kingdom of the spidersDimension Pictures

“Well, that would explain Spider Hill…”

In between the end of his career-defining run on the original Star Trek series and his return as Kirk in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, America’s favorite Canadian import William Shatner kept relatively busy by guest starring on several TV shows and starring in several TV movies and miniseries. Kingdom Of The Spiders was one of the more memorable TV movies of that period. Memorable for all the wrong reasons, mind you, but memorable none-the-less.

I remember seeing a commercial for a re-run broadcast of Kingdom Of The Spiders in 1979, when i was but a wee lad. It featured the clip of the guy in a bi-plane freaking out because his lap was crawling full of SPIDERS! AAAAHH! Of course, I wasn’t allowed to watch it, as I was five at the time, and it was on past my bedtime. Oh, and my parents were operating under the assumption that Kingdom Of The Spiders was “scary” or something. Anyway, it wasn’t until recently that I finally watched the movie, while recovering from a malady with my knees, through the magic of Amazon streaming.

In Kingdom Of The Spiders, William Shatner plays Doc “Rack” Hansen, a rural vet in Arizona whose days of vaccinatin’ cattle and sexual harassment of his assistance in doing so is interrupted by a call from a local farmer, whose calf as mysteriously fallen ill. After sending for a blood test to the university in Flagstaff, the science division send over one of their arachnologists to investigate, and for ol’ Doc “Rack” to hit on relentlessly. As you may have gleaned from the title of the movie, the spiders in the area seem to be organizing to hunt much bigger prey due to the spraying of pesticides having wiped out the spiders’ natural food supply. Next thing you know, they’re taking over the area, killing off livestock and people, and the mayor still doesn’t want to do anything to scare off the visitors that are going to come for the county fair that’s coming up. So, basically this is Jaws with tarantulas. Or something. Anyway, the population dwindles, and next thing you know everyone alive takes refuge inside the local Inn, only to wake up to the entire county being webbed over by their new spider overlords. The end.

Kingdom Of The Spiders is very much in keeping with other nature run amok horror movies that I’ve seen from that era. I’ve seen far more of these types of movies than I’m comfortable with, really. This one endures mostly due to the masterful thespian craft of William “It’s not a toupee, dammit” Shatner, who plays his veterinarian character much like he played Captain Kirk: a cocky manly-man who likes to chew the scenery as well as the ladies. This was a television movie, mind you, in case you forgot it being brought up a mere couple of paragraphs ago, so there really isn’t much by way of graphic and scary bits, beyond a bunch of live tarantulas wandering about and some people being webbed up. Mostly when the humans are attacked, they flail about with a bunch of spiders–who probably have no idea what’s going on in the first place–crawling about them, trying to hang on for dear life due to this human they were put on freaking out. The actors try to do the best they can with what they were given, with the melodrama used to keep me from falling asleep in the middle of things. Oh, useless trivia: The little girl that plays “Rack”‘s niece was played by none other than William Shatner’s actual daughter. There, that’s something you know now.

Overall, I think I may have had a better reaction to watching this back when I was 6 or 7. Sure, Kingdom Of The Spiders is cheesy, melodramatic and fun for all the wrong reasons, but I’ve also seen way worse than this. It’s worth a Bad Movie Night showing some time.