One night, while my grandma slept, she was bitten by a spider. Not just once, but three times on her nose! The spider – still unidentified by doctors – left three giant gouges and three pairs of teeth marks on the bridge of her nose.
The bites caused her eyes to turn black and blue, her nose to swell into a large red welt, and even a month and after the incident occurred, she still has the puncture marks made by the fangs on her nose.
My grandma lives in Arizona, which just happens to be the location where an army of spiders invade a small rural town in the cult William Shatner film Kingdom of the Spiders. Shatner plays Rack Hansen, a veterinarian who’s called in to investigate the mysterious illness, and eventual death, of a small calf.
Turns out that the calf was killed by a large dose of spider venom. Things only escalate from there as the spiders turn their wrath from animals to humans in what soon becomes as all out arachnid assault on the townspeople.
Is it campy? Of course! That’s the only reason to watch a film like Kingdom of the Spiders just like one would watch Eight-Legged Freaks. Those expecting high art or intellectual stimulation best look elsewhere.
It’s not meant to be anything more than an over-the-top creature feature pitting man against an eight-legged beast. Or is it?
Kingdom of the Spiders delivers a message about man destroying the very environment he now inhabits. The culprit in this 1977 film is DDT, a pesticide that kills mosquitoes and other pests. The argument made here is that DDT killed off the natural prey of the spiders and now the spiders on hungry and out for new prey: humans!
There are also some interesting gender and race issues prevalent in the film. I found it interesting that the only two black people in town were poor farmers, while all the white folks were either doctors, police, or the mayor (there are some redneck white folks around too but they play a smaller role in the film).
Then there’s Rack who orders women around, even women who are supposedly strong-willed and independent like the etymologist who comes to town. Rack has a way with the ladies, but his masculine prowess overshadows his charm at times.
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And lots and lots of spiders! If you hated Arachnophobia, Eight Legged Freaks, or just hate spiders in general, this movie will probably make your skin crawl. Spiders are everywhere, in everything, and crawl on almost everyone. 100% real spiders, no computer generated arachnids here, which make the film all the creepier.
Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000, or those who enjoy camp classics from the past will notice that some of the score sounds very similar to the music in the 1962 film, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. The movie was featured on MST3K and was the first film featuring Mike Nelson and not Joel Hodgson on the Satellite of Love (trivia rocks!).
The remastered special edition of Kingdom of the Spiders has a lot of special features, including a brand new interview with William Shatner. Other special features include:
Commentary with Director John “Bud” Cardos, Producer Igo Kantor, Spider Wrangler Jim Brockett, and Cinematographer John Morrill
Jim Brockett – Spider Wrangler
Rare Behind-the-Scenes Footage
Interview with Writer Steve Lodge
Original Theatrical Trailer
I do wish that they had a commentary track with William Shatner. That would have made this DVD even more of a treat.
Kingdom of the Spiders is not for everyone, but if you enjoy camp or cult classics, love William Shatner (my favorite role of his was as The Big Giant Head on 3rd Rock from the Sun), or just enjoy creature features, than this movie is a definite must see!
Look for it on DVD January 19, 2010!