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 !

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Tormented (1960)

Tormented

Title: Tormented

Distributor: Allied Artists

Writer: Bert I. Gordon (and George Worthing Yates – screenplay)

Director: Bert I. Gordon

Producers: Bert I. Gordon, Joe Steinberg

Starring: Richard Carlson, Susan Gordon, Juli Reding, Lugene Sanders, Joe Turkel

Released: September 1960

MPAA: UR

 

I’m sure everyone out there has a movie star crush. Well, in this case, I’m spotlighting a movie with one of my “man crush” movie stars in Richard Carlson! This guy was quite the tough guy/leading man back in the day, and when you look at his resumé, you cannot deny his place in movie history. And honestly, he fought the ‘Gill Man’ in Creature from the Black Lagoon, so does he really need anything else to be said about him? Exactly.

In this film Carlson is somewhat of a cad, and you don’t feel one bit sorry for him when he gets what’s coming to his way. He’s typically the strong, macho type, that is the hero, but not in this film, oh no. Rather than boring you, why don’t we get to the plot!

 

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The film opens with a voice telling that the nearby island (near Cape Cod) holds secrets, voices from the dead! Close by, a lighthouse has two people in it. A beautiful woman, Vi Mason (Juli Reding), and Tom Stewart (Richard Carlson), argue over their past relationship. Vi wants Tom back, but he’s engaged to be married to a much younger, and more wealthy woman now, so he couldn’t care less about Vi. This infuriates her, so she tells him that if he doesn’t consent to be her husband, she’ll produce a letter that he gave her a while back, stating his lover for Vi, and it will ruin his engagement to his new lover. You can see the desperation in Tom’s eyes, and then the two continue to have a back and forth argument on the gallery. She even threatens to ruin his musical career (he’s a successful jazz pianist apparently), and this really twists Tom’s nips. He throws her a really evil look, and she remarks that he looks as though he wants to kill her. Just as she smirks at him, the railing she’s leaning against lets loose, and she falls. She manages to grab on to the deck but needs help getting up…but Tom realizes her “accident” means an easy way out for him. He watches as she plummets to her death on the rocky shore below.

 

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The next morning, Tom dives into the waters to recover her corpse. He does, and then brings it to shore. Once there though, it turns into a pile of seaweed! A voice then cries out and startles Tom. We see a little girl (Susan Gordon) approach who’s the younger sister of the woman whom he’s going to marry. Sandy wants to hang out with him, but Tom is quite shaken over recent events, and wants to be alone, so he asks her to get lost. As she’s ready to leave, she notices something shiny nearby. She picks it up and shows it to Tom. It’s a very nice watch with the name Vi on the back, and she asks him if he knows anyone by that name…Tom denies knowing anyone by that name of course, but wonders what is going on. Sandy runs off to play.

 

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Tom begins to have an internal monologue and thinks his imagination is getting the better of him, so just leaves the beach and heads over to the lighthouse. He heads up to retrace the steps from the night before, and then tries to pull the railing back in place, but it wont stay, and keeps going right back into the same spot. A seagull flies by and scares the crap out of him, and then he hears someone enter the lighthouse. As the steps get closer, Tom’s sphincter tightens. We then see a gorgeous young woman approach, and Tom can breathe easy. It’s his fiancée, Meg, and she’s elated to see her man. The two have a few moments, but then she decides it’s too creepy in there, so she wants to go back to the beach. As they leave, you hear a mysterious whaling noise from the lighthouse.

 

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As the two lovers walk along the beach talking about their wedding ceremony (one week away), the camera pans down towards their footprints in the sand. As they continue on, we see that just behind them is another set of footprints being made, but from no one we can see. As the two stop to make out, Tom notices the extra set of prints, and freaks out. Meg doesn’t understand, and when Tom tries to point them out, the ocean washes up and erases the tracks. Tom gets frantic, and begs Meg to go away with him to the mainland now and get married, but she refuses, and tells him that her father would go berserk. Tom is left wondering what to do, and again, we see a set of footprints right next to him!

 

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The next day, Sandy is trying to show Tom her new magic show, but he couldn’t care less. Sandy gets angry, but forgives him. He asks her to get the magic show ready for another time while he practices his music. He begins to play, but out of nowhere, the record player turns on by itself. Tom notices the name of the song is “Tormented” by an artist with the first name “Vi” so he unplugs the record player. He heads back over to the piano, and just as he’s about to begin playing again, the record player starts up again! He runs over and smashes the record. Just then, he hears a knock, so he calls out, and gets an answer from Mrs. Ellis (Lillian Addams). She’s was a local real estate agent that he knows, and she just stopped by to pay him a visit and see how he’s doing. She’s blind, but knows the area very well. He begins to ask her questions about local ghost stories and her personal superstition. She tells him that there is a strong presence in this area, and just down the block they had an incident years earlier.

 

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That night, Tom is dreaming (or is he) that Vi’s ghost is calling out to him, begging for help on the lighthouse once again and just flat-out taunting him. After wetting the bed, Tom wakes up, and that watch is on the nightstand. As he looks out of his window, he sees the light is on up at the lighthouse, so he bolts up there to check it out. He calls out to Vi, and initially gets no answer. As he heads out, a voice answers him, but it’s too late. The next day, he’s doing his thing again at the piano, and Sandy drops by to annoy him. He shows her the wedding ring and she asks if she can try it on. He turns away, and gets the ring out of the case, and thinks he’s slipping it on to the child’s finger. A minute later, she again asks if she can try it on, and he tells her that he just gave it to her, but she tells him that he didn’t. Just as he turns back around, he sees Vi’s floating hand wearing the ring! He freaks out, slaps the hand down, and backs up. Sand y doesn’t understand what’s going on, and she thinks he’s dropped it. She looks under the piano, and then Tom can see the creepy hand crawling around with the ring. As Sandy gets near, he pulls her away, and the hand then disappears.

Will Tom make it to his wedding day? Or will the ghost of Vi get her revenge?!?

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

Being a film that’s in public domain, give it a look. Richard Carlson is a strong actor, and gives a very solid performance. Nothing Oscar worthy, but definitely worth giving this one a try. The rest of the cast isn’t anything to write home about, well, the little girl has some funny scenes, and the ladies are very beautiful, but they could’ve been anyone. Lillian Addams was pretty good, not only at portraying a blind woman, but also at being a sort of medium.

The sets were OK, but the real cool scenes were in the lighthouse. That was something cool, and really added the atmosphere to the flick. There wasn’t much else, and the music score was kind of generic, but hey, Bert I. Gordon films aren’t really known for the big budgets and elaborate music scores. The special effects were decent for a low-budget film, and didn’t pull down the supernatural tone that the movie was trying to give you. Seeing Carlson’s character mentally decline is half the fun of the movie, but once the blind lady senses something wrong, then it gets really interesting. I’ll add a link to the full movie so you can decide for yourself!

 

Click here for the full movie!