Everybody’s pitching in: Violins are screeching, crowds are fleeing, and William Shatner is Grandly Acting. And still, there’s no getting around the fact that these fuzzy, slow-moving tarantulas are—well, kind of cute. Released in 1977 during the mid-decade “nature run amok” moment, the low-budget Kingdom of the Spiders doesn’t want you to laugh at such serious matters as pesticides poisoning the food chain. Instead, you end up guffawing at unbelievables, like Shatner wearing a cowboy hat as an Arizonan he-man (and sensitive veterinarian). The movie’s screenwriters, meanwhile, have done their homework: a little Jaws cynicism (but what about the tourists?); a dollop of Birds eeriness; and a lot of Night of the Living Dead trapped-in-a-house panic.
Shout! Factory’s new disc offers a crisp, Tang-tinted transfer—close to the quality you’d expect from a TV flick playing after midnight. Still, you have to admire their attention to the project’s history. A new video interview with Shatner reveals the actor in a jokey, anecdotal mood, and extremely proud of the film. There’s also a feature-length commentary with director John “Bud” Cardos and other crew members, itself a party of happy reminiscing. Rarer still is the grainy on-set 8mm footage (showing unusual foresight for an independent film). Best of all, the movie’s gentle spider wrangler, Jim Brockett, brings some creeping samples to a chat, placing them on the shoulder of his visibly shaken interviewer. Fine, maybe they are sort of scary.—Joshua Rothkopf
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