The B-Movie Bungalow Presents: Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

John "Bud" Carlos

William Shatner - Dr. Robert "Rack" Hansen
Tiffany Bolling - Dr. Diane Ashley
Woody Strode - Walter Colby
Marcy Lafferty - Terri Hansen
Lieux Dressler - Emma Watson
David McClean - Sheriff Gene Smith
Altovise Davis - Birch Colby
Roy Engel - Mayor

Genre - B-Movie/Horror/Thriller/Evil Animals

Running Time - 97 Minutes

In Arizona, a rancher named Walter Colby (Woody Strode) finds one of his calves unconscious and foaming at the mouth. He calls the local veterinarian, "Rack" Hansen (William Shatner), to figure out what's going on. After taking some samples of the now-dead calf, he sends it to a lab for results.

The next day, a beautiful entomologist named Diane (
Tiffany Bolling) arrives in town, telling Rack that the calf died from a powerful dose of spider venom. Rack has trouble believing this news, but Colby and his wife, Birch (Altovise Davis), reveal that they've been dealing with a spider infestation problem for some time - having a spider hill in their field. As they look, they realize that the spiders have created more than one hill and are growing in number. Diane believes that the use of pesticides have made the spiders lose their cannibalistic ways, looking for other sources of food to quench their hunger. With some sort of annual fair about to begin, the town is now at the mercy of some pissed off spiders.


- Screenplay: The narrative for KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS is like one of my biggest fears put on film. In case you don't know, I have a pretty bad case of arachnophobia. Small spiders - big spiders - those eight-legged bugs just freak me out. So to watch a film where an entire town gets infested with tarantulas that seem to grow in number gives me the shivers. So maybe it's because of my personal feelings, but I find the screenplay and story of this film to be highly effective.

KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS is one of the many "animals run amok" films that were popular during this decade, following such classics as FROGS, NIGHT OF THE LEPUS, and THE FOOD OF THE GODS. Obviously, the focus isn't on the human characters and deep themes. It's focused on spiders scaring and killing people and other animals, and it does a great job in presenting that. During some generic dialogue and a decent amount of exposition to explain things, the story moves along when the spiders grow in numbers and begin terrorizing this small Arizona town. It keeps the film entertaining and engaging, as we want to see what these spiders will do and how these human victims will [or won't] handle this huge problem.

That's not to say the human characters aren't interesting or fun. Rack may not be the best. or most stereotypical, veterinarian in the world. But the dude is charming as hell and has a way with the ladies. He's also seen as a local hero and is brave enough to deal with these spiders to protect others. Diane also isn't the stereotypical damsel-in-distress/love interest type either. She's beautiful. She's smart. And she's pretty tough and cool under pressure as well. The other characters, like the Colbys, the lodge owner Emma Watson [who has an implied relationship with the likeable Sheriff Gene Smith], and the Mayor - who must have seen JAWS a few times and decided to focus on making money for the town from the annual fair rather than deal with the spiders first [which is always a good idea] - are all interesting to watch and fit within the narrative well. None of them are exactly deep or anything, but we get their personalities and most of them end up being likeable.

I also found it interesting that the locals in this town were actually kind to the spiders until they became a real threat. In fact, some of them just either shooed them away or gently let them go on their merry way. I thought it was an interesting reflection on this town and how these animals were perceived before the threat. If this were a city setting, those spiders wouldn't have had a chance. Most people would have just killed them. But these folks appreciated nature and its creatures, sort of expressing an appreciation of the environment and all its beings - small or large.

I thought the narrative also took elements from other popular films, and actually made them work. The bleak ending [one of the most memorable images in the film] reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock's ending of THE BIRDS. The survivors being trapped inside the lodge as the spiders try to attack them is definitely taken from George A. Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. And of course, the greedy Mayor who tries to ignore the epidemic by taking the easiest route in order to make some money is a huge element from JAWS. While those films obviously used these things better, I thought they fit in well in this B-movie and were nice nods to those films.

The screenplay for KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS isn't the greatest or deepest in the history of cinema. But it gets the job done and helps blueprint what happens to be a fun, entertaining B-movie.

- Direction: Director John "Bud" Cardos and his cinematographer, John Arthur Morrill, use their limited budget to the film's advantage. I thought the film had a great pace, with a three-act structure that's easy to follow and get into. I thought the film had some good tension and suspense, especially during the exciting third act. I loved the POV shots for the spiders before attacking their victims, especially since the victimized animals really did look afraid for their lives - which added to the effect. And there are a lot of nice framing shots and compositions that stick with you, like a victim having a bunch of tarantulas all over her body after they poisoned her, and others being surrounding by these spiders with no logical way out. It's not the most stylistic visual presentation of all time, but like the screenplay, it gets more than the job done. Watching Cardos build tension by adding more and more spiders into each frame until the movie's end really creates a sense of dread that definitely makes someone like me pretty uncomfortable for all the right reasons.

