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DVD Shopping Bag: Kingdom of the Spiders Special Edition
Shatner in B Movie Gold
By Robert T. Trate
January 19, 2010
Shatner’s B movie classic gets the Special Edition it deserves.
© Shout Factory/Bob Trate
Is the age of the B movie truly over? More often than not if a B movie does surface in the main stream it is because of one of its stars makes a bigger picture. The best example of which right now might be Carriers (see trailer here) starring the new Captain Kirk, Chris Pine. It seems that B movies will fade into existence and never receive the special treatment that so many of them rightfully deserve. Years ago, late one night, I came across William Shatner riding a horse in a movie I had never seen before. The film was called Kingdom of the Spiders (1977) in which the original Captain Kirk plays a modern day cowboy. This was something I had to see.
It turns out that a small western town is about to celebrate its big county fair, one of the few resources it has to draw in money. The other main source of income is its cattle industry. One farmer, Walter Colby (Woody Strode), has had his prize bull killed. The local veterinarian, “Rack” Hansen (William Shatner), runs some tests and discovers it has numerous spider bites. It turns out tarantulas attacked the bull. Rack, along with a beautiful entomologist (Tiffany Bolling), begins an investigation into why the spiders have done this. It seems mankind has killed off their food supply and the spiders are going after dogs, cats, rabbits, cows and man.
Outside of the reasonable explanation as to why this is happening; anyone can see the correlation to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963). It’s your standard sixties and seventies small town over run with an ecological disaster plot. Throw in a little bit of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1977), with the town officials ignoring the early warnings, and you have B movie gold.
This isn’t a great film, of course, but it certainly is a fun one. William Shatner is especially good with two love interests and his cowboy attitude towards the whole thing. Shatner is clearly right where he belongs making the most of the dialogue and the B movie. Surprisingly enough, also incredibly refreshing, is that Shatner isn’t doing his “Shatner” style of acting. He’s tame. Although his character is a complete womanizer Captain Kirk keeps the big gestures and over annunciations to a minimum. Though on more than one occasion you’ll say, “Kirk to Enterprise” or “Spock, beam us out of here” while watching the film.
Earlier I mentioned that films of this nature rarely get any kind of special treatment. After watching it late one night I went on a die hard search to find the film on DVD. It turned up in a discount rack for five dollars. Apparently B movie gold is really cheap if you can find it. The film was a decent transfer and better than what was run on TV. Today SHOUT! FACTORY has released Kingdom of the Spiders the Special Edition complete with trailers, original behind the scenes footage, commentary by the crew and an interview with William Shatner.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that this B movie would get this kind of special treatment. The commentary by director Bud Cardos, producer Igo Kantor, spider wrangler Jim Brockett and cinematographer John Morrill was exceptionally good. With a shooting schedule of 26 days they were quick to point out how many times they used the first take. Other great bits of information in the commentary are where all the spiders came from, the cost, how many, which were fake and why they accidently killed a few. Most fans of the movie and filmmaking in general will enjoy the secrets behind the big plane crash scene.
Shatner’s one on one interview is something to behold as he seems to ramble at times but still gives you enough insight about the film and the money he made on it. Which, according to him, the percentages were better than a few Star Trek films. Yet one has to wonder about his then plans for a sequel where Rack was trapped in a mental institution.
The spider wrangler, Jim Brockett, also has a one on one that definitely adds to the creepiness of the film. He sits down and goes over where the numerous tarantulas came from while they dance across the table. Put it this way, you’ll quickly see the difference between a Cobalt Blue tarantula and a Pink Toe tarantula along with which one you should and shouldn’t pick up.
The special edition of Kingdom of the Spiders elevates this film to B movie platinum. So rare is it that a studio or a distributor will embrace this kind of film with this format that we here at Mania had to take notice. Thank you SHOUT! FACTORY. Thank you so very much!
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