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Kingdom of the Spiders


Title: Kingdom of the Spiders
Year Of Release: 1977
Running Time: 95 minutes
DVD Released By: Shout! Factory
Directed By: John 'Bud' Cardos
Writing Credits: Alan Caillou, Stephen Lodge, Richard Robinson, Jeffrey M. Sneller

Starring: William Shatner, Tiffany Bolling, Woody Strode
Taglines:
1. A new species of horror is born.
2. You could be the next Victim!
3. There's no escaping their web of terror...
4. A living, crawling hell on Earth!
5. A living crawling horror on earth.
6. A Wild Science Fiction Nightmare.
Alternate Titles:
None found

Review Date: 3.1.10

Shadow's Title: "Arizona Arachnid Attack!"

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DVD
Kingdom of the Spiders (Special Edition)

Characters
Dr. Robert "Rack" Hansen - Part cowboy, part scientist, he’s all man. Rack is the local veterinarian in the Arizona community of Camp Verde. One minute he’s roping steers and the next he’s putting the moves on any broad he sees. Let’s just pray that he keeps doing such things in that order.
Diane Ashley - An entomologist from the university in Tempe, she’s the spider expert that comes to investigate things after testing strange blood samples sent in by Rack. At first she is a total ice princess, ignoring all his attempts at scoring a date. Eventually she gives in to his charms.
Walter Colby - He owns a ranch on the outskirts of the town of Camp Verde. He was prepping his prized calf for competition in the upcoming county fair, but the poor animal mysteriously takes ill and dies. Walt is worried that his cows have a disease and that Rack will quarantine his property.
Birch Colby - She really takes to heart the Tammy Wynette song “Stand By Your Man.” She supports Walt through all the troubles brought on by the spiders. Too bad he never taught her how to shoot a gun properly. Better yet, how to run would have benefited her even more.
Sheriff Gene Smith - The head of the local law. I hesitate to call him good at his job. Sure, he was concerned about the spiders and wanted to do whatever was needed to get rid of them, but any law man that drinks while on duty is not necessarily one I want watching over my community.
Mayor Connors - Your standard jerkwad who turns a blind eye to the real problem before him. In movies such as these, civic leaders are always utter morons, more concerned with money than the safety of the people. What am I saying? Civic leaders are like that in real life, too.
Terry Hansen - Terry was married to Rack’s younger brother John, who was killed on his second day in Vietnam. Since his brother’s death, Rack has looked after Terry and her daughter. It’s clear that she feels more for him and wouldn’t mind if he took his brother’s place in her home...and bed.
Linda Hansen - This is Terry’s daughter. Rack dotes on her and makes sure to spend time with her every week. I don’t know how comfortable this child actress was with the spiders, but if I had been tossed amongst such critters at such a young age, I’d still be therapy now, 30 years later.
The Baron - This moron’s real name is never given. No doubt his nickname is due to his job as local crop duster – a reference to WWI flying ace Manfred von Richthofen, who was called The Red Baron. Considering this dork's reaction to spiders, he should have been called The Screaming Mimi.
Earl Forbes - Earl runs a service station in town that looks to be housed in a building constructed before the American civil war. Earl likes to see just how much chewing tobacco he can stuff into his mouth at once. It was a toss up to see what would kill him first, the spiders or mouth cancer.
Mildred Cobb - She’s the operator at the Camp Verde telephone company. This means that she relays messages to people all across town. I’m betting she is also the town’s biggest gossip, and is like Lily Tomlin’s Ernestine the telephone operator on the old Laugh-In show from the 60’s. You don't know what I'm talking about? Google it.
Emma Washburn - She runs the Washburn Lodge where as a shrewd businesswoman, she raises her rates around the time of the county fair. She and Sheriff Gene Smith once had a relationship years back, but he seems more interested in drinking these days that spending the night with her.
Vern Johnson - This dingleberry is from Colorado and is staying at Emma’s lodge while on vacation with his wife. Apparently he invented a chemical toilet, which is how he can afford his fancy $40k motor home, a fact he uses to try and impress Diane and which fails spectacularly.
Betty Johnson - This poor woman is on vacation with her idiot husband, who tries to buy drinks for other woman with her just a few feet away. Then again, this woman never showed much sign of having much intelligence and spends most of her screen time cowering and crying.

 

The Plot Hold your cursor over an image for a pop-up caption

Now opening diplomatic relations with The Empire of The Ants.The credits for this movie unfold over some absolutely beautiful shots of the Arizona landscape. They remind me of the vacations my family took in the area when I was very young. Unfortunately, the credits are also accompanied by a country song that is almost guaranteed to hit your hypothalamus like a meat tenderizer, sending your body into a series of spastic muscle contractions before causing you to pass out. If you manage to survive, we open up on the Colby farm where one of their young cows is stalked and attacked by something in the grass. Several somethings, in fact, as we see multiple points of view closing in on the doomed bovine. So either a bunch of spiders got it, or a bag full of tiny army men come to life have just assaulted it.

Elsewhere, on a different farm, Dr. Robert 'Rack' Hansen has chased down a steer (on horseback, good god don’t think for a minute he did it on his own) and injected it with something. Terry Hansen (she is not his wife BTW) watches and says the job he does is “adequate.” He playfully chases her around and lassos her with his rope. Everything is all fun and games until she accidentally calls him John. He gets pissed and walks away, but not before saying that he is not his brother. He softens some, and tells her that she needs to get used to the fact that John is not around anymore. My guess? He’s dead. Or in prison. Or worse, he’s shacked up with the town floozy in the next county.

