Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

Every wonder what would happen if William Shatner had to take on millions of tarantulas? Well, here’s how you can find out. Shatner plays veterinarian Dr. “Rack” Hansen, who investigates the death of one of Woody Strode’s cattle. In comes arachnologist Dr. Diane Ashley, a top mind in her field, to investigate why so much spider venom is found in the blood samples Rack sent off. Sure enough, they discover massive spider mounds on Strode’s land, and soon the spiders are coordinating as an army to take down dogs, cats, goats, bulls, and even man.

I don’t like spiders. They freaky me out. Anything with eight legs, multiple eyes, and fangs can go die in a fire. I don’t like how spiders eat things, by melting their insides and leaving them to die in their cocoons, and that is exactly what they do to people in this movie. By halfway, you’re starting to see the bodies, and it just gets nastier from there as they eventually cocoon the entire rural town to feed upon everyone who was inside, which was unfortunately quite a lot due to the county fair going on. The mayor refused to shut down the town for the spiders. That’s right, folks, Kingdom of the Spiders is the arachnid version of Jaws.

There are some surprisingly nasty moments in this movie, and I don’t just mean the numerous shots of dead bodies in webs or people covered in spiders, of which there were many. Apparently they were friends and family of the crew. God help them. Anyway, one moment in particular has a woman blow several of her fingers off with a revolver as she tries to go full Dirty Harry on a spider that has managed to get on her hand. While rewatching the scene revealed it was an obvious prosthetic, the sudden shot of her fingers disintegrating in a haze of gunfire was certainly startling. The production also used some rubber spiders…as well as 5000 live tarantulas. Thankfully they never got fed up and unionized. Otherwise Kingdom of the Spiders could be a parable about the teamsters in Hollywood. Ho, union jokes!

Kingdom of the Spiders is another of the 1970s eco-horror movies, with the big concern focusing on the mass use of pesticides to kill off spiders’ prey, forcing them to suddenly evolve into a hive species. While it’s ridiculous in its basic premise, it’s still not a bad film, and I admit that I actually liked Shatner’s often hammy performance. The way he screams in one scene when a spider falls on him makes me think he wasn’t always acting…

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