Monday, January 18, 2010

Kingdom of Spiders (1977)


The films of the 1970s and 1980s are such a breath of fresh air in comparison to the new CGI entries that populate the movie landscape. This especially evident in films that involve insectual plagues running over society. Remember those flicks, they had ants attacking, killer bees attacking, and even spiders attacking. Of course, many of these films were created to “instruct” the populace on what to do when and if these monsters attacked. Fortunately, these fears were never realized and the movies fell by the wayside.

Today, January 19, William Shatner’s 1977 Kingdom of the Spiders will again gain popularity with a fresh special edition DVD release by Shout! Factory. As one of the more memorable films of this genre, the rebirth is justified. Shatner plays a small town veterinarian that discovers a giant problem when his town is overtaken by a giant swarm of pissed off eight-legged beasts. True, calling them beasts may be extreme, but the way they devour the local cattle, it may be justified. OK, back to this, the spiders turn their attention to town once the local cattle just do not satisfy their cravings.

I accidently stumbled across this movie a couple weeks ago on Encore and was amazed at how relevant the movie seemed today. Incredibly, it seems to have stood the test of time, providing just as many chills today as it did when I first saw the movie 20-some years ago (well closer to 30, but I am trying not to age myself). Shot before computer animation and CGI, the effects in this movie may not wow those that have grown-up in this modern age, but they are very realistic for the time. Well, they should be, they were real spiders, creeping and crawling. That thought alone still makes my skin crawl and shiver throughout the film.

More importantly, this movie has much more character development than many of the animal rampage films of the era and it definitely plays to a larger audience. With solid performances and a sound script, a strong combination of actors and with the use of real spiders, this movie has every element needed stand the test of time. It does just that and more, surviving when other films of the same origin fail miserably.

Shot on a low budget (roughly $500,000 with $50,000 going to spiders), the film occasionally feels campy and made for television. However, with a variety of grisly scenes and the random appearance of an exposed female breast, it definitely was more than television would allow (even in the less conservative 1970s). In all, Kingdom of Spiders is the total package and remains the best spider invasion flick ever made. That being said, I would not run out and pay full price ($19.99) for this special edition DVD, while the movie is great finding it at a bargain price would be greater (Amazon has this for as low as $1.99 used )!


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