15 April 2024

Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)
Contributed by Michael Lee Stever

Michael Stever is a full-time New York director/filmmaker/cameraman/writer who finalized principal photography in June 2011 on the independent film Checking In. His first indie-produced documentary, Saturday Nightmares; The Ultimate Horror Expo Of All Time! screened in 2010 and is available on DVD, and his exclusive featurette on Stephen Schwartz's opera, Seance On A Wet Afternoon can be viewed at BroadwayWorld.com. Stever also directed Vanessa Redgrave for a Drama Desk Awards reel, and shot Debbie Reynolds' induction into The Friars Club in NYC (as well as Broadway vets Mary Bond Davis and Judy McLane at West Bank Cafe's Laurie Beechman Theatre). Other clients include Shirley Jones, Janice Martin, the SAG's BookPals group, Barnes & Noble and Playbill Magazine. Along with casting director Eve Battaglia, Stever co-teaches a course on filming & editing work demos at Actors Connection.

What 'gut punch' question could inspire more terror in the hearts of an exploitation/grind house movie lover than to have to name his or her favorite movie? To narrow it down is virtually impossible. What's more, for those of us who love the written word, falling prey to that horrible 'tick' of wanting to choose just the right words make it all the more anxiety-inducing!

Okay. Now that I've got that out of my system, here's my answer.

My favorite exploitation film is without a doubt, the unforgettable, creepy-as-HELL 1977 classic Kingdom of the Spiders starring good ole Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.

Yet, Shatner has nothing to do with why I like this movie. I was taken to see it (at the tender age of eleven, I might add) by my closet-sadist mother of all people. I'd give Mom the benefit of the doubt that because this arachnid terror-fest was playing on a double bill with a harmless Charlie Brown feature, she didn't know what we were in for.

Bullshit, Mom. Deep down, I know you knew...

In any event, this film SCARED THE SHIT out of me...although oddly in real life, I'm not that freaked out by spiders. However, at eleven, I couldn't sleep without the lights on for over a week. And even to this day, it harbors some of the more cringe-inducing moments I've ever experienced in a movie.

The fact that the producers used thousands of REAL live tarantulas is what gives the movie its moxie, and I suspect that animal rights activists were nowhere to be found on the set either.

Let me also tell you no actors (or children for that matter) were spared the most horrific of attacks from these eight-legged hairy beasts. Producers had no qualms whatsoever about dumping hundreds of them on any given participant in a scene, and the results are NIGHTMARE inducing!

Should I sit here and resurrect some of the sequences? I could. But honestly, I don't want to deprive the viewer of the hidden horrors to be had with this one. Rest assured, it's not some big, clunky 'mechanical' spider movie. Or some putrid mess from producers who didn't know what they were doing, or decided to drown with crappy CGI.

Kingdom of the Spiders was rated PG, which is freaking hilarious because I still insist to this day that it's probably one of the most horrifying experiences you can sit through on celluloid.

Thanks, Mom...for what was probably your first chief attempt to truly 'terrorize' me for life (second only to being raised Mormon). This one really worked. Thanks for the material!

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