Directed By: John "Bud" Cardos
Starring: William Shatner, Tiffany Bolling, Woody Strode
Tag line: "A living crawling horror on earth"
Trivia: $50,000 of the movie's budget went towards spiders. The producers offered to pay $10 each for live tarantulas, and handlers collected 5,000 of them
There’s no point in warning anyone who’s already afraid of spiders to avoid this little gem. Odds are they aren’t gonna watch a movie with the word “spider” in the title, anyway. Instead, I address the following to those out there who think spiders are kinda icky, or sorta creepy: 1977’s Kingdom of the Spiders could potentially turn you into a full-fledged arachnophobe.
“Rack” Hanson (William Shatner), a veterinarian working in the small Arizona town of Verde Valley, is called in to investigate the mysterious deaths of several animals, which seem to be dropping off for no apparent reason. Frustrated, he turns to entomologist Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling) for help, who determines the animals are dying as a result of bites from highly venomous tarantulas, which, in their search for food, have recently settled in the area. As the town prepares for the county fair, Hanson and Ashley are hard at work trying to figure out a way to rid the community of these dangerous spiders, a task that becomes all the more vital when the creatures start attacking the citizens of Verde County!
It’s not so much that the title insects in Kingdom of the Spiders are everywhere as it is they’re on everybody. Their first victim is Bertha, a prize cow belonging to farmer Walter Colby (Woody Strode), but it isn’t long before the spiders get a taste for human blood. After Colby himself is harassed, the spiders take on a few more people, crawling all over local crop-duster Vern Johnson (Joe Ross) while he’s flying his plane, and cornering Colby’s wife, Birch (Altovise Davis), who, while trying to kill one of the creepy-crawlies, accidentally blows her own fingers off with a handgun. In its final half-hour, Kingdom of the Spiders more than lives up to its name, its eight-legged stars spinning webs in just about every corner of the valley.
Even the spiders were victims of violence, with cars rolling over them in the streets and panic-stricken townsfolk stomping them to bits. But unlike their human counterparts, a few of the spiders weren’t able to dust themselves off and call it a day when the cameras stopped; in true ‘70s exploitation form, we see a number of these suckers get killed right on-screen. Take it from me: some spiders were definitely harmed during the making of this movie!
With several shocking scenes, plenty of carnage and William Shatner to boot, Kingdom of the Spiders has it all, and, along with Jaws and Grizzly, was one of the best “Man vs. Nature” films to emerge from the ‘70s.