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Kingdom Of The Spiders

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    Ian Jane
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  • Kingdom Of The Spiders

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    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: 1/19/2010
    Director: John Bud Cardos
    Cast: William Shatner, Woody Strode, Tiffany Bolling
    Year: 1977
    Purchase From Amazon


    The Movie:

    Directed by John Bud Cardos off of a script intended to cash in on the success of other nature gone amuck and killer animal films like Jaws, 1977's independently produced Kingdom Of The Spiders is one of those low budget films that could. It's ripe with atmosphere and for the arachnophobic out there, actually pretty creepy at times.

    The film is set in a small Arizona town and when it begins, a farmer named Walter Colby (Woody Strode) is shocked to find one of his prized cows in rough shape. He and his loving wife (played by Altovise Davis) call in the local veterinarian, Rack Hansen (William Shatner) to investigate but it's too late, he can't save her. He does, however, take a blood sample and send it off to the lab for further research. It's shortly after that sample is sent out that a foxy blonde female scientist named Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling) arrives on the scene to help Hansen figure out just what's going on. As luck would have it, the Colby ranch is infested with giant, nasty tarantulas whose venom took the poor cow's life. Rack is doubtful, but obviously interested in the lovely lady doctor but it doesn't take long before he starts to see things her way when they come across a giant dirt hill teaming with the nasty eight legged bastards. They promptly set fire to it, but that doesn't solve the problem.

    With the spiders on the move throughout the town, Rack and Diane are going into a bit of a panic trying to get the authorities to do something, but the only thing that Mayor Connors (Roy Engel) is interested in is seeing that the upcoming county fair being held in the town goes off as planned. Of course, the influx of tourists and locals alike in town to attend the fair simply give the spiders more victims to attack as Rack and company try to figure out how to stop this plague before it gets worse…

    Say what you will about Shatner and has acting style, he's great in Kingdom Of The Spiders. He's charismatic, likeable enough, and quite a good hero. He may not have the range of other actors but he really suits the role well here, carrying the film quite admirably and making it hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Tiffany Bolling makes a fine co-star and while maybe they don't have all that much natural chemistry and don't make for the most believable couple in big screen history, you can't help but have fun watching the pair on screen. Throw in great supporting performances from the always intense Woody Strode alongside Sammy Davis Jr.'s ex wife and Roy Engel and you wind up with a great late seventies era cast who really suit the material.

    The film builds really nicely, starting off with a great opening scene before giving us enough character and plot development to really quicken the pacing during the last half of the film. As the spiders spread throughout the town, the film gets progressively more unusual to the point where we've gone from seeing the eight legged fiends take on a cow to seeing them take down grownups and children alike, at times pushing the PG rating farther than you might expect. The end result is a picture that's dated in style and fashion but timeless in its use of real spiders (had the film been made today it'd no doubt be a CGI wank fest) and authentic Arizona locations to make for a great, creepy killer creature feature.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Kingdom Of The Spiders looks great in this 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen progressive scan transfer. There's a healthy coat of grain and the odd speck of print damage here and there but the colors look nice in that weird seventies sort of way and the image is quite strong throughout. Flesh tones look fine and detail levels are pretty good as well, though it'd be nice to see this new transfer in high definition. No problems with heavy edge enhancement or mpeg compression artifacts to report on, just a really good transfer of what appear to be some nicely restored elements.

    The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track is of quite good quality. Dialogue is well balanced throughout and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. The mix isn't going to wow you but it gets the job done. The score sounds nice and really this is just a nice, solid track with no noticeable problems. No alternate language dubs or subtitles are supplied.

    The extras start off with a commentary track with John Bud Cardos, producer Igo Kantor, Spider wrangler' Jim Brockett, cinematographer John Morrill, and moderators Lee Christian and Scott Spiegel. This is a pretty involving track that covers everything from how and why the opening song that plays over the beginning credits to what it was like shooting out in Arizona to the cast and crew involved and of course, the spiders themselves. They cover the film's compositions and how the Arizona backdrop helped make the picture look as good as it does, Cardo's belief that a lot of times the first take is the best one, the importance of shooting scary stuff at night rather than in the daylight, and of course, Shatner. There are parts that get a bit quiet but generally there's a really good conversational tone to the track that makes it easy to listen to and pretty interesting as well.

    Up next is an Interview With William Shatner (16:35) who talks about working on low budget pictures, what it was like working with so many live tarantulas (and how their bite isn't that bad!), and how eerie it is to be covered in actual, real, live spiders and why you shouldn't let them crawl in you while wearing a silk shirt. Shatner is in fine form here, talking about encountering rats on set, and how he enjoys working with horses and sharing some excellent and entertaining stories about his work on this picture.


    Jim Brockett: Spider Wrangler (12:23) is an interview with Lee Christian and Jim Brockett that covers how the scenes involving the live tarantulas were shot. Jim uses actual live tarantulas in front of the camera to provide a pretty odd demonstration of just what is involved in wrangling spiders, showing how aggressive and mean some of them can be. Brockett has worked with all kinds of animals throughout his career and he knows his stuff, even if you can see the doubt in Lee's eyes when he puts a tarantula on his arm and lets him crawl up to his shoulder. Jim tells some interesting stories from throughout his career and this is a really interesting look at something that you don't usually see covered in DVD extras.

    Up next is an Interview With Writer Steve Lodge (4:40), it's a fairly brief piece where lodge talks about co-writing the original script for the film, where the ideas came from, and how he feels about the picture now. He openly admits that Jaws was an influence on the story as was The Birds, and what was changed on the way from script to screen. There's also a collection of Behind The Scenes Footage (17:18) that looks like it was shot on super 8 and while it's presented here without any context, it does offer up a look at the cast and crew at work and it does contain some quirky little interview snippets with some of the principal players.

    Rounding out the extras is the film's original theatrical trailer, a still gallery of poster art, animated menus and chapter stops.

    The Final Word:

    If you've never seen it before, this is the way to do it and if you're an established fan of the film, this release of Kingdom Of The Spiders is absolutely worth the upgrade not only for the improved quality of the presentation but for the fantastic array of supplemental material. Awesome, awesome, awesome!
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