Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)


(director/writer: John “Bud” Cardos; screenwriters: Alan Caillou/Richard Robinson/based on the story by Jeffrey M. Sneller and Stephen Lodge; cinematographer: John Morrill; editor:Steven Zaillian/Igo Kantor; music: ; cast: William Shatner (Dr. Robert ‘Rack’ Hansen), Tiffany Bolling (Diane Ashley), Woody Strode (Walter Colby), Lieux Dressler (Emma Washburn), David McLean (Sheriff Gene Smith), Natasha Ryan (Linda Hansen), Altovise Davis (Birch Colby), Joe Ross (Vern Johnson), Adele Malis (Betty Johnson),Marcy Lafferty (Terry Hansen), Roy Engel (Mayor Connors), Whitey Hughes (The Baron), Hoke Howell (Earl Forbes); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Igo Kantor/Jeffrey M. Sneller; Goodtimes Entertainment; 1977)

It sneaks up on you like a hungry tarantula with a wicked appetite for people.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

John “Bud” Cardos (“Mutant”/”The Day Time Ended”)directs this entertaining kitsch killer-insect horror film that has become a cult classic despite its banal dialogue, wooden acting, lame script and cheesy special effects (but to its credit real spiders and no CGI). It sneaks up on you like a hungry tarantula with a wicked appetite for people. The ‘revenge of nature’ horror pic was based on the story by Jeffrey M. Sneller and Stephen Lodge. It’s Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, but with spiders.

It’s set in peaceful countrified Verde, Arizona, a place where even the black folks listen to country music on the radio.When small rancherWalter Colby’s (Woody Strode) prize calf gets mysteriously ill, he brings the animal to local veterinarian Dr. Robert ‘Rack’ Hansen (William Shatner). The Doc is puzzled at what killed the calf, and sends tissues to a lab in Falstaff. They send pretty entomologist Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling) to check things out, who drives from Tempe’s Arizona State to Verde in a Mercedes convertible. Rack hooks up the earnest hottie in a remote lodge run by his friend Emma Washburn (Lieux Dressler). Diane informs the bewildered vet the calf was killed by powerful spider venom, and upon further investigation they discover a number of spider hills containing thousands of arachnids. Diane then tell us, because of an overdose of DDT the spiders’natural food supply has been destroyed and so theyhave now turned into an organized migrating army feeding off pets, farm animals and the citizens of Arizona.

The busy vet has to console the babbling idiot mayor (Roy Engel) not to worry about the upcoming fair, Walter to not worry about a quarantine, and his late brother’s wife (Marcy Lafferty) and cutie daughter (Natasha Ryan) not to worry about all the creepy spiders suddenly appearing on their property. Doc, a macho man of the West, takes his focus off the insects to make some moves on his attractive visiting colleague, who is only too eager to put Doc under the microscope.

Tension builds to the climax, that has thousands of tarantulas on the warpath as they overrun the town and trap a number of people in Washburn’s lodge and eat up the telephone lines so that communication for outside help is not possible. There are a number of deaths, and the attack lasts all night. In the morning, there’s an eerie happy ending similar to the one in The Birds, as maybe writers Alan Caillou and Richard Robinson ran out of ideas or believed if it was good enough for Hitchcock then it’s certainly a good enough ending for this squishy B-film.