3/13/09

You Don't Know Shat: Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)


[Ding…ding…Ding…Ding]
Shatner, four weeks in review. This is the month of You Don’t Know Shat whose four week mission is to take a look at the long and storied career of William Shatner. To review obscure titles from the master of the over reaction. To seek out hidden gems and classic film from the master of the toupee. To boldly celebrate one of my favorite actors. 


Kingdom of the Spiders (1977) starring William Shatner, Tiffany Bolling, Woody Strode, and David McLean. Directed by John ‘Bud’ Cardos. 

Everything was fine in peaceful Verde Valley that is until a cow dies under mysterious circumstances. A farmer calls in Veterinarian Rack Hanson (Shatner) and he is at first baffled by the results of his tests. The state sends in pretty Entomology specialist Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling) to help investigate, and soon they discover the region is being invaded by hordes and hordes of tarantulas. Naturally, Hanson is more interested in tracking down a date with Diane than the origin of the mysterious spiders. Rack and Diane finally make nice, and they discover that the spiders are becoming more aggressive because pesticides are killing off their food supply, each other. Now the spiders are turning to bigger prey for food. It’s not long before the spiders turn on humans, and it’s up to Rack and Diane to save Verde Valley from becoming The Kingdom of the Spiders.

The Bugg Picture

Prey for the Wildcats aired in 1974, and from there William Shatner made appearances in TV series such as Kojak, Kung Fu, and Police Woman. He also made a few other films in that time including the 1974 classic Big Bad Mama with Angie Dickenson, Impulse, and The Devil’s Rain. Then The Shat hammered out the schlock fest known as Kingdom of the Spiders. John ‘Bud’ Spenser helmed this film for Dimension pictures, the same outfit who brought you Return to Boggy Creek. So, you know we’re dealing with class here. Spenser himself was a sometimes actor/stuntman/producer, and to tell the truth it seems like he would do just about anything on a movie. He even has a credit as the bird handler for Hitchcock’s Psycho. He directed a small handful of films including a 1989 adaptation of the John Norman fantasy book, Outlaw of Gor. With Kingdom of Spiders, Spenser directs blandly. While I have little to criticize of his style, it looked like the run of the mill late seventies production that it was. 

Shatner of course fills the role of Rack Hanson with as much bravado as will fit in one man. Not a normal man though, a man with a name like Rack. Being as he’s the local veterinarian, the whole town is looking to him for help, and between wooing his gal pal expert, he does finally get around to some heroics. While Shat is brave as ever, his performance is more understated than folks might be used to. The use of the traditional ….Shatner… pauses…. seem to have been toned down, and I get the feeling he was actually trying to do something different. William is a large presence to compete with on the big screen and unfortunately, Tiffany Bolling is not up to the task. Her entomologist seems to be present mostly as a romantic interest to Shatner, and does little other than look pretty, which admittedly she is very good at. 

Woody Strode, veteran character actor of such diverse fare as Castellari’s Keoma, Spartacus, and Lust in the Dust, is able to keep up with Shat. When Woody’s character, the first farmer beset by the army of spiders, meets an early demise, it does take away from the film. Also notable is the performance of David McLean as the town sheriff . McLean will be recognizable to fans of the AIP picture Deathsport, but one of his early roles was as part of the original cast of  Days of Our Lives playing Craig Merritt #1, (That’s a bit of trivia I want to send out to my Mama Bug who brought me up with DoOL). There is also one other bit of trivia I wanted to drop in here. There were several songs written and performed in the film by songwriter Dorsey Burnette with the best of them being the bouncy country rock number “Greenside of the Mountain”. Burnette had been in the songwriting biz for many years, and he penned the song   ”Waiting In School” which is heard as Vincent Vega and Mia arrive at Jack Rabbit Slims in Pulp Fiction.  On that sound track, the song is performed by Guy Shorelle, but “Waiting in School” was popularized by Ricky Nelson. 

When you get down to brass tacks, the premise of the film is ludicrous, but what animal attack movie isn’t somewhat hard to believe. At least tarantulas are a more threatening creature than say rabbits or Frogs. However, I speak from experience when I say that  spiders tend to be easily outrun. I’ve outrun quite a few in my time. It seems that tarantulas are the slow zombie of the animal kingdom. There are tons of them, they are not fast, but just when you think you’ve got away, there’s one on your shoulder. In the end of the film, the “survivors” even lock themselves in a home to get away from the arachnids, and shades of Night of the Living Dead are not too hard to spot. While Kingdom of the Spiders will never rank up there with most of the animal attack films, fans of that sub-genre or of The Shat will find it an enjoyable distraction. 

Bug Rating


6 comments:

  1. The Godzilla banner is my favorite yet! Yeah, Kingdom of the Spiders is not the best of all films, but it's worth seeing once if your a Shatner fan.

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  2. Not a great movie really, but it's a fun movie to watch. This is one of my favorite of the animal attack movies. Plus it's got Shatner.

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  3. Interesting about David McLean being in DOOL. I could't remember him so I Googled. Seems he was on DOOL in 1966-67 which was even before my time....if you can imagine that.

    As far as The Shat....although I didn't much care for him in his Trek days...NOW I think he's THE SHAT!

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  4. "Rack Hanson." Now that's a porn name if I ever heard one.

    I remember seeing this on TV in the early '80s and being very disappointed that the spiders weren't giant spiders. You know, the kind you can't outrun because its roughly the size of a Buick. (Tips hat to Annie Hall.)

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  5. the sneering (homo-phobic) snobMarch 15, 2009 at 2:08 PM

    i`ve never seen this one because i`m arachnaphobic as well as homo-phobic.

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  6. I'm glad this got a lot of great comments, but snob that may well be your funniest one yet! Kudos!

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