Whatever the case, Rack’s beeper sounds and a female voice says that he has an emergency call from Walter Colby. Now, this film comes from a time long before everybody on the planet had a cell phone. In those days people had to rely on beepers if they were away from their landlines and in the vast majority of cases, only doctors and other such professionals employed the technology. While I am not one hundred percent positive on the features of these archaic devices, I’m pretty sure that most didn’t feature voice mail. The again, who knows.

Rack rides his horse back to his place where Walter Colby shows up in a pickup truck. In the back is a sick calf (the one attacked earlier by the grass) that he wants Rack to look over. Rack is not sure what is ailing the calf, so he takes it inside to examine it closer. The poor calf is too far gone and dies. Still unsure of what killed it, he plans on taking some blood samples to a lab at the Department of Animal Pathology in Flagstaff.

That night at the Colby place, Walter’s wife Birch is trying to reassure him on the death of the calf. Walter is afraid that there might be some disease or ailment loose amongst his cattle that will force Rack to quarantine his farm. Outside, their dog is obviously uneasy about something lurking in the dark.

Day comes and we turn our attention to Earl Forbes’ service station, where Earl is trying to fleece some old guy named Clyde out of twenty-two bucks for a tire. Clyde refuses to pay and is ready to leave when Earl agrees to find him something used for five bucks. Take a good look at the car Clyde is driving. The trunk lid has been removed so a large chicken cage can be strapped into the opening. If that wasn’t bad enough, there is a cow in the back seat! This man is in desperate need of a truck.

Rack stops buy to fuel his truck up and both he and Earl watch a small crop dusting plane fly by overhead, flown by someone nicknamed The Baron. Then Earl walks off to find an old tire for Clyde. While searching through a bunch in a shack, he comes across a tarantula, which promptly bites his hand. He responds by throwing it to the ground and spitting at it. Since he seems to be mauling about a full pound of chewing tobacco in his mouth, one can imagine just how nasty his spit is.

"Sure I can change your oil. By the way, I like my women how I like my oil: light, sweet and crude."A shiny BMW comes cruising into the town of Camp Verde, letting us see the big banner announcing the Verde Valley Fair and Rodeo. Raise your hand now if you can already imagine the disaster that is going to turn out to be. Ok, hands down. The vehicle pulls up at the service station and the woman inside mistakes Rack for the local grease monkey, asking him to fill it up and to not get any grease on the paint when he check under the hood. Miss Snooty asks about local lodging and then walks off to use the lady’s room. Rack gets in his own truck and leaves, passing along Miss Snooty’s requests to Earl.

Next we see Miss Snooty making her way up the twisting road that leads to Washburn’s Lodge. There she meets owner/proprietor Emma Washburn. Miss Snooty introduces herself as Diane Ashley and rents a cabin for eleven bucks a night. She asks Emma if she knows how she can contact a Doctor Robert Hansen so the other woman tells her how to get to the Doc’s place. Little does she realize she has already met Rack and was so condescending toward him, the man might have mistaken her for Ann Coulter.

At Rack’s place, he and Sheriff Gene Smith are enjoying some beers (the Sheriff had better be off duty!) when Mayor Connors comes rolling up. The Mayor is upset that Rack may want to quarantine the Colby place. With the County Fair not far off, that would apparently be a very bad thing, given the “hell of a lot of money” as the Mayor puts it, that is at stake. I can already hear the Mayor’s whining now. “We can’t close the beaches!” Well, substitute county fair for beaches and you’ll get my meaning. Indeed, the Mayor wants Rack to keep quiet any problems he may find at the Colby place.

Rack hands him a beer and the Mayor readily accepts. Sheesh! Both Mayor and Sheriff knocking back beers in the middle of the day. Never mind the damn county fair, how about getting some responsible leadership in this town? These guys are more than willing to get drunk and brush potential problems under the proverbial rug.

"If you will take a look at the script a little more closely, you'll see that this scene does NOT require your hand on my ass!"Diane Ashley comes rolling up in her fancy car about now. She greets the Sheriff and the Mayor and then looks at Rack, recognizing him from the gas station. She says that she is from the department of entomology at the Arizona state university in Tempe. He offers her a beer, but she declines. She is all business and hands him the results of the tests run on the blood samples he turned in, saying that he has a “very serious problem” on his hands. I’ll say! A stone cold, snooty bitch!

The Mayor asks if “very serious” means quarantine. When she says no, he gets all happy and heads off to attend to county fair details. Now he’s drinking and driving…and the Sheriff lets him go! Man, this town has got some crappy leaders. The Sheriff asks what Colby’s calf died from and Diane tells him it was from a massive dose of venom. Rack thinks the idea of a snake bringing the calf down is silly, so imagine his face when she tells him that it was spider venom that killed it. Both he and the Sheriff snicker at the idea.

Diane wants to examine the calf’s body as well as poke around the Colby place. Rack suggests doing so in the morning and then asks if she would like to have dinner. Like a real ice queen, she haughtily says that she probably will have dinner and then adds that she will see him in the morning. Harsh!

Heading back to the lodge, Diane chats with Emma in the bar where we learn that Emma and the Sheriff were once “pretty close.” Also dining in the lodge are Vern and Betty Johnson, who have arrived from Colorado in their motor home. There is a painful moment when Vern tries to impress Diane with the cost of his motor home and then banters about his “chemical toilet” invention. Then he tries to buy her a drink, within listening distance of his wife! What a cretin. Diane refuses and heads to her cabin for the night.

