By Steve D. Stones
William Shatner is one of those actors that we all love to hate, or is that hate to love? His recent appeal is a kitsch one based on the cheesy priceline.com commercials he does for television and the internet. After a short three season run of the original Star Trek TV series in the 1960s, Shatner found himself cast in a number of low-budget sci-fi and horror films of the 1970s, such as The Devil’s Rain (1975) with Ernest Borgnine and Kingdom of The Spiders (1977). Both films have gained a cult following over the years, but Kingdom of The Spiders is the better of the two.
Shatner plays a small town Arizona veterinarian named Rack Hansen. A beautiful entomologist, played by Tiffany Bolling, arrives in town to investigate a series of spider attacks on local livestock. Shatner decides to chase skirt and follow Bolling as she conducts her investigation. Shatner’s sister-in-law Terry is jealous of Bolling because she wants to score Shatner for herself after the death of her husband. The sister-in-law is played by Shatner’s wife at the time – Marcy Lafferty.
Shatner and Bolling run across a number of large spider hills infested with tarantula spiders. Unlike most insect infested sci-fi movies, the spiders are not a result of atomic radiation or scientific experimentation. The spiders have arrived to seek new feeding grounds after having their lands infected with pesticide.
In a plot scenario similar to the original Jaws (1975), Shatner and Bolling recommend that the area be quarantined. The town mayor of course refuses the quarantine because a county fair is to be held in a few weeks, bringing money to the local economy.
In yet another reference to a well-known horror movie, Night of The Living Dead, Shatner, Bolling and a few locals barricade themselves inside a lodge as the spiders consume the land and cover the entire lodge. Shatner fights off the spiders as they find a way to cut off all electrical power to the area. The film ends with an unconvincing aerial shot of the entire town covered in thick spider webs.
Interestingly enough, most film encyclopedias give Kingdom of The Spiders a three star rating, including Leonard Maltin’s yearly movie guide. The effects have dated, but the film is still a fun effort in the genre of insects attacking man theme. As I watched this film, I could not help but think of Bert I. Gordon’s “Empire of The Ants” made in 1977 and Bill Rebane’s “The Giant Spider Invasion” from 1975. All three films would be a delight to view back to back. Happy Viewing!!!