Earth vs the Spider (1958)

Rating:

aka The Spider

USA. 1958.

Crew

Director/Story/Producer/Special Technical Effects – Bert I. Gordon, Screenplay – Laszlo Gorog & George Worthing Yates, Photography (b&w) – Jack Marta, Music – Albert Glasser, Special Designs – Jackie & Paul Blaisdell. Production Company – American International Pictures

Cast

Ed Kemmer (Kingman), June Kenney (Carol Flynn), Eugene Perssons (Mike Simpson), Gene Roth (Sheriff Kegel), Troy Patterson (Joe), Hal Torey (Mr Simpson)


Plot

In the small town of River Falls, Carol Flynn and her boyfriend Mike Simpson search for her missing father. The search takes them to the town’s caverns where they encounter a giant spider. Led by Kingman, the high school biology teacher, the authorities gas and kill the spider with DDT. However, after Kingman puts the spider on display in the high school, it returns to life and proceeds to rampage through the town.


In the 1950s, Z-budget director Bert I. Gordon made a series of cheap genre films that took the likes of Them! (1954) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) as their inspiration. Bert I. Gordon’s films, which include the likes of The Cyclops (1957), Beginning of the End (1957), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), Village of the Giants (1965) and latter-day entries such as The Food of the Gods (1976) and Empire of the Ants (1977), almost invariably feature giant bugs and/or giant people.

As with most of Bert I. Gordon’s films, Earth vs the Spider is cheap and fairly awful. The title – Earth vs the Spider – sets up the promise of a grandiose conflict, is even suggestive of the entire world being taken on by a spider. However, what is delivered falls woefully flat of any such promise in actuality. The film quickly falls into the cliches of the 1950s atomic monster/giant bug film (although Earth vs the Spider is one of the few in the genre where atomic radiation is not used as an explain-all for what is going on). Gordon uses his customary technique of optically enlarged bugs – the film here is so cheap that he even uses some of the same shots several times. The film is shot in the Carlsbad Caverns, which make for an interesting location, although Gordon is too pedestrian a director to ever develop any atmosphere.

Earth vs the Spider has also clearly been mounted as part of the 1950s teen monster fad begun with I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), although one teenager (played by Troy Patterson) looks like he is well into his thirties. There is a sequence where the film stands still for a rock’n’roll number that seems particularly grafted on. The film also shows Gordon in a self-referential mood – a cinema is screening Gordon’s The Amazing Colossal Man, while outside one teenager talks about a new picture coming out – “something about Puppet People – sounds fairly wild.”

The film was remade as Earth vs the Spider (2001), although this only borrowed the title and is otherwise a film about a man mutating into a spider.

Bert I. Gordon’s other films are:– King Dinosaur (1955), The Cyclops (1957), Beginning of the End (1957), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), War of the Colossal Beast (1958), the fantasy adventure The Boy and the Pirates (1960), the ghost story Tormented (1960), the fantasy The Magic Sword (1962), Village of the Giants (1965), the psycho-thriller Picture Mommy Dead (1966), the occult film Necromancy (1972), The Mad Bomber (1973), The Food of the Gods (1976), Empire of the Ants (1977) and the witchcraft films The Coming/Burned at the Stake (1981) and Malediction/Satan’s Princess (1990), and Secrets of a Psychopath (2015).


Full film available online here:-


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