DVD Review: Shatner’s ‘Kingdom of the Spiders’ exploits, ’70s-style

Long before Snakes on a Plane — and just two years before 1979’s first Star Trek movie — William Shatner often went “slumming” as an actor. His TV Trek days were over, and even though its sensational syndication made him a star, he couldn’t get respectable movie roles, so he settled for exploitation flicks such as Kingdom of the Spiders.

Teeming with big, ugly, crawly, hairy tarantulas, the film is a horror flick kick, and it’s good to see Shatner again as a robust young man, even getting to ride horses, as he loves to do offscreen. The film isn’t art, but it gets the job done.

It also now arrives on an excellent DVD bulging with extras. Among them is a new 16-minute interview with Shatner, who agreeably recalls the experience and talks up ecology  (but it would have helped if he weren’t shot with distracting traffic whizzing by outside a window). There’s also a superb 12-minute featurette on the movie’s spider “wrangler,” Jim Brockett, who handled the multi-legged critters back then and, here, proceeds to drop them out of Tupperware containers and prod them gently with a stick.

We (and a brave but skittish interviewer) meet many different types of big spiders, some of whom (the ones used in the film) aren’t really that menacing. Literally thousands of the creatures were used for the movie, BTW.

The disc also has 17 minutes of rare home-movie style footage from behind the scenes on the set — not always that regaling. And there’s an audio commentary by Brockett and the film’s director, producer and cinematographer, as well as a trailer and poster gallery.

You don’t often get so many extras for a film released three-plus decades ago, but this should put fans of the MST-style fright flick in spider heaven.

An interesting note: This movie, while a horror flick, was rated PG. The same was true for another of my exploitation favorites from this era, Tourist Trap. It just goes to show that you don’t have to wallow in explicit gore to give a good scare.

Hey, what’s that crawling on your shoulder?!

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