After pinning her hair up, she readies herself for a shower, unaware of the tarantula creeping around her cabin and which crawls into a desk drawer while she is showering. She exits the shower (for a nanosecond one can spy nipple) and sits down at the desk to brush her hair. She opens the drawer and finds the spider sitting there, nonchalantly killing time.

Now, one would expect most women to adhere to a specific procedure at this point. It goes something like this: scream loud as hell, jump up out of the chair with all the force of a grenade, scream loud as hell, back up across the room at about eighty miles per hour, scream loud as hell, look about frantically for something to use as a melee weapon, scream loud as hell and finally scream loud as hell again while considering options for escape. I think quite a few people would react that way, whether they be male or female. My own personal reaction would be somewhat different and would follow along these lines: blurt out something that is mostly nonsensical (Blar! Gah! Yuarg! and Mama! all work) and then keel over dead from instant heart failure. There might be some pitiful crying and desperate bargaining with god between those steps, but hey…that’s just how I roll.

Going against all expectations, Diane just calmly says, “Well, hello there,” before picking up the spider and letting it crawl over her hand. She takes the tarantula outside and lets it go, imploring it to go burrow itself a home someplace. Europe would be a good place, if ya ask me.

In the morning, Walter Colby is calling over and over for “Old Jake,” his dog. Alas, there is no sign of the canine. What there is a sign of, is visitors. Rack arrives in his truck along with Diane. As they are greeting Walter, Birch comes running up and says that she found Old Jake and that he is dead. Everyone rushes to look and sure enough, the poor dog is laid out on his side in the final repose. Rack and Diane examine the dog, taking a blood sample. Looking close at the vial of blood, Diane says the dog died from the same thing that killed the calf.

Walter is afraid that this means his entire stock must be destroyed, but Diane assures him that his animals are not sick with any plague. Rather, his calf and dog died from spider venom. Rack doesn’t believe a spider bite could so easily kill a calf and a dog, but Diane proposes the idea of hundreds of bites that have an accumulative effect. “That explains the spider hill,” Walter says.

"When they sent me out here to take photos of The Spiderman, I thought I was gonna meet Peter Parker."Walter takes them to a spot on his property where the earth has been turned up and piled into a small mound about three feet high and dozen feet in diameter. Spiders crawl all over it and Diane snaps photos like mad, muttering how much she does not believe what she is seeing. She plucks a spider from the ground and says that it is about six hundred miles from where it should be. She wants Walter to leave the mound as it is until she can run some tests, but Rack says that Walter won’t let it stay for long.

Taking a spider for later examination, Diane says that she wants to see where the calf was initially attacked. Rack asks Walter to drive Diane back to the lodge when they are done, as he is a half hour late for an appointment with “his girl.” Before he leaves, he asks Diane again about having dinner together that night. She mentions something about both of their busy schedules and then walks off. Super harsh! Shot down in flames again!

Racks goes to visit his brother’s widow, Terry and her daughter Linda. She talks about how he takes care of them, but is not with her in a couple sense. She likens it to buying the cow and then giving away the milk. He says that if she is not careful, he might just “start milking that cow.” She smiles and says, “Just make sure your hands are warm.” I get the impression that she would like to be more to him than just his dead brother’s wife.

As he’s leaving their place, he sees Diane hauling ass down the road, so he decides to follow her…no doubt still hoping for a dinner date. He gets her to pull over onto the side of the road. Each gets out of their respective vehicles and then they chat there in the middle of nowhere. He asks where she was heading. When she says, “dinner,” he grins, picks her up and deposits her in her own car’s passenger seat. Then he climbs in beside her and drives away, leaving his truck on the roadside.

They head to some restaurant that seems to be located in someone’s living room. They talk some more. She wonders if he’d accept her findings more if she was a man. He says he checked up on her and knows she is at the top of her field. She asks how he got the name Rack. He explains that it was from his kid brother, who routinely hustled him out of all his money at the pool table. “Rack ‘em” his brother would say, and the name stuck. He further expounds on the subject and tells her that his brother was killed in Vietnam and “his girl” that he mentioned earlier is in fact his niece, who he looks after along with her mother.

Turning the conversation back to work, he wonders why spiders would suddenly become so aggressive. She says that it may be food related. Through the excessive use of DDT, they may be inadvertently killing off the spiders’ normal source of food, so in order to survive, they are changing their eating habits and becoming much more aggressive. I can totally relate! If someone monkeyed around with Mother Nature and destroyed my supply of steaks and lobster tails, I’d be pissed, too!

Night comes and the pair is in her cabin at the lodge. I’m hoping Rack retrieved his truck from the roadside. Diane is looking over the film she shot earlier in the day of the spider hill at the Colby place. Rack comes up behind her and nuzzles her hair. This earns him a inquisitive look from her, as if she is asking, “Dude, what the hell?” he just shrugs as if replying, “what do you expect, I’m a guy and you’re a girl.”

Diane is amazed at what the film shows. She explains to Rack that since all mygalomorphs (look it up, I had to) are cannibalistic, they will kill each other off given enough time and won’t colonize like ants or bees do. The photos she took show that the tarantulas are not fighting. “Maybe they found love,” he says. Ignoring his juvenile attempts at charm, she produces the spider she took from the mound and takes a venom sample, in the process telling him about all the missing pets over the last few months. To make a long painful story short, the two end up kissing. They decide the best course of action is to burn the spider hill at the Colby place that very night, before the critters can do any more damage.

