So a few weeks ago, I reviewed Arachnophobia and commented on how that movie reminded me of today’s movie. After all, both movies featured a town that is overrun by highly venomous spiders, which is not a normal movie plotline. Now I probably watched this movie dozens of times as a kid, mainly because I always thought it was weird to see Captain Kirk dressed as a cowboy, but also because the ending always stuck with me. Even now, I will still watch this movie anytime it is on TV. So let me introduce you to today’s movie, Kingdom Of The Spiders.
The plot: Dr. Robert “Rack” Hansen, the local veterinarian for Verde Valley, Arizona, is out treating cattle for his sister-in-law when he receives an emergency call from a local farmer. Rack heads back to his office, where he sees the farmer, Walter Colby, has brought his prize calf to the vet’s office but the calf ends up dying while Rack is examining it. Rack lets Colby know that the calf died, then takes some blood samples to the lab in Flagstaff. A few days later, Diane Ashley, an entomologist, arrives in town to meet with Rack, who she initially thinks is a gas station attendant due to an incident when they first meet. Diane informs Rack that the calf died from spider venom, which Rack scoffs at, and wants to study the body and go out to look at the farm, which Rack agrees to take her to in the morning. The next day, Rack and Diane arrive at the Colby’s ranch, where the Colby’s have just discovered there dog has died. Rack and Diane examine it and when Diane says it died from spider venom, Colby mentions that he saw a “spider hill” in a nearby field and they all go to see it. Diane begins taking pictures of the “spider hill”, a large mound of dirt that has spiders crawling all around and inside it, and takes one of the spiders to test, noting that it is 600 miles from where it normally lives. After leaving the Colby’s ranch, Rack pays a visit to his niece Linda and sister-in-law Terry, who apologizes for a misunderstanding earlier, then as he leaves there, he sees Diane driving by and manages to stop her, and the two meet for lunch and end up back at Diane’s cabin, where they examine the pictures Daine took and decide to go burn the spider hill that night. When they get there, they see that Colby is already planning on burning it but as they head out there, Colby’s bull, covered in tarantulas burst free from it’s enclosure before it collapses to the ground and dies. Upset with the loss of the bull, Colby douses the hill in gasoline and lights it on fire, unaware that several spiders have managed to escape from the fire. The next day, Diane joins Rack as he takes Linda for a horseback ride. Meanwhile, Colby is driving into town to get his injured arm looked at, unaware that some spiders are in his truck, until he pulls down the visor and several spiders fall onto his face. As they are driving back, they come across the scene of an accident and when Rack goes to help, he recognizes the truck as Colby’s. When Rack and the Sheriff go down to the truck, they find Colby’s body cocooned in webs. Back at Rack’s clinic, Diane receives a call from the Flagstaff lab, where they tell her that the venom they tested is 5 times more powerful than normal, followed by a call from the sheriff, who says that there are 20 more hills out on the Colby ranch. After examining the hills with Rack, Diane, and the sheriff, the mayor decides to spray the hills with a powerful pesticide, against Diane’s advise. The local crop-duster loads up his plane and heads out towards the hills but as he is flying, he discovers that the cockpit is crawling with spiders and as they begin attacking him, he ends up losing control of his plane and crashing into the gas station. Meanwhile, the spiders attack Colby’s wife, Birch, who tries to defend herself by shooting the advancing spiders and even injures herself when she shoots on off of her hand. At the same time, Terry sees tarantulas all over the ground under Linda’s swing and rushes out to save her daughter, but as she starts to carry Linda back to the house, she is overcome by the spiders venom and collapses to the ground, telling Linda to get inside the house. Rack and Diane arrive, where they see Terry’s body covered with spiders then, hearing her screams, Rack heads inside the house and rescues Linda from some spiders and then they leave. Back at the lodge that Diane is staying at, Rack tells Emma, the owner, that they need to leave but as Emma goes to get her handyman, Fred, the Johnson’s, two more guests at the lodge, enter the main building and tell Rack that spiders have appeared all over the place. With the discovery of Fred’s body in a shed, they all stay in the main building as the sheriff pulls up, letting Rack know about Birch Colby and he tries to get through to town but when he finds the phones are down, he drives back into town. As Emma goes into the kitchen to fix some food, she sees spiders starting to drop down from a nearby vent and yells for help. Rack sends Vern to get some lumber so they can board up the vent, but when he hears Linda screaming, he runs up to her room and finds her being attacked by spiders and he manages to save her but when they try to leave, they realize that there are even more spiders outside. Back in town, the sheriff is trying to get out of town so he can get help but he is blocked by a crowd of people who are being attacked by the spiders and ends up being killed when another driver takes out the support beams of a water tower, sending it crashing down onto him. Back at the lodge, Rack and the others are trying to seal up every entrance the spiders might possibly get through when the power goes out. Rack sends everyone into the kitchen then heads down to the basement, where he finds the fuse box crawling with spiders, which caused the fuses to blow. Rack manages to replace the fuse, but as the power comes back on, the basement window breaks from the weight of all the spiders on it, covering rack in spiders. Rack manages to crawl back to the kitchen, where the others manage to get all the spiders off of him. The next day, they manage to get radio reception but when they don’t hear any mention of what is going on in town, Rack pulls off the board from one of the windows to find the building is completely cocooned in a web and as the camera pulls back, it reveals the entire town is cocooned, cutting them off from the rest of the world.
Kingdom Of The Spiders received mixed reviews from the critics, currently holding a 44% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critics did not seem to care for the movie much but they did praise Shatner’s ability to not completely overpower the rest of the cast in the movie. The director used 5000 live spiders, which he purchased from spider wranglers for $10 a piece, resulting in $50,000 of the $500,000 budget dedicated to the spiders alone. Due to William Shatner’s appearance, the film was a box office success with a $17 million box office.
Out of all the “nature attacks” themed B-movies of the seventies, this one is my favorite. Compared to Shatner, most of the other characters seemed somewhat stiff with the only character to show any real emotion being Colby. William Shatner himself was decent, but I am so used to the over the top performances and imitations that it is weird watching him not take….a….dramatic pause…..when speaking. The story itself was pretty good and definitely fit into the trend of movie back then, which were depicting normal animals as killers due to something that humanity did to damage the environment. There were not a lot of special effects but I did like the mixture of live and fake spiders that were used. With a relatively normal acting Shatner, this is definitely a so bad its good film that is fun to watch.
Rating: 3 out of 5