Great Lost Movies of the 70s: Special William Shatner, National Treasure Edition

on January 13, 2010 by Steve Simels
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kingdom of the spiders.jpg"If you remember the 60s," Paul Kantner (of Jefferson Airplane) famously observed, "you weren't there." Well, I do and I was, so it's possible that Kanter is, as I've always suspected, a bit full of it, but in any case I've been trying to come up with a similar bon mot about the subsequent decade. I'm thinking "If you remember the 70s, you should be ashamed of yourself." Anyway, I bring all this up because the folks at Shout Factory have just exhumed a quintessential 70s document on a new DVD, and it's actually not as embarrassing as I expected.

I refer, of course, to the 1977 sci-fi monster flick Kingdom of the Spiders, starring Wiliam Shatner and directed by John "Bud" Cardos (hey, it's no sillier a name than McG). Featuring really heinous clothes, more tarantulas than you can shake a stick at, and a title song written and performed by Dorsey Burnette, one third of the legendary Rock and Roll Trio.

The plot:

 

"Rack" Hansen (Shatner, with early hairpiece), a veterinarian in Verde Valley, Arizona, receives an urgent call from a local farmer (action great Woody Strode) whose prize calf is sick for no apparent reason. Hansen examines the calf, which dies shortly afterward, but can't discover what caused it to get so ill quickly. On the way back from a university lab, he discovers that Verde Valley lies in the path of hordes of migrating tarantulas; the furry arachnids are attacking and eating larger animals because local farmers have been overusing pesticides and inadvertently eradicating the spider's natural food supply. Eventually, Hansen and a small group of townsfolk including the de rigeur scientist babe (Tiffany Bolling, very decorative in a 70s sort of way) and Hansen's sister in law Terri (Shatner's then wife Marci Lafferty) are trapped in a remote hotel and surrounded on all sides by approximately a gazillion starving eight-legged critters. Will help arrive before the humans are uncermoniously eaten? And more importantly, will Shatner and spouse survive to make their classic series of Promise Margarine commercials? Yeah, right, like I'm going to tell you.

 

Here's Shout Factory's DVD trailer to give you a little taste.

I vaguely recalled seeing this one back in the day, but in recent years it only impinged on my memory because it was name-checked in the great 2000 Warren Zevon song "Life'll Kill Ya." To my pleasant surprise, however, KOS turns out to be a better than average little shocker with a memorably eerie concluding scene that ups the ante on Hitchcock's (admittedly superior) The Birds. It's well worth seeing, in other words, especially in Shout Factory's excellent widescreen edition. Alas, it's in Dolby Mono, so to speak, but it looks great and there are a bunch of fun bonuses, including a commentary track by director Cardos, who's as gruff sounding as I'd hoped, and a new and characteristically amusing interview with Shatner (who, to his credit, doesn't oversell the thing).

You can -- and I would say on balance definitely should -- pre-order it here.

As for the 80s, I'm working on a suitable epigram and I'll get back to you.

 

Tags: Bud, Kingdom of the Spiders, Wiliam Shatner, John Cardos, Woody Strode, The Birds
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