Welcome once again to “Hollywood, Shmallywood,” the movie lover’s guide to terrible films that dares to ask the question that is on the minds of all viewers: “What was the director thinking?”
Today’s stink bomb is titled “Earth vs. the Spider” from 1958, directed by Bert Gordon, the B-movie master who specialized in huge monsters and tiny plots.
The action is set in a typical 1950s small town, with a clueless sheriff, a teacher who actually cares about his students and “teenagers,” some of whom are as old as many members of Congress.
The movie begins with a guy in a beat-up pickup truck. (Hollywood once owned a factory that did nothing but produce beat-up pickup trucks for sci-fi movies.) He’s driving along a lonely road when … ZAP! … he is taken up into the clouds to spend the rest of eternity. … Wait. That’s the Rapture.
He’s driving along, when … Zap! … what looks like a long, furry pipe cleaner grabs him. He screams and, voila, the lucky guy is out of this movie and can maybe still salvage his career.
Next day, two local high school kids, the missing guy’s daughter Carol (played by June Kenney) and her boyfriend Mike (Eugene Persson, who was really 24 when this film was made) go looking for him. They discover the battered truck (which can now go back to the props department), but no daddy.
Still searching, they wander into a cave, and Carol falls into a giant spider web. Mike dramatically saves her as a huge tarantula, emitting squeals like fingernails on a blackboard, bears down on them.
They get away (too bad), then bring back the sheriff, some expendable deputies to tantalize the spider’s appetite, the high school science teacher, Mr. Kingman (Ed Kemmer) and the world’s largest can of Raid. Just kidding. They actually spray DDT into the cave, killing the spider, but not before — surprise! — a deputy gets eaten.
The sheriff wants to seal the cave, but Kingman convinces him to take the spider back to the school gymnasium to be put on display and studied. (You just know this is a bad idea.)
Naturally, there’s a dance in the gym that night, and members of the “teenage” band, who are older than the Rolling Stones, want to rehearse. So they do, but their music revives the spider.
Yes! Those 1950s parents were correct; rock ‘n’ roll is evil!
Awake now, the spider attacks the town, killing a number of folks, including a woman who can’t escape because her dress is caught in her car door. She stands there and screams until the spider eats her because, being a woman in a 1950s horror movie, she is too stupid to open the car door and free her dress. (Of course, even if she had freed it, she would most likely have stumbled and fell while running away.)
The spider next attacks Kingman’s home, where his wife and child are hiding. Kingman rams the spider’s leg with his car. The spider, ticked off, chases Kingman, who proves that a 1958 V-8 Plymouth Fury can outrun a giant tarantula, despite being handicapped with tail fins the size of Ryan Howard.
The spider eventually returns to its cave, where it is finally electrocuted and the movie, mercifully, ends.
I don’t recall the whole Earth getting involved in this battle, so a better title would’ve been “Two Teens, a Teacher, a Hick Sheriff and a Town Full of Underachieving Adults Posing as Teenagers vs. the Spider.”
But I guess that wouldn’t have fit on the theater marquee.
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