"Well, there went having prime rib for dinner."They head over to the Colby place (in his truck, so I guess he did go back and get it) where Walter and his wife are ready to burn the spider hill down no matter what. Rack assures them that he is there for the same reason. The four then stop and notice how quiet things are. Too quiet as someone might say. About now a big bull comes bursting through its stall, forcing everyone to dive for cover. The big animal promptly drops to the ground where we see that it is covered in spiders. Odd, since in every shot of it busting out and running around, there wasn’t a single arachnid on it. A quick examination of the bull shows it to be dead.

Diane pulls a spider or two off the dead animal, but they don’t seem to want to attack her. She wonders about this, implying to Rack that it might not be very long before spiders that choose to attack a giant bull will begin attacking humans. The four of them continue out to the spider hill where Walter pours gas all over it and then lights it on fire. They watch it burn, unaware that some spiders are escaping through tunnels in the soil.

Day comes and Rack takes Diane to meet Terry and Linda. The young girl asks Diane if she is “Rack’s new girl.” When Terry goes inside to retrieve a bag of food for a picnic lunch, we see her cry. Yup, the poor woman has evidently developed feelings for Rack and seeing another woman with him has cracked that fragile heart. Rack and Diane then take Linda for a horseback ride up into the hills, something he does every Wednesday apparently.

Meanwhile, Walter Colby is driving into town, his arm in a sling. His wife, Birch, stays behind. He’s cruising down the road, radio blasting, completely unaware of the spiders crawling around in the cab with him. Then he goes to lower the visor and a spider hiding behind it jumps into his face. He grabs at it and screams.

Back up in the hills, Rack and Diane are reclining on a blanket and are having one of those goofy movie conversations that filmmakers think lead two characters into falling for one another. Ugh. Linda is a short ways away, playing with her doll and a small plastic shovel and bucket. Maybe she is planning on burying her dolly? If so, that is one scary kid. The horses seem to be the only ones aware of the nearby intruder: a camera being pushed through the weeds toward Linda. Oh, wait…that’s not a camera, that’s supposed to be a spider’s eye view as it approaches. Okay, if you wanna get technical, a spider’s eyes view. The horses continue to get more and more agitated as the spider gets closer. From the Spider-Cam shot, the thing is practically levitating in midair in front of the small girl (she even looks at the camera at one point). Rack calls to her and she turns to leave, the spider never seen.

Later as Rack and Diane drive back to town, they come across the scene of an accident. The Sheriff is there and explains that a truck has gone over the side of a cliff. Rack offers to help and the two men realize that the vehicle belongs to Walter Colby. They climb down to it and find Walter dead…and all webbed up.

Okay, before we go any further we might as well address the issue. Yes, the film gets it completely wrong. While the spiders that are featured in this movie are obviously tarantulas, and while they can produce silk — arboreal species will typically reside in a silken "tube tent", terrestrial species will line their burrows with silk to stabilize the burrow wall and facilitate climbing up and down – they DO NOT utilize webs to capture or store prey. So you might as well bury that knowledge away for the remainder of the film. Anyway, the Sheriff has the unenviable task of heading to the Colby place and informing Birch that Walter is dead. At first she thinks he is there to quarantine them. As she wails away over her dead husband, a spider watches from a distance.

"One Ringy-Dingy...two Ringy-Dingy...""There's some goofy woman on the phone who says that she's your mother."At Rack’s place a call comes in from the lab for Diane. The results of the venom she extracted from that one spider have come in and the tests show that it is five times deadlier than normal. No sooner has that bit of bad news come through than the phone rings again. This time it’s the Sheriff, who says that he is at the Colby place and has found another twenty or thirty spider hills like the one they burned the night before. Oh, snap!

Jumping over to the Colby place, we see Rack, Diane, the Sheriff and the Mayor walking around all the spider hills. The Mayor wants to get The Baron (the local crop duster who was flying that plane earlier) out to spray the place down. Diane says that such a move would be a mistake, as DDT will only make things worse. He gives her an abbreviated form of the “We can’t close the beaches” speech by bringing up the impending county fair and says that they cannot have spiders roaming across the countryside. She tells him that what they are seeing is some sort of migration caused by an imbalance in the food supply. She goes on to say that there are millions of spiders out there and the town of Camp Verde is right in their path.

Naturally the Mayor is about as receptive to her ideas as a hippie would be to a bath. He immediately makes plans to spray the entire area with the strongest pesticide they can get, despite needing state approval for the use of parathion. When Rack mentions the people it might harm, the Mayor then plans on moving any nearby families into town until the job is done. Great! Make sure everyone in the county is all clumped together in one spot for the spiders when they come marching into town. Don’t you just love how our leaders completely ignore the experts when facing a natural disaster of any kind? This only happens in the movies, right? Right?

The next thing we see, Rack is overseeing this Baron guy as he preps his plane. The Baron vows that when he is done, there won’t be a spider left between there and the “wide Missouri” river. Rack leaves him to his job and drives away. The Baron takes out a marker and draws a spider on the side of his plane near symbols for other pests – scorpions, snails and assorted bugs. I guess this is his way of keeping track of the various species he has obliterated with his flying DDT sprayer.

