Earth vs the Spider (1958)

There is a saying that a true artist can make an error into a masterpiece. While this doesn’t exactly apply to film-making, it can easily apply to film-viewing. Think of lots of 1950’s low budget sci-fi cliches (bad acting, bad special effects, etc.), and then throw them all into a single movie. The outcome of this is a critic’s nightmare, 1958’s “Earth vs. the Spider”. There’s no way such “trash”, with all its errors, can be entertaining, right? Wrong.

The only real disappointing goof in this film is the title, a horrid misnomer as the spider only gets to crawl about its web in a cave and a small town, and less than 10 people in the town actually “fight” it. Of those 10 people, most are represented by the driest actors imaginable (except for the women, who get to scream and sob), and the “teenagers” are obviously not, especially Joe, who looks like he’s in his mid-30’s. Said teenagers also make decisions in the film that are stupid, yet at the same time have enough logic that the audience is able to forgive them for it (as opposed to some movies of the genre where people just act stupid out of the blue). It might seem like a really bad idea to go to a killer giant spider’s cave, but if it is to retrieve the last memento of one’s father, its understandable, although still not a wise choice. The teen characters in this film act like that, making them less annoying and more lovable than most teen victims in the genre.

The spider they take on, is, unimaginatively, a run-of-the-mill tarantula filmed and super-imposed over scenes to make it seem gigantic; sometimes it’s really noticeable and looks awful, but most of the time it works, yet still comes off as tacky since the spider is always moving in the same direction. Besides that fact, the other main reason that this barely works is that the spider and the people are rarely in the same shot at the same time. This also means that all deaths are off-camera (but accompanied by the spider’s un-spider-like hissing and growling), and the resulting corpses are really weird-looking: by no means realistic, but odd enough to be entertaining.

Which is really the reason why films like these are watchable, and to some (like me) even enjoyable. Sure, there won’t be any Oscar nominations for the acting, but isn’t it funny to hear a science teacher call a spider an insect? He should obviously know better. Isn’t it funny that the route the lead teens take to escape from the spider at the beginning of the film leads to a dead-end at the end of it? That was obviously a mistake in the script writing. Granted, these mistakes aren’t intentional or intelligent humor, but it’s humor nonetheless, and there’s enough of it to recommend this film to fans of the genre. It’s also worth noting that this film thankfully knows its limits, and is thus quite short, so that it can be enjoyable without dragging on and on.