Kingdom of the Spiders John "Bud" Cardos

Kingdom of the Spiders John 'Bud' Cardos
The hope with a late '70s movie about killer spiders featuring William Shatner as a cowboy and a Playboy bunny as a scientist is that it will be so bad it's funny. And with John "Bud" Cardos at the helm ― the man behind Outlaw of Gor, a film featured on arguably the best episode of MST3K ― the prospect seems likely. Unfortunately, Kingdom of Spiders is actually decent for its time, bringing nothing new to the table on the narrative front but serving as a functional, and occasionally tense, environmental horror thriller. Rather than citing nuclear testing as the culprit, this genre film points its finger at pesticide use and interference with the food chain as the source of spider migration and mutation. When farm animals start dying off, Dr. Rack Hanson (William Shatner) seeks the guidance of an entomologist, who, unbeknownst to him, is a woman named Diane (Tiffany Bolling). While the pair ultimately figure out the cause of the mysterious deaths, it proves too little too late, as the community becomes infested with the arachnids, leaving them to barricade themselves in the motel. Aside from the intimate and expansive use of real tarantulas on actors throughout the movie, the most interesting thing going on is the socio-cultural subtext. Sure, the black farmers are the first killed off, but the smarmy horn ball cowboy, traditionally the saviour of a town in plight, takes a back seat to the female out-of-towner, riding into town in a fancy car, rather than a horse. Even though Shatner's character is presented as the hero, his successes are limited and deemed inconsequential by film's end. This demonstrates a changing landscape of gender politics and traditionalist, Leaves of Grass, values, which is probably more intriguing retrospectively. Included with the DVD is a recent interview with William Shatner where he discusses being covered head-to-toe in tarantulas, along with a chatty commentary track with far too many people. Also included is a spider wrangler featurette and some behind-the-scenes footage. (Shout! Factory)