Soon enough he is in the air and is gleefully spraying the local fields. Like poor Walter Colby before him, The Baron is at first unaware of all the spiders that share the cockpit with him. This soon changes and his earlier bravado vanishes in an instant as he starts screaming like a little girl. As he swats at the spiders and screams like a bitch, people on the ground begin to notice his erratic flying. He begins flying over the town, the poison still being dropped from his tanks. Unable to control his flight, he crashes into Earl Forbes’ service station. KABOOM.

The shot of the explosion is actually kind of neat. We see the plane coming in and as it passes behind the building and out of frame, there is an explosion. This makes it appear as if the plane has collided with the building itself. Of course, careful frame by frame examination shows the plane to be too far away to actually impact the building, but the glimpse of the plane is so fast, one can overlook it as well as the fact that the explosion actually erupts before the plane “crashes” into the building.

Needless to say, The Baron is dead. I wonder…do the spiders have a scorecard somewhere with a crudely drawn representation of the Baron on it?

At the Sheriff’s office Diane has called for an investigative team to come look things over. Where are they coming from? The state? The university at which she works? Orkin? Rack points out that the poison sprayed by the Baron didn’t harm the spiders and maybe they should head out to the Colby place to look over all the spider hills. The Sheriff has a deputy call Birch Colby on the phone.

Take that Verne Troyer!Alas, Birch Colby is not answering the phone because she is too busy shooting up the place. No, she is not holding an impromptu NRA rally, but is fending off the dozens of spiders that have invaded her home. She shoots at them with a pistol, backing away. When one of the spiders manages to crawl onto her hand, she raises her arm, aims her gun and fires, blowing the spider to hell...and shooting off half of her hand in the process. Oddly enough we hear her fire a total of six shots, yet right after the first shot, there are already two holes in the floor from shooting at spiders. She then fires five more times. A seven shooter?

While the Sheriff goes to check on Birch Colby, Rack decides to get Terry and Linda so he can bring them into town. Out at their place, Linda is in the yard on a swing while Terry is inside preparing her daughter’s lunch. She looks out and sees the ground under Linda’s feet swarming with tarantulas. She screams and rushes outside to help, wielding the broom of death. She brushes spiders out of the way and grabs her daughter. Then she hauls ass back to the house, spiders on her legs, but collapses before she can get inside. Pushing her daughter onward, she tells her to keep moving.

Rack and Diane arrive at this point and see Terry laying still in the yard, spiders crawling all over her like it’s some strange episode of Fear Factor. A cry from inside alerts Rack, who runs inside to find Linda standing atop a table, spiders surrounding her. He grabs the girl and runs outside, handing her off to Diane. Then he checks on Terry, but it’s clear from the massive bite marks on her face and neck that the woman is dead. He cradles her for an instant and then runs to the truck, which is now filled with spiders! WTF? He and Diane have only been out of the vehicle for less than a minute, but already there are a dozen spiders in there. Is this some sort of arachnid car jacking? He quickly brushes them away – getting bit in the process - and then they hop in and roar away.

They head to the Washburn Lodge where Rack paces up and down in the bar and blames himself for being too late to help Terry. It’s clear he’s traumatized by her fate. Emma Washburn tries to make a call, but the lines are dead. She can tell by the way Rack and Diane are behaving that something is very wrong. Rack wants her to get the handful of guests she has staying at the lodge, as well as lodge handyman Fred and bring them all into the bar before locking it up. She refuses to do anything until he tells her what is transpiring, so Diane explains to her about the spiders forming themselves into an aggressive army on the march.

Emma runs off to find Fred while the Johnsons come in, blabbering about how spiders seem to have appeared out of nowhere. Rack and Diane look outside and sure enough there are dozens of the little bastards congregating outside the lodge like it was a Night of the Living Dead re-enactment. A scream pierces the air, so Rack runs off to investigate while Diane heads back inside. He dances around as he runs, trying not to step on spiders and finds Emma, who in turn has located her handyman Fred. Poor Fred is all webbed up like Walter Colby. Rack and Emma then head inside.

The Sheriff rolls up about now, his car squishing the occasional spider. From this shot, as well as many subsequent ones in the film, it’s clear that numerous real tarantulas were killed in the making of this film when cars and people drive over them or step on them in their haste to get away. While I have no great love for spiders, and absolutely detest groups like PETA and ALF, I still find this to be more than a little sad. Blameless tarantulas should not have to relinquish their lives just to make a movie. Apparently, all precautions were taken to minimize the loss of arachnids on the set.

Entering the lodge, the Sheriff reports on the state he found Birch Colby: all webbed up like she was in a cocoon. The Sheriff tries to use the phone to call for help, but is not having any success. You wanna know why? It’s because down at the phone company, the operator is slumped over her desk, webbed up worse than a third-rate Spider-Man villain. After a quick note from Diane that chemical fire extinguishers will kill off the tarantulas, the Sheriff runs back outside, hops in his car and heads for town.

Later, Emma is in the kitchen cooking a big pot of stew, oblivious to the fact that spiders are dropping down into the room through a ceiling vent. Eventually she does see the spiders and calls for help. Then she takes her big pot of stew and throws it at the spiders! Did she think they were hungry? What about everybody else…what the hell are they supposed to eat now? Rack shows up and sprays the spiders with a extinguisher. Then he takes some towels and stuffs them in the vent to block it off.

