanx of spiders on a light bulb that will soon pop sending them skyward. Poor bastards.
The end result is not good for Mr. Shatner.
Shatner will fend off the arachnids (Real spiders people! All in the name of art?) and make his way upstairs to hilariously obnoxious music with blaring trumpets. I have to hand it to ‘ol Bill here. This whole scene gives me the damn creeps and how he did it, I will never know.
Meanwhile, the town is in bad shape as we simultaneously have buffoons running into one another, crashing through windows, and even dorks on bikes are riding through fences with spiders all over them.
At one point a car drives into a water tower which will collapse right onto the sheriff’s police car which had previously been rampaged by civilians getting attacked by the spiders. The tower crushes the car, killing the sheriff while the spiders get a nice bath. It’s worth noting that the driver of the car was being mauled by the spiders and the driver was unable to control his vehicle. He slams into a guy in a really bad shirt with spiders on him (I think it’s our evil mayor but I was never clear since he doesn’t have his cool hat on) and then hits the water tower.
“All along the water tower” says Bob Dylan?
The town folk don’t exactly win the day over our eight-legged fiends (yes, I say fiends and NOT friends). Let’s see some results…
Exhibit A: Guy in cheesy moustache-dead. He had to go-look at him. He deserved it.
Exhibit B: Fat guy in overalls-dead. A lot of hard work put in by the spiders on this tub o’ lard, but worth it in the end.
Exhibit C: Overworked, underpaid telephone operator-dead. They did her a favor.
Exhibit D: Sheriff? Dead and dead! No more cops-it’s arachnid anarchy on the streets!
Back at the lodge the spiders are coming out of the vents and through the fireplace (Spider Claus?) and basically any spot available. Those who survive barricade themselves in (after Shatner opens the door and quickly realizes what a terrible idea that was) and last the night.
But, with no radio communications or phone how will they know if anyone else survived? Simple-they have to remove some of the wood they hammered around the windows and take a peek. After all, there is sunlight coming through.
What they will see is pretty damn harrowing actually. Kingdom Of The Spiders has always had an ending that’s been talked about whether you enjoyed the film or not. It’s really up to the viewer to interpret, although as a kid and even now my interpretation is simple: THESE PEOPLE ARE FUCKED!
One look out the window and they see the entire town is in a cocoon. Beyond creepy and very clever by the writers. Will they get out? Are they just waiting to die as prey for the spiders? I say the latter and I’d off myself before I let that happen!
The 2010 Deluxe Edition on DVD from Shout Factory is by far the best transfer with nice bonus features and interviews and the DVD is presented with an all-new anamorphic widescreen transfer. If you haven’t gotten it yet this blog should make you want to.
Here’s the trailer for the Deluxe DVD:
And, buy it here! (I should get a free copy from Amazon.com for this by the way):
1. Kingdom Of The Spiders cost about $500,000 to make and grossed over $17 million at the box office and was a surprise hit.
2. Over 5,000 real tarantulas were used in this film which frightens me very much. The producers paid Mexican spider wranglers (there’s a job I would pass on) $10 for each tarantula.
3. The tarantulas had to be kept warm, but all 5,000 spiders had to be kept in separate
containers because they are basically cannibals! Also, fans and air tubes often had to be used to get the spiders to walk towards the actors because they are actually shy (I don’t believe that!). So, when the arachnids were “attacking” they were really just nudged along by air.
4. Songs that appear in the film are from Country hit maker Dorsey Burnette. His son Billy Burnette would join Fleetwood Mac in 1987 and remained until 1996.
5. Many of the spiders were killed during the filming which would never be allowed these days and even I-a major arachnophobe- think it was cruel and stupid they had cars running them over (really guys?). 1990’s smash hit Arachnophobia used fake spiders for any death scenes avoiding any protests.
6. Woody Strode who played Mr. Colby was one of the first 2 African-Americans to break the color barrier in the NFL back in the 40’s with the Los Angeles Rams. Altovise Davis who played Mrs. Colby was Sammy Davis Jr.’s wife! You cannot make this stuff up people!
7. Kingdom Of The Spiders was nominated for Best Horror Film by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. The film did not win, but Shatner appeared at the televised-awards show and it is here where wonderfully destroyed Elton John’s “Rocket Man”! If not for Kingdom Of The Spiders, we would not have that destruction to enjoy!
8. Steve Zaillian who was a co-editor on this movie, would go on to win an Oscar for writing the screenplay to Schindler’s List.
Kingdom Of The Spiders (1977):
1 1/2 beagles out of 4 for awfulness (it’s really good!)
Q: Should you see Kingdom Of The Spiders?
A: Absolutely-it’s pretty damn good, and it will terrify any spider hater like myself, especially at Halloween when people think it’s “cute” to put giant spiders on their lawn. It’s not cute, it’s demented.