By Matt Brunson
Like those Biblical epics of yore, 1977's Kingdom of the Spiders is a motion picture that can boast of literally presenting a cast of thousands. In this case, though, that number applies to the hordes of spiders seen crawling all over the place — 5,000 seems to be the accepted figure, although a crew member in one of the extra features states that the number was anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000! At any rate, arachnophobes are advised to steer clear of any TV set showing this effective horror yarn, which managed to produce a handsome return on its half-million-dollar budget during a period when most moviegoers were busy re-watching Star Wars for the umpteenth time.
William Shatner, still a couple of years away from the Star Trek movie franchise that would resurrect his career, plays "Rack" Hansen, a small-town veterinarian who teams up with a big-city entomologist (Tiffany Bolling) to figure out what's killing animals in his Arizona community. It turns out that the area's spiders, affected by the pesticides that have been destroying their natural food supplies, have set their sights on larger prey — and before long, humans are finding themselves being attacked, bitten and cocooned.
John "Bud" Cardos, a veteran jack-of-all-trades (actor, stuntman, production manager, you name it) who worked under Hitchcock and Peckinpah but spent most of his career involved with low-budget fantasy fare, efficiently directs this entertaining picture that was clearly inspired by Jaws (right down to the blustery mayor who worries that the intrusive presence of Mother Nature will ruin the town's upcoming holiday weekend), and the script by Richard Robinson and Alan Caillou is capped by a great ending.
DVD extras include audio commentary by Cardos, producer Igo Kantor, cinematographer John Morrill and spider wrangler Jim Brockett; a 16-minute interview with Shatner; a fascinating 12-minute conversation with Brockett (during which he hauls out several types of spiders); 17 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage; and a poster gallery.
For more DVD recommendations, check out the View from the Couch column in this week's print edition of Creative Loafing.