I've heard of bed bugs, but great googly moogly, that is ridiculous.A scream form Linda upstairs brings Rack and Mr. Johnson running. The poor girl is standing on her bed, surrounded by spiders. They get her safely away and head back downstairs where Rack says that they all need to leave. However, Diane says that there are thousands of spiders outside and they will never make it. Rack opens the door for a split second and then closes it. Even that short time span allowed about two dozen spiders to get inside, where they are promptly stomped flat and sprayed. It looks like no one will be going anywhere. Taking a cue from jolly Saint Nick, the spiders now start dropping down the fireplace. A fire is quickly made to repel the little buggers.

Turning our attention to the town of Camp Verde, we see that the Sheriff is arriving just as the spiders are overrunning the place. People are running in every damn direction, screaming up a storm. They’re bumping into each other, knocking one another over and trampling anyone who has the bad luck to fall down. So it’s pretty much like your average Black Friday sale. Only with spiders. The tarantulas are everywhere: on the ground, on walls, on cars and on the people as they run around all pell mell. There are numerous folks already dead from spider bites and stretched out on the ground in various final poses, all webbed up for later munching. There are also plenty of fake spiders strewn about the ground in these scenes. They are easily recognized as they are about twice the size of the real tarantulas and look all rubbery. Oh, yeah, and they’re the ones not moving.

Trying to navigate through the sea of screaming and panicked people, the Sheriff is having a tough go of it. The crowd has swarmed his car and begun pounding on it, as if he is going to open the door and let all 256 of them inside. We see the Mayor standing in the middle of the street, desperately trying to get the spiders off. Wish you’d listened to the experts now, you ass? A wayward car driven by Clyde ( I guess that used tire Earl foisted off on him is working after all) is careening around the street. Inside he is being attacked by spiders and cannot control the vehicle, which runs down the Mayor, taking out his stunt double. The vehicle then crashes into a water tower, which then falls over and crushes the Sheriff’s car. The poor bastard ought to be nothing more than a thick paste after seeing how flat his car is, but a close up shows that his body was ejected intact from the vehicle. Of course, he’s still quite dead.

Next, we’ve returned to the Washburn Lodge, where the small group of people has kept the fire going in the fireplace. The place is getting rather warm, despite the air conditioner cranked as high as it will go. Rack looks at the AC vent in the ceiling. Hmmmm. My guess is that it is being blocked by something. You and I know exactly what is blocking it, but Rack is gonna have to find out the hard way. He stands on a chair and opens the vent. A dozen or so spiders drop down and land on Mrs. Johnson, who falls to the ground screaming, “get them off of me!” over and over. Rack takes a board and nails it over the vent.

Diane is even getting freaked out now, wondering why they have not heard from the Sheriff. Rack thinks it may take a while, especially if he had to go to Flagstaff for help. Things take a turn for the worse when the glass windows start to crack. The spiders are breaking in! Everyone rushes to fetch hammer, nails and wood in order to board up the place. While they are doing that, the power goes out! I can almost hear the conversation now:

Rack: “They cut the power!”

Mrs. Johnson: “They cut the power? How can they cut the power, man? They’re animals!”

 

Note - It is at this point that the movie enters its final segment, so if any of you really feel the need to watch this film and not know the ending ahead of time, skip the rest of this section.

 

"At least Indiana Jones had a leather jacket!"Intentional or not, spiders have managed to climb all over and inside the fuse box in the basement, blowing fuses and frying themselves in the process. Rack sends everyone into the kitchen and then descends the stairs. There he finds that even the rats are being attacked bythe spiders. He quickly locates the fuse box and gets the power back on. Great! Well, not really. In short order a light bulb covered in spiders explodes and the window above his head crashes open. Before you can say overact, he’s covered with spiders and stumbling around the basement as if he just shuffled out of an old episode of Star Trek. Ya gotta love the dramatic music in this scene, too. It’s just so over the top.

Eventually, he manages to crawl upstairs and stagger into the kitchen where everyone is still boarding the place up. He collapses from all the spider bites. Diane rushes to get something to neutralize the venom. Fade out.

Morning arrives and like it’s done for billions of years, the sun rises in the East. Emma is crying up a storm, sure the Sheriff won’t be coming for them because he is dead. Mr. Johnson and Diane are trying to get a signal on the radio, but can’t pick up anything. Rack awakes and wants to look outside, but Diane is afraid that even opening the door for a second will let hundreds of spiders inside. Emma suggests looking through a window since if the glass had shattered, they would have heard it.

"Good news, Verde County! Things will be turning white almost over night."A signal finally comes in on the radio, but the DJ makes no mention of the spiders and seems more intent on playing his crappy music. Probably a pre-recorded show. Rack removes some of the boards over the window and looks outside. Everyone gathers and looks, and a slow pull back shows that the entire lodge and surrounding property is covered in spider silk. We then cut to town where we see that conditions there are the same. The entire valley has been webbed up.

Looks like help won’t be coming at all.

 

Roll credits. The End.

Review

Spiders seem to show up a lot in horror films and why not? They are creepy little things that evoke an almost primal reaction in people. Whether it be normal sized specimens like in this film, or gigantic monstrosities stomping down the street in all of their eight-legged glory, spiders seem to have a place reserved for them in the annals of horror, be it written or visual. In the 1970’s, when theaters and TV screens were flooded with films about animals - especially insects - rampaging against humanity, it was only natural to see spiders join in on the action alongside ants, bees, worms, rats and other critters.

