Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)
By: Mr Intolerance on October 9, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
GoodTimes (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 2.0 Mono. 95 minutes
The Movie
Director: John 'Bud' Cardos
Starring: William Shatner, Tiffany Bolling, Woody Strode, Lieux Dressler, David McLean, Natasha Ryan, Altovise Davis
Screenplay: Richard Robinson, Alan Caillou
Country: USA
External Links
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So, the scene is set in Arizona during the credit sequence, with an appallingly bad country and western song and lots of images of foothills and mesas. A farmer, Colby, and his wife opine optimisim, and one of their cows almost immediately gets chomped by an unseen killer (although the title might give us a clue as to what's to blame…). Cut to William Shatner as "Rack" Hansen, veterinarian, roping a steer in an appropriately masculine manner, aided by his sister-in-law (Shatner's real-life wife at the time, ).

Rack gets called to Colby's farm, but it's too late, the prize calf is dead. Rack is mystified as to the reason why, and sends blood samples off to be analysed. Diane Ashley, entomologist, is sent out by the University to see what's what. She's "slick as a gnat's ass", according to Rack, but I basically saw her as a snooty cunt. Taste is a personal thing.

And so are phobias. Can I just point out at this stage of the review that I'm arachnophobic? I run a mile if I see a spider, and if I see some enormous hairy tarantula bastard, I'll run five. If there was something that the rational part of my mind knew was perfectly harmless, like a Huntsman, in my house, I'd move to a different suburb. I don't mention this to point out what a wuss I am, just to let you know that fear, and by extension horror, can be derived from the most banal of things. Spider Fun Fact #1: If you stroke tarantulas, they will go bald. That is absofuckinglutely true – I shit you not.

Colby has of course neglected to tell anyone about the "spider hill" on his ranch (the fucking name alone sent a shiver down my spine), until his dog Jake dies in the same way as the calf did. It's not that tall, and not that long, but the spider hill is crawling with eight-legged bastards, big fuck-off hairy ones with legs like my fucking finger, and Ashley suggests that there might be thousands of spiders in there. Just imagine that: thousands of spiders. I'm currently backed into a corner typing this.

Even as I type this, I can hear you groan, but I'll say it anyway, the romantic interplay between Rack (what kind of fucking nickname is that?) and Diane is horribly shoehorned into the film and bogs down the pacing. That said, Shatner always plays a likeable rogue (homeboy's on my Twilight Zone screen-saver for fuck's sake, from "Nightmare at Twenty Thousand Feet") , and while I'm no Star Trek fan past the original series (like Fry in Futurama - who I'm rather sadly like - I've always believed that out of the original 76 episodes, there were about maybe 30 good ones), and certainly no TJ Hooker fan, I generally like Shatner – he always plays a role like he's tipping a wink to the camera, and he always gives 110% - he plays every role like it's Hamlet, and god bless him for it. A true exploitation star.

We get a long scene of expository egg-head dialogue like in 1950s giant monster film (which this movie does tend to ape, in a kind of loving homage way – and it does it successfully), and then we're down to the action. Colby has decided to burn the fuck out of spider-town, which, as it is potentially lethal to his well-being as a farmer, seems a fair and reasonable thing to do, and both Rack and Diane are in full agreement (at least we don't get that usual 50s style scientific "Let them live so we can learn from them" bullshit). Kill the mothers now is the order of the day.

However, the burning appears to be having not quite the desired effect, and with the county fair coming up, you just know things are going to be bad. And when we get the information that the sheriff has found twenty or thirty more spider hills, things really can't get much worse. But then the Mayor wants to use insecticide (which Spider Fun Fact #2 will tell you – they get used to it, like poison becomes no different to them than a strain of illness) so that the County Fair can go ahead – I was put in mind of Jaws.

And when Rack's niece is being terrorised by a lot of fucking spiders, you'd better believe I was horrified, positively squirming. I mean the idea of having to touch a spider… So the main cast hole themselves up, and the final act begins – will the good guys win? Will they lose? Find out, dudes, it's worth it (Spider Fun Fact #3 over 5000 spiders were used for the filiming of this movie).

When we get to the final breakdown, all bets are off. Its' like Night of the Living Dead out there. Only, if it's actually possible, scarier. Spiders scare me more than zombies or serial killers. This isn't necessarily a better film, it's just a scarier one, for me.

And so the final siege begins, and it's one that has you nailed to the edge of your fucking seat. The tarantulas seem to have some kind of knowledge as to our domiciles, and when we see them pour out of exhaust vents, for example, we leap a fucking mile.

And when we see the town itself get invaded, civilisation itself is in peril. And we fucking leap in disgust and horror. Nobody want tarantulas crawling over them, no one. That's why this film is effective, and succeeds in that wonderful B-movie fashion. And this film's ending? You won't see it, coming. And it's excellent.

As a Nature-Goes-Wild/Nature taking revenge eco-horror, Kingdom of the Spiders is pretty memorable. These films were all the rage at the end of the 70s, and this one has more class than say Frogs, The Deadly Swarm or It Happened At Lakewood Manor. I imagine this film will be spared the indignity of a remake, but if that should ever happen, I guarantee that the spiders won't be real ones. Tarantulas have to be kept warm – changing temperatures kill them – and they have to be kept individually, as they're cannibalistic (I knew spiders were evil). Also, they're quite shy of humans, and as you can see, this is not making for an easy shoot. Further, you can quite clearly see spiders being crushed underfoot, or under the wheels of cars in some shots – animal rights groups would not be best pleased at such antics. Even in Arachnophobia (a brainless high-budget re-dux of Kingdom of the Spiders), substitute spiders were used, particularly in "death scenes". Spider Fun Fact #4: apparently one of the main problems on set for the human actors having allergic reaction, not to the spider venom (which is no more toxic to a human than a bee-sting, unless you're allergic to it), but the tarantulas fur, which is an irritant, and get a load of this, used to be an active ingredient in itching powder!

August Underground: Mordum? Get fucked. Kingdom of the Spiders has you beat. This genuinely had me backwards on the sofa screaming, "Argh!" I am this movie's bitch.
Terrible – it's like watching TV. The full-frame 4:3 presentation doesn't help either as the films intended aspect ratio is closer to 1.85:1
A lack-lustre mono presentation does nothing to enhance the atnosphere of this decent, tense movie.
Extra Features
Fuhgeddabouddit! Absolutely fuck all.
The Verdict
If Kingdom of the Spiders doesn't have you clawing at the furniture and leaping around like a mad thing, there is something deeply WRONG with you. This film is the king of B-grade. William Shatner is my new hero.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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