Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

A tarantula bites Shatner's face!
A tarantula bites Shatner’s face!

A veterinarian (William Shatner) and an entomologist (Tiffany Bolling) try to deal with swarms of extra-poisonous tarantulas that grow in number and threaten everyone living around Camp Verde in Arizona.

Poster
US poster

This is an enjoyable example of the eco-horror genre that flourished in the 70s/early 80s. The B movie story builds its threat level gradually, with the spider attacks focused initially on animals, then individual people, and finally the whole local community.

The tarantulas kill a bull
The tarantulas kill a bull
Bugs on the bed!
Bugs on the bed!

Shatner plays the hero, Dr. Robert ‘Rack’ Hansen, as an easy-going dude who’s maybe a bit too pushy with women he fancies (the entomologist and even his widowed sister-in-law!), and he is game enough to allow himself to be covered in real tarantulas at one point. His character is initially skeptical that spiders could be responsible for the deaths of local livestock, but he eventually accepts entomologist Diane Ashley’s hypothesis that the tarantulas have changed their habits due to the loss of their usual food supply (thanks to pesticide use). The spiders have now stopped being lone hunters and are forming swarms, attacking larger prey, including humans, using their venom to overpower their victims.

Shatner is swamped in spiders!
Shatner is swamped by spiders!
Hansen finds the body of his sister-in-law
Hansen finds the body of his sister-in-law
Shatner in trouble!
Shatner in trouble!

Director John ‘Bud’ Cardos handles the B movie action well, delivering several memorable sequences, including a tarantula attack on a farmer (Woody Strode) in his truck and another spider assault on a pilot (who squeals like a young girl!) that causes him to crash his crop duster plane. In one scene a scared woman uses a handgun to shoot a spider that is crawling on her hand… and she blows her own finger off!

Trying to remove a tarantula from your hand with a gun is not a good idea...
Trying to remove a tarantula from your hand with a gun is not a good idea…
The duster plane pilot has the world's highest-pitched scream!
The duster plane pilot has the world’s highest-pitched scream!
All webbed-up
All webbed-up
Woody Strode's cocooned body is discovered in his crashed truck
Woody Strode’s cocooned body is discovered in his crashed truck

Cardos also delivers a pretty cool sequence later in the film, where we witness the spiders attacking the townsfolk, with loads of screaming citizens desperately trying to get into the sheriff’s car, only for the lawman to end up being crushed beneath a falling water tower.

Crunch!
Crunch!

KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS reaches a finale similar to THE BIRDS (1963), focusing on a small group of people under siege from the killer creatures in a boarded-up building. The ending (also like the Hitchcock movie) is quite abrupt and leaves the characters’ ultimate fate uncertain, as Hansen discovers that the entire area is now covered in spider webbing.

A decent animal-attack flick, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS uses its rural locations well and peppers its running time with cool shots of ‘spider hills’, tarantulas dropping out of air vents and victims cocooned in white spider webs.

Cocooned!
Cocooned!
They're crawlin' everywhere!
They’re crawlin’ everywhere!

Some posters for the movie…

French poster
French poster
Thai poster
Thai poster
US poster
US poster
Australian daybill poster
Australian daybill poster
UK quad poster: a double bill with The Redeemer
UK quad poster: a double bill with The Redeemer

Here’s a Mexican lobby card…

Mexican lobby card
Mexican lobby card

A VHS sleeve from the UK…

'A wild science fiction nightmare'
‘A wild science fiction nightmare’

Finally, here’s the paperback novelisation of the Shat-tastic film…

Written by Bernard J Hurwood
Written by Bernard J Hurwood

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