After day of gardening, I've determined my backyard is KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS!
KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977, directed by John Cardos) is an itch-inducing 1970s cult classic that is available on DVD via our friends over at Shout! Factory. The Special Edition DVD includes an new interview with star William Shatner; an in-depth commentary; rare behind-the-scenes footage; awesome and skin-crawlingly informative featurette Jim Brockett: Spider Wrangler and other cool stuff.
Now on to my review. In the tradition of THE BIRDS and JAWS, this film is a prime example of the popular "nature goes crazy" subgenre from the late 1970s. Other fine examples include favorites like GRIZZLY, PIRANHA and CRUISING.
Shatner, the consummate actor stars here as Robert "Rack" Hansen, a tight-jean and cowboy hat-wearing male chauvinist pig (and veterinarian) in some sleepy desert town in Arizona.
The mayhem starts when "Rack" gets a call from old man Colby (former football player Woody Strode) to tend to his sick calf.
After rushing the poor mouth-foaming calf to Hansen's lab, it mercifully dies. "Rack" is puzzled by this sudden and deadly illness, so he sends off some blood samples and calls it a day.
Enter Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling), a no-nonsense pantyhose wearing broad (and smarty-pants scientist) who quickly determines that spider venom is the culprit. And then she handles some some big hairy tarantulas...yikes! "Rack" our local sexist, egotistical, lying hypocritical bigot thinks Ashley is full of bull, but accompanies her anyway to Colby's farm to investigate. They are greeted by Colby's 'do-rag wearing wife Birch (ladies and gentleman introducing Altovise Davis, wife of Sammy) who informs the duo that their dog has died too! Ashley determines whatever bit the calf also bit the dog! "Rack" still thinks she's full of it.
Old man Colby then tells the mismatched couple that, oh yeah, he recently discovered a spider hill on his property - and we soon see it's not just your average run-of-the-mill spider hill - this thing is swarming with mother-fucking tarantulas! Ashley reveals that these spiders are attacking animals because pesticides have killed off all the bugs they usually feed on. "Rack" is starting to believe her and their attraction to each other is growing faster than a mob of tarantulas.
Back at the farm, a stampeding bull is covered with the giant spiders. Wait...if the livestock is now spider food - could humans be next? In a mad rage Colby and the gang set fire to the spider hill thinking that it will solve the problem - not knowing the entire community is soon to be infested with a horde of killer arachnids!!! The next day, after bidding his wife Birch goodbye (and leaving her with his gun), poor Colby drives his old pickup truck over a ledge when the eight-legged bastards begin to attack him. Sheriff Smith (David McLean) and "Rack" soon show up and find the old farmer's body in a cocoon of spider webs!
Back at the farm, the town's mayor orders that the property be sprayed with a stronger pesticide - because they have the big County Fair to worry about. Ashley can see that this douche is more concerned with making money from tourism than with dealing with what is clearly a very serious problem like the invasion of giant, hairy and deadly spiders.
Unfortunately the crop duster pilot is attacked by suicide-bomber tarantulas, and crashes his plane before he can spray the area, setting off a giant explosion that may have killed at least a few of the spiders. I think most of the budget must have been spent on this scene. What follows is my favorite scene in the whole movie. The newly-widowed Birch is alone in the farmhouse when the spiders attack–and of course she reaches for her late husband's weapon to fend them off.
So she points the gun at a spider that is crawling ON HER OWN HAND and SHOOTS!
Bye bye Altovise, see ya at the Sahara! Meanwhile Rack's flirty widowed sister-in-law (played by Marcy Lafferty, Shatner's wife) is alone on her ranch with her young daughter. Well, not alone–if you count the hundreds of spiders that attack her!
"Rack" is able to rescue his niece Linda from the spiders, sweeping her off to local Emma Washburn's lesbian lodge for safekeeping. The remaining residents of town have now barricaded themselves inside the lodge to protect themselves from the onslaught of the spiders - who are now friggin' everywhere! Chaos has broken out in the town and Sheriff Smith tries to escape, but is killed when the town's water tower collapses, smashing his car.
Things only get worse from here and I really don't want to spoil it for anyone. I have to say that despite being a vegan, I am not a fan of spiders. In fact, I have killed many a black widow on my property. (Picture me on my back porch with a shotgun yelling "get off my property you eight-legged freaks!"). Just thinking about them makes my skin crawl. But, the most fun part of watching this flick is to see actors and extras running around with REAL live spiders crawling all over them.
There's plenty of hammy acting, crazy scenes of Shatner treating women badly, an annoying little girl in peril and people covered in spider webs. I give this one a big 9 outta 10 and I think you will too.