Saturday, December 19, 2009

Earth Versus the Spider

Earth Versus the Spider, 1958, 73 minutes, black & white, American International Pictures, directed by Bert I. Gordon, produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff. Starring Ed Kemmer as Mr. Kingston, June Kenny as Carol Flynn, Eugene Persson as Mike Simpson, Gene Roth as Sheriff Cagle, Hank Patterson as Hugo the Janitor, Merritt Stone as Mr. Flynn. (Also known as The Spider) Schlock-Meter rating: 7 1/2 stars out of 10.

It would have been fun to have been alive and old enough to go to the movies in the 1950s. Imagine being able to see The Incredible Shrinking Man, I was a Teenage Werewolf, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Attack of the Puppet People, and so many others on a big screen. Earth Versus the Spider who have also been a treat to see as well. Okay, it’s pretty lame, stuffed full of stock characters and a lame looking big spider (courtesy of the all-time cheap FX winner, Mr. BIG, Bert I. Gordon), and the web in the “cave” looks like rope (and why doesn’t it stick to and trap those kids who travel all over it?).

But the film is fun to watch, and that garners it a 7 and a half on the Schlock-Meter. The plot concerns a giant spider who lives in a cave outside a small town. One day a typical dad disappears while driving home with a gift for his typical high school-age daughter. She and her typical high school boyfriend search for him in a typical cave and escape the spider. A typical beer-bellied sheriff laughs at their story, but is persuaded by a typical high school science teacher “egghead” to check things out. They encounter the spider and supposedly kill it with massive doses of DDT. But typically, the spider awakes in the high school gym during a typical school dance. Typically, the spider kills a typical janitor too stupid to run. Typically, the typical girl and her typical boyfriend have returned to the typical cave to find the gift dear old typical dad bought her (she left it there). Typically, the big spider returns to the cave and there’s a battle royal (or the type you can get for these type of low-budget films).

The spider makes a cool, annoying high-pitched whine whenever it is close and sounds a lot like several dozen mental patients screaming at once. The spider’s victims are rubber fake corpses with drawn faces made to look as if the blood has been sucked out of them. By all means rent Earth Versus the Spider. Sure it’s lame, but there’s hardly a dull moment in this tame predecessor to today’s Scream movies. It’s a look at bargain filmmaking generations ago.

-- Doug Gibson

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