Cinema Sunday: Earth vs The Spider (1958)

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Title: Earth vs The Spider

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writers: George Worthington Yates, László Görög, (Bert I. Gordon)

Director: Bert I. Gordon

Producer:  Bert I. Gordon

Starring: Ed Kemmer, June Kenney, Eugene Persson, Gene Roth

Released:  September 1958

MPAA:  Approved

 

It’s a new year, so I figured I’d better start a new theme. What better than giant monsters/insects? None, of course, and if you’re a fan of these movies like I am, you know that they hold a special place in cinema because they were birthed during the greatest decade for sci-fi, the 1950s! Whether it’s AIP, Warner Bros., or Universal, it doesn’t matter. Most of these films had a similar plot, but they all have something different that sets them apart from each other.

When you have names like Bert I. Gordon and Samuel Z. Arkoff involved in a film, you know that odds are, it’s gonna be a good one! Both men have a long history in the film business, but thrived when involved with sci-fi/horror. Gordon is known for his giant monster films, and Arkoff for everything AIP! Mostly for me though, Arkoff is known for being the producer of Blacula! Well, that’s all for now, let’s get to the movie!

 

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The film opens with a man driving a car down the highway. He’s suddenly accosted by something, and the car smashes into the rail. The next day, another young man, Mike Simpson (Eugene Persson), darts across the street, to meet up with a beautiful girl, Carol (June Kenney) he’s sweet on. He gives her a gift, but she’s reluctant to open it. Something’s wrong, and she tells him that she’s worried because her dad didn’t come home last night. Mike tells her not to be worried, because it isn’t the first time this happened. Carol gets infuriated, and throws the present in his face, and heads into their high school. In science class, Mike passes Carol a note, and she forgives him for his remarks earlier.

 

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Still terribly worried about her father’s absence, the two set out to find him. As they drive down the road out-of-town, they see something on the side of the road. As they stop to investigate, they find a rope-like string. It’s very sticky, almost like the silk from a spider! As they search the immediate area, they discover his car, over the railing and in a ditch. They remark that the wreck is very close to a cave that the locals say is haunted. Mike tells Carol to wait outside, and he’ll check it out. They’ve theorized that her father would’ve survived the accident, and might have sought out shelter there last night.

 

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As Mike goes inside, Carol is frightened, so she comes with him. They make their way deeper into the cave, and as they do, they discover the bones of a few dead human beings! As they get even more scared, they hear a sound emanating from deeper inside the cavern. They move towards the sound, and fall into a giant spider web! They attempt to escape, and as they do, a giant spider moves in for the kill. They manage to squirm enough to fall through the big gaps between the webs tendrils, and escape. Of course, they rush back into town and tell people, but no one believes them. They think they’re just a couple of “crazy kids.” Mike and Carol go to their science teacher, Mr. Kingman (Ed Kemmer)and he calls the sheriff. He convinces the sheriff to at least investigate the disappearance of Carol’s father, so they gather some volunteers, and head into the cave.

Once inside the cave, the sheriff makes jokes about the teenagers, but after a few minutes, they find the corpse of Carol’s father, and a few sets of bones, as well. They point him in the direction of the giant web, and the sheriff almost falls into it. He tells the deputy to get the pest control guy that’s waiting outside. He comes in with a hose, and begins to spray DDT all over the cave. Within seconds, you hear that eerie sound again, and the spider appears! It goes on a rampage, and actually kills one of the sheriff’s men! Between the bullets and the DDT, the creature finally falls. Mr. Kingman convinces the sheriff that the spider needs to be brought to the surface, and he says he’ll allow it.

 

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An undetermined amount of time later, and the spider is on display at the local school, and reporters from all over are there to take pictures. One of the reporters makes a smart remark and the next thing you know, the spider kicks him, knocking him over. Everybody recoils in fear, but Mr. Kingman tells them it was just a muscular contraction. Meanwhile, Mike is working at his father’s movie theater, and Carol calls him, begging him to come and pick her up. She believes that she lost her bracelet while in the cave, and since it was a present from her father, she must have it back. Meanwhile, over at the school, Mike’s friend, Joe, and his band-mates try to enter the area where the spider is being kept, so they can practice for the “big dance” tomorrow night. They find it locked, but convince the janitor to open it for them.

 

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As the bad begins to rehearse, some other kids come in, and basically start to party…in the middle of a school day. Back at the cave, Mike and Carol are searching for her missing bracelet. No one in town knows where there are, and this is going to be a problem later in the film. As the band gets louder and louder, the spider begins to move. Within minutes, it starts to go wild, and bust its way out of the gymnasium. The janitor, Hugo, calls Mr. Kingman to tell him about the spider, but he gets killed before he can give the “gory” details. The spider begins to go on a rampage throughout the town, killing anyone that gets in its way, and destroying property everywhere!

Will the townspeople find a way to stop the menacing giant? Or will it be the end of mankind?!?! Watch to find out!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

I wasn’t born in the decade that this movie was made, but one can only imagine the daily life back then, and having interrupted by something crazy like this. Heck, even in this day and age it would be something pretty tough to deal with, at least for a time. Sure, you could eventually nuke it or something crazy like that, but in a populated area, it would pose some problems. The actors in the film are pretty solid, and definitely are convincing for the most part. Eugene Persson and June Kenney make a good “couple,” and mesh well together. Ed Kemmer does a good job as the scientist/school teacher. His interactions with the kids is spot on, and between he and the sheriff, Gene Roth. Speaking of the sheriff, I thought he was one of the best. His cynical attitude towards the kids was excellent, and definitely a good snapshot of the times.

As far as the spider goes, for the technology of the times, Bert I. Gordon did a fine job. He mostly used a real spider, with up-close shots to make it look like it was a huge spider, and not a normal sized one. Other times they used rear projection to get the desired effects of the spider terrorizing people. It did seem in a couple of scenes, that they used a giant puppet, but not very often. The sets were OK, and looked mostly believable, but you could see that some miniatures were used in the town. This is the last big monster movie Bert I. Gordon did for a few years, but he definitely owns the title of B movie big monster king!

Watch the trailer !

 

 

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3 comments on “Cinema Sunday: Earth vs The Spider (1958)

  1. I just did a whole run of these films in December. Wish I did this one – love these films and love how Gordon, no matter how bad the effects are, somehow always manages to make a fairly engaging movie. Great review!

    Like

  2. Pingback: Cinema Sunday: Tarantula (1955) | Magazines and Monsters!

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