‘A living, crawling, hell on earth!’
Kingdom of the Spiders is a 1977 American science fiction horror film directed by John “Bud” Cardos (The Dark) and produced by Igo Kantor, Jeffrey M. Sneller and James Bond Johnson. The screenplay was by Richard Robinson and Alan Caillou, from an original story by Jeffrey M. Sneller and Stephen Lodge. It stars William Shatner, Tiffany Bolling and Woody Strode.
The $1 million movie took $17 million at the US box office, making it one of the biggest independent horror hits of the 1970s.
Dr. Robert “Rack” Hansen, a veterinarian in rural Verde Valley, Arizona, receives an urgent call from a local farmer, Walter Colby. Colby is upset because his prize calf has become sick for no apparent reason, and the animal is brought in to Hansen’s laboratory. Hansen cannot explain what made the animal so ill so quickly, but takes samples of the now deceased calf’s blood to a university lab in Flagstaff.
A few days later, Diane Ashley, an arachnologist, arrives looking for Hansen. Ashley tells Hansen that the calf was killed by a massive dose of spider venom, which Hansen greets with scepticism and disbelief, until he sees the giant mound atop the spiders’ nest on Colby’s farm…
” …the spiders are all real, so there’s nothing really ridiculous about the attack scenes, unlike something like Squirm or even The Birds, where bad effects/fake antagonists tend to ruin everything. Shatner really does have the goddamn things crawling all over him.” Horror Movie a Day
“With some very scenic Arizona terrain as the backdrop, the film not only boasts some terrific and clever camera work but also a number of stunts and well-orchestrated chilling situations with the live tarantulas, making the majority of what’s on screen convincing when it could have been a pure campfest… ” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In
” …all the characters who got the most screen time and remain alive are herded into a house by the spiders and attempt to keep the flurry of furry 8 legged Theraphosidae from getting inside at them. It’s a non stop onslaught as the spiders manage to enter every nook and cranny found within the large cabin. It makes for a taut, expertly handled conclusion and the somber denouement is surely one of the great shock endings of all time.” Cool Ass Cinema
- Interview With William Shatner
- Jim Brockett: Spider Wrangler Featurette
- Audio Commentary By Director John Bud Cardos, Producer Igo Kantor, Spider Wrangler Jim Brockett And Cinematographer John Morrill; Moderated By Hostel Producer Scott Spiegel and Lee Christian
- Rare Behind-The-Scenes Footage
- Interview With Writer Stephen Lodge
- Poster Gallery
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Widescreen Transfer
“The effect of 5,000 spiders swarming over everything (and everybody) is chilling and will have you watching where you step for days afterwards.” John Stanley, Creature Features
” … a film weighed down by stiff emoting, clunky dialogue, and some unintentionally humorous moments, but nevertheless, remains a gritty, B-grade, up-all-night, elemental thrill. Produced on a budget one-16th that of Spielberg’s shark opera, the film drew a dazzlingly profitable $17 million at the box office.” Terrence Butcher, Pop Matters
“There are no two ways about it, Kingdom of the Spiders is a great low-budget horror film, probably the best of the 1970s ‘animal’ pack (after Willard), and it bristles with delight, suspense, humor, and in the end, flat-out shock.” John Kenneth Muir, Horror Films of the 1970s
“It’s got a beautiful Southwest setting, an appealing hero and heroine, believable and sympathetic supporting characters, a simple but not simplistic plot, a touch of humor, and a steady balance between quiet scenes and action scenes that gradually tilts towards action. It’s also got a nice score accented by slinky piano notes as the tarantulas creep into view.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
“Director John “Bud” Cardos betrays no particular feel for this kind of picture and there are no real moments of inventiveness or inspiration. A big problem is that the tarantulas, as ugly as they may seem to some viewers, don’t really exude much menace – they are just big, fat, slow and dumb, hardly anything to work up a sweat over. It is up to the actors to try to dredge up as much excitement and sense of peril as they can.” William Schoell, Creature Features: Nature Turned Nasty in the Movies
Doctor Rack Hansen: “Hey, the only person who is uptight about you being a woman is you, you know.”
Diane Ashley: ” …through the excessive use of insecticides, like DDT, we are inadvertently killing off the spiders’ natural source of food.”
Birch Colby: “Are you crazy, lady? This is our home! And no damned spiders are gonna run us out!”
Cast and characters:
- William Shatner – Doctor Rack Hansen (Incubus; The Devil’s Rain; Visiting Hours; et al)
- Tiffany Bolling – Diane Ashley (Open House; The Centerfold Girls)
- Woody Strode – Walter Colby (Scream aka The Outing)
- Altovise Davis – Birch Colby
- Lieux Dressler – Emma Washburn (Grave of the Vampire)
- Natasha Ryan – Linda Hansen
- Marcy Lafferty – Terry Hansen
- David McLean – Gene Smith
- Joe Ross – Vern Johnson
- Adele Malis-Morey – Betty Johnson
- Roy Engel – Mayor Connors
Up Till Now by William Shatner, 2009
Kantor told Fangoria magazine in 1998 that the film used 5,000 large, hairy spiders, though a number of rubber model spiders were also used during production. The live tarantulas were procured by offering Mexican spider wranglers US$10 for each live tarantula they could find; this meant that $50,000 of the film’s $500,000 budget went towards the purchase of spiders.
The large amount of tarantulas kept on-hand led to some unusual production difficulties. Not only did each spider have to be kept warm, but because of the creatures’ cannibalistic tendencies, all 5,000 spiders had to be kept in separate containers. Additionally, tarantulas are usually shy around people, so fans and air tubes often had to be used to get the spiders to move toward their “victims”. Indeed, in a number of the scenes where the tarantulas are “attacking” people, it is obvious to the viewer that the spiders are merely moving around, usually away from their intended victims.
Contrary to popular belief, the venom of most tarantulas is not dangerous to humans, causing no more harm than a bee sting (unless the person is allergic to the venom). The worst injury most of the actors suffered was troublesome itching caused by the spiders shedding their bristles.
Due to the film’s low budget, most of the music used in the film (particularly the “startle cues”) was taken from the logs of stock music used on suspense TV series. For example, most of the music used in the film during the scenes with the spiders can also be heard in notable episodes of The Twilight Zone, including ‘To Serve Man’ and ‘The Invaders’.
The country music songs heard on the radio in the movie, as well as over the opening and closing credits, were performed by country singer Dorsey Burnette.