Sunday, September 25, 2016


The other night I popped in my DVD of Bert I. Gordon's giant arachnid epic EARTH VS. THE SPIDER (1958) to revisit something I knew I would enjoy. I was coming off a run of pretty crappy first time horror film viewings so I just wanted to see something fun that I could count on to entertain me. It had been several years since my last watch (why does that sound confessional?) so I was surprised to note that the film is only 72 minutes long. Cool, I thought. Fun, fast and over before you know it! Woo boy, was I wrong.

Don't misunderstand me - I still really enjoyed watching EARTH VS. THE SPIDER but this time I noticed things I had ignored in the past. For instance - the sheriff of the small mountain town is very dubious about the teenager's claims of a giant spider but still immediately calls for a tanker truck of DDT to deal with the situation. That's an odd plotting shortcut as I would have expected him to first be confronted with proof of this outrageous claim before calling in such extraordinary (and expensive) resources. I suspect this was done to keep the film short but it stands out as a strange move for such a skeptical authority figure.

Next I was amused to note just how long the hose from the DDT truck had to be to reach the spider's lair. The film makes it clear with all the footage of Carlsbad Caverns that the brave group of spider hunters are venturing very deeply into the cave. The workers just keep unspooling hose the entire time with nary a peep about the distance