- Acting: I thought the acting in KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS was really good. The star here is definitely Mr. William Shatner in one of his best roles in my opinion. He really makes Rack likeable and heroic, acting very natural and subtle within an uncontrollable situation. It's obvious that Shatner knows exactly that he's starring in a low-budget B-movie with spiders. But he never hams it up and makes the Rack character silly or forced. Shatner could have played the role tongue-in-cheek [which is a trademark he's usually known for], but he never does. Shatner never makes a mockery of the story and takes it as seriously as he can while still having fun with it. I thought he did a fantastic job here. I really enjoyed Shatner's acting in this film.

The other actors are good as well. Tiffany Bolling is more than cool as Dr. Diane Ashley. Not only did she play intelligent and tough convincingly, but she looked damn good doing it. The 1970s sure suited this woman. The other actors, like Woody Strode, Altovise Davis [wife of Sammy Davis, Jr.], and Marcy Lafferty [who was married to Shatner at the time], all play their roles well. I liked the cast, especially since they all brought something to the film and did it as seriously as possible.

Rating - 9/10

I'm judging this category in 1977 terms. And for 1977, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS is a pretty violent film. We don't really see much gore or anything, but people and animals do die by spider bites. The spiders do attack people in various locations, mainly inside the lodge and even on a dude flying in a crop duster airplane [where it crashes]. Also crashing are several cars, including one hitting a post that falls on the vehicle and crushing the person inside. These spiders definitely create a bit of chaos.

The violence also lends itself to the behind-the-scenes production, as many of the spiders died during filming. Most of them were stomped on, some were run over by cars, and others died due to the changes in temperature and climate. In 1977, animal rights groups didn't have much clout within the movie industry as it does now. If it did, these deaths would have been prevented. So when you see a spider get squished, it's real.

Rating - 7/10

KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS is a pretty tame film sexually. There are a few innuendos and a love triangle between Rack, Diane, and Terri. And Tiffany Bolling is nude for a side shot, but it's brief.

Rating - 3/10

KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS never hides it's made in the 1970s. The clothes, the hair, the ascots, the tight jeans - talk about being in a time capsule! Also, naming a character named "Rack" is so silly, it's freakin' awesome.

We also have a soundtrack full of scores used for television shows, like some episodes from The Twilight Zone and The Fugitive. The country song that opens and ends the film, by Dorsey Burnette, made me laugh because they just stuck out. And probably the silliest moment of the film - a person shooting their own hand just to kill a spider. I could not stop cracking up over this.

Not the cheesiest film ever, but it definitely has its moments.

Rating - 8/10

Total Rating - 27/40 = 2.7/4


- A spider attacked a grazing cow. That arachnid milked its for all it was worth.

- Not only can Rack lasso some steer, but he can rope in beautiful women as well. The man has no problems sending his spaceship into that black hole.

- Emma claims that her relationship with Sheriff Gene Smith soured because he went from sex to drinking, due to her "tiring him out". I think it had more to do with Gene finally having sex with the lights on. Beer goggles are a horny man's best friend.

- Colby and his wife found their dog dead behind their barn. Either the spiders killed the dog, or Michael Myers is anxiously waiting for Halloween to arrive.

- Rack does everything he can to get into Diane's pants. He's probably better off paying for a T.J. Hooker instead.

- The spiders attacked a pilot while up in his airplane. Their attempt to get revenge on flies took a wrong turn somewhere...

- Birch shot her own hand, because it had a spider on it. Someone took handgun a bit too literally...

- The Washburn Lodge was overrun with spiders. Last time they'll use Priceline.com!


KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS is one of the best B-movies of the 1970s, or any decade for that matter. William Shatner, in one of his best and more serious roles, rocks it along with a game cast. The narrative is simple and straightforward. The direction takes advantage of its budget limitations and definitely makes the most of it. And the film lives up to its title for sure, as there are so many spiders in this flick, I started to get creeped out. I'm bumping the score a bit because this film is a lot of fun to watch if you know what you're in for. It has a great sense of itself and has a great ending that I still remembered from when I watched this film when I was a kid. If you love William Shatner, spiders, and/or B-movies, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS will leave you caught in its web for sure.

3.5 Howls Outta 4


  1. I love seeing this B movie gem getting the love it deserves! It's a solid movie, right up there with Piranha! Terrific review Fred!

    1. Thanks, Craig! Yep, I love this flick. Always have. It's definitely a solid B-movie along with the original Piranha. William Shatner is awesome here. And all those creepy spiders - yeesh.


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