Kingdom of the Spiders is a 70’s film that almost feels like one from an earlier era: the 1950’s. While the creatures in this film are normal sized tarantulas and not radiation enlarged monsters, the movie is constructed like one of those old black and white monster on the rampage films. Things start with a mystery of some kind for the characters to solve. Here that would be the death of Walter Colby’s prized calf. Even once the cause of the animal’s demise is known, few people believe it. The next step is further investigation, which turns up the magnitude of the threat facing our characters. After a brief shot at trying to warn the disbelievers, our main threat launches its rampage and the cast has to either fight back, run like hell or barricade themselves and try to survive. The latter approach is what our protagonists undertake in this movie. Everything unfolds at an excellent pace as the tension is gradually increased.

Despite quite a few characters used in the film, only two really need any mentioning. The first is Robert “Rack” Hansen, the movie’s hero. William Shatner turns in one of his more subdued performances here – though there is a moment or two of Shatnerian goodness – and imbues Rack with a subtle sense of vulnerability. Despite his bravado, persistence with the ladies and willingness to step unflinchingly into danger, the man still seems to be wrestling with some personal demons on an internal level. This makes him more fallible and in turn, more realistic. While he is not broadcasting his struggles for all to see, we still get the impression from time to time that there is something in his life that caused him a great deal of pain (the death of his brother perhaps).

At first, Diane Ashley is almost his polar opposite. While Rack comes off as playful, flirtatious and almost juvenile at times, she is clearly the no nonsense type. All business, she exhibits all the emotional resonance of a block of wood and the icy demeanor of a spoiled socialite who is told her farts do indeed smell. After a while, she begins to loosen up and falls comfortably into the “scientific expert” role, explaining to everyone just how screwed they are and what they can try to do to better their situation. At some point, she even begins to fall for Rack’s charms, though I suspect that is a contrivance of the script rather than any natural progression on the part of her character.

Everyone else in the movie pretty much fills in the requisite roles mandated by such a storyline: the down to earth, struggling farmer and his wife, the single mother and her daughter, the easy going Sheriff, the closed minded Mayor more concerned about financial matters than the safety of his town and an assortment of rural folks (damn near pushing redneck territory in spots) who help provide a realistic social background for the story.

The FX in this film are rather minimal, but still very effective. For the most part, real spiders are used in all the scenes, which lends authenticity to the proceedings. Few things are sillier than watching an actor grapple with a rubber tarantula, but time and again it’s obvious that the cast is covered in living, moving spiders. A testament to not only the filmmakers for making things real, but also to the actors for having the guts to work with the tarantulas. There are some prop spiders here and there, especially in scenes where hundreds of spiders are seen at once, but the sheer amount of real ones make these easy to overlook.

A creepy, if somewhat inaccurate aspect, are the spider victims we see encased in webs. Of course, seeing crowds of panicked people running around these webbed up victims makes one wonder just how fast these spiders managed to wrap up these folks for later snacking. There are also a couple of expertly timed stunts in the film involving crashing vehicles. The plane crash is especially notable for its deceptive camera work that makes it appear quite real. Director Cardos keeps things lively throughout the film by keeping the camera moving in many scenes and through the use of low angles to highlight the action of the spiders.

Kingdom of the Spiders is a fun film, for sure. It doesn’t try to be anything more than it is: a movie about an army of spiders on the loose. While most of the music was lifted from other sources, it still helps create both a sense of comfort in some scenes as well as terror in others. The story unfolds in the grand manner of a 50’s monster flicks, with good characters and plenty of chills. People who suffer from arachnophobia may want to steer clear of this one, as it is filled with people covered with very real spiders. B-movie fans will want to see it as well as more mainstream viewers. Despite the many classic B-Movie trappings, it’s still a decent flick in its own right.

 

Expect To See:
Animals Gone Berzerk - Deprived of their natural food source thanks to interference from mankind, an army of pissed off tarantulas decides to start moving up the food chain.
Annoying Kids - Rack’s niece Linda is not anywhere near as annoying as other kids in horror flicks, and even shows some guts in dealing with the spiders, but she is still a kid…
Bugs - The term Bugs is inclusive of arachnids for our purposes and this film has plenty of them. Lots and LOTS of spiders. I think even Peter Parker would be freaked out.
Cowboys - With a setting in the American South West, it’s hard to avoid a cowboy. Rack fits the bill, riding around on horses on more than one occasion, complete with cowboy hat.
Desert Hijinks - Since this is Arizona and very few sets were built for this film, there are plenty of scenes with people in dry, arid locations. I’m getting thirsty just thinking about it.
Romance - Rack decides to inflict upon Diane his idea of charm. For some inexplicable reason, she eventually responds to this, despite being quite cold at first.
Skin - Not much of this, though there is a scene where Diane strips for a shower and then later parades around in nothing but a towel. Don’t expect much.
Violence - Aside from all the deaths from spider bites, we have multiple vehicle crashes, people getting smashed, webbed up and run over by careening cars.

 

Movie Stats:
Shadow's Commentary:

Deaths: 15 shown, hundreds implied
Alcoholic drinks consumed: 10
Smokes: 1
People shown all webbed up: 9
Spider Cam shots: 13
Cars crashes: 3
Plane crashes: 1
Real spiders squished: undetermined (plenty, though)
Instances of nepotism in casting: At least 4
Crappy country songs: 4
Shots fired from a six-shooter: 7

03 Mins – That is not a California happy cow.
27 Mins – Nanosecond nipple shot!
35 Mins – I hope he doesn’t get all his dates that way.
40 Mins – They’re kissing. I may vomit.
41 Mins – Beef surprise.
55 Mins – Insert variation of “we can’t close the beaches” speech.
61 Mins – The Baron meets his Morlancourt.
73 Mins – Death by stew.
77 Mins – Somebody call PETA!
87 Mins – On your mark! Get set! Over act!!
93 Mins – Nice web site! C’mon, you knew I had to say it sooner or later!


