October 30, 2010

Rabid Rewind: Kingdom of the Spiders

Kingdom of the Spiders
starring William Shatner, Tiffany Bolling, Woody Strode, & Marcy Lafferty
directed by John "Bud" Cardos
screenplay by Richard Robinson & Alan Caillou
Dimension Pictures (1977)

Sometimes it's hard to believe there was a time when William Shatner wasn't a bloated parody of himself. Once upon a time, he used to be a trim parody of himself.

Somewhere between Star Trek and T.J. Hooker, Shatner starred in this one about a smooth-talkin' veterinarian in a small Arizona town overrun by tarantulas. The spiders steal the show early on, or rather the camera work used to depict them steals the show. A hapless cow is in a field grazing when it becomes startled, and its flinching is probably some of the best acting in this film. Then, through the act of moving multiple cameras along the ground towards the cow, we get the sense that the cow's surrounded. The cow even takes the time to look at each camera as it approaches--loving it.

After Hansen (Shatner) sends blood samples from the dead cow to a lab, Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling) a sultry entomologist drives into town to investigate. While she's trying to get a handle on the spiders, Hansen's trying to get his hands on her. If you ever saw Captain Kirk wooing green women, you get the picture. His brash come-ons and doubts about her concentrated spider venom theory somehow win her over, though. Maybe it's just one of those 70s style tropes that a feminist just needs a really good lay to loosen up a bit.

No time for sex though, since the spiders are spreading through town fast. Too bad too, because the tension between he, the scientist, and his widowed sister-in-law who has the hots for him could've used more screen time. I mean, how dumb is it of a guy to introduce the gal he's trying to screw to the gal who wants to screw him? No matter, the sister-in-law is spider bait anyway.

Like I said, the spiders steal the show. And a large reason for that is how they kill people in the most dramatically absurd ways the film dares. I mean, in one scene a cropduster pilot dies while spraying DDT over the fields, because spiders have stowed away in the cockpit of the plane. That's right. Mother@#$%ing spiders on a mother@#$$%ing plane! And the shrill screams from the pilot put Jamie Lee Curtis to shame.

Townsfolk lose their minds too once the spiders hit the town limits. Pandemonium is a word. And people are being snared in cobwebs before any of them can enjoy the county fair, which was never canceled because of the unscrupulous mayor. Another trope of the 70s: mayors who refuse to listen to reasonable warnings about wildlife because of some tourist trap.

The movie is fun to watch for plenty of reasons, though great acting and realism are not among them. Find popcorn, grow some seventies-era sideburns--you too ladies--and kick back for ninety minutes of Shatner-tastic creature feature fun.

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