It’s quite well known that William Shatner dabbled here and there in horror early his career, and more recently in American Psycho 2. In that early part of his career, The Devil’s Rain and this gem are the two that spring to mind. I saw this as a kid watching the Deadly Ernest Horror Show, and it really stuck with me until I managed to grab a copy on the Shout Factory label (please ignore the dodgy 23rd Media release from a few years ago). I am happy to relive this childhood memory and share it with you all.
We’re in proper open range and mountain America territory for this film; horses and cowboy boots are available for all to purchase in 1977. Two farmers, Walt Colby (Woody Strode) and his wife Birch Colby (diseased widow of Sammy Davis Jr., Altovise Davis), with big smiles let a young calf out to graze on the field. They get on with their work and so does the calf. Suddenly we have three alternative camera views from the angles of small fast things in the grass, and they’re approaching the calf. Meanwhile, William Shatner is Rack Hansen, the small valley vet. We meet him lassoing livestock, and a girl, as cowboy valley boys do. He’s called out to the calf that’s been totally paralyzed from bites. “Ain’t that a crock,” says Walt as the calf dies (This guy must be related to Scatman from my previous review of The Rats).
Across town, a mechanic comes across one hell of a big spider whilst picking webs off tyres in his storeroom. He spits on it and walks off. As he shuts the door, the spider gives chase. The Mayor is quite concerned due to Walt’s calf and the chance of quarantine, because the county fair is due soon. Meanwhile, Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling) arrives in town from the university due to samples Rack sent over for testing; he’s discovered that spiders bit the calf. She catches Rack’s eyes straight away. Back at the farm as Hansen and Diane arrive, Walt and Birch’s dog is found dead (although the dog is still breathing – he he!) and they find a huge spider hill filled with maybe a thousand or so right near the farm. Diane takes a venom sample from a spider and sends it off, then kisses Dr. Hansen for a while. That night they decide to burn the hill and discover Walt’s bull coated in spiders. As the hill burns, some spiders have an escape tunnel a few feet away.
The next day as Walt is driving spiders attack him all over his face; when he’s found in his crashed truck, he’s in a cocoon. Further back in the fields there are now twenty or so spider hills – Oh ohhh! The Mayor sends up the Baron, a fella with a crop-spraying plane to wipe out the hills. The Baron draws a really stupid sketch of a spider on the side of his cockpit, which looks like a hairy skittle, then does a few circles over the fields before he finds himself covered with spiders. A high explosive crash follows.
The spider armies rampage through the valley, into town and all over. Shatner throws spiders around with a priceless expression, which reminded me of the infamous Star Trek episode, Trouble with Tribbles. He rescues his niece, who for a five or six year old wears very worrying short dresses. He takes his niece and Diane and hides out in a lodge with the Sheriff and a few others, whilst everyone else is cocooned in the invasion. The small group have to defend themselves from the mass of creepy little bastards.
Its a fun movie that actually uses real spiders, and a lot of them! The characters are plastic and predictable, but carry the film well enough. William Shatner is a competent actor as a rugged ranch cowboy vet of sorts. As I said earlier, it’s best to seek out the Shout Factory DVD; extras include features on spider training and a Shatner interview.
©2010 – 2011 Cinematic Horror Archive, Dave J. Wilson – All work is the property of the credited author(s) and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.