Shadow's Drinking Game: Every time there are more than ten tarantulas on screen at once, take a drink...and then be glad you're not anywhere near there.

 

Images Click for larger image

"Please vote for me so I can be
the newest Happy Cow
."

Landing a wild, loose woman is
just a matter of skill in some parts.


"Flat tire? How about you get a
real
truck instead?"

 
"Have a beer, Mayor and think about
that proposal I made to you
about opening a strip club. In fact,
here have another beer."


"Wait til Shatner finds this little
sucker in his hairpiece..."

"In some parts these are
considered a delicacy along with
the proper wine."



 
"Raar! I'm the Shat!"

 
"The visual proof is conclusive: no
one believes that's your
natural hair."

"I think Shia LaBeouf may be in town."

Flying a plane while covered in
tarantulas - those Fear Factor
challenges got more wacky
as time went on.

That's the Sheriff's car?! Sheesh,
that county needs to allocate
some funds for some new
wheels. You know...something
that won't be outrun by a bicycle.


That's the third cleaning woman
lost this week. Merry Maids
refuses to send any more.

Ah, yes...the highly dreaded and
feared rubber spider of Arizona.

Shelley Winters!

"Spiders or not, I'm starving so I'm
gonna order a pizza."

"Hey, Look! It's my agent and
he's saying something about that
Star Trek movie getting the
greenlight! Later, losers! I'm outta here!"

 

Immortal Dialog

Rack and his late brother's wife.

Terry: “You won’t be with your brother’s wife, but you take of her like you were. Isn’t that like buying the cow and giving the milk away?”
Rack: “If you don’t quit pestering me, one of these mornings I’m gonna show up and start milking that cow.”
Terry: “Well, just make sure your hands are warm.”

Shadow’s Comment: What if he's lactose intolerant?


Diane explains the situation to Emma.

Diane: “Now we don’t have a lot of time to explain, but the spiders in this area, so far only the tarantulas, have organized themselves into an aggressive army.”

Shadow’s Comment: Next thing you know, they'll be picketing the state capital and complaining about the harm done to the environment.


The Johnsons dicuss the sudden appearance of so many spiders.

Betty: “Oh, Verne, I wanna get out of here. I don’t like this place.”
Vern: “Now, honey, don’t worry. It’s probably one of those traditions…like those birds coming back to Capistrano.”

Shadow’s Comment: Except the sparrows of Capistrano aren't venemous...and aren't out to kill you. But aside from that, yeah, it's just like that.

 

Keep In Mind
  • Calling a man by his brother's name is never a good thing, no matter what the circumstances may be.
  • Mayors and Sheriffs are allowed to drink while on duty.
  • When a woman declines multiple dinner invitations, forcing her car off the road and physically abducting her to dinner is the next step.
  • Station wagons are standard model vehicles for some county Sheriff departments.
  • Shooting a tarantula with a pistol is only a good idea when it is not already crawling on your body.
  • Tarantulas can instantly teleport themselves from the ground to strategic locations on a person's body.



This Film & Me

I am not overly fond of spiders. Let me rephrase that. I fucking hate spiders. Well, it’s not so much that I hate them, but more the fact that they scare the hell out of me (and millions of other folks). I can handle all manner of bugs without any problems, but eight-legged arachnids are at the very top of my list of things that will cause instant heart failure if I find myself in close proximity to them. Other things on that list are sharks, amorphous blobs, zombies and Keith Olbermann, not necessarily in that order. Anyway, one would think that as someone who spontaneously levitates when encountering a spider of sufficient size (anything bigger than a dime qualifies), I would be the first person to avoid any film featuring said arachnids. The truth however, is that I love movies about spiders, normal sized or gigantic, as well as ones about sharks, blobs and zombies…though I have yet to find a film about Keith Olbermann.

All that being said, I was eight years old when this film came out and for whatever reasons at the time, I was unable to catch it in the theater. I remember friends at school talking about it, with those who saw it expounding upon the film’s virtues (hey, we were eight). Back in that bygone era, the TV networks actually aired movies as a regular part of their schedule, with a big deal made for films premiering on television. That is how I first saw this film. Not much about the movie left an impression on me aside from a few key images: townsfolk running from spiders and the final shot to name two. I saw the movie a time or two again during the 80’s, but after that I would not see the film again in full for a good twenty years.

Shadow's rating: Seven Tombstones



The Good

  • Beautiful Arizona scenery
  • Great 1950's monster movie vibe
  • Cast acts with REAL spiders, not CGI crap
  • Freaky as hell for those who dislike spiders

The Bad

  • In real life Tarantulas don't spin silk to capture/contain food
  • The spiders' ability to appear en masse out of nowhere
  • Crowds attacked and fleeing from army of spiders is a little silly at times
  • The ending...what's up with that?

The Ugly

  • Real tarantulas unforunately killed
  • Fake rubber spiders in some crowd scenes
  • Mayor and Sheriff drinking and driving while on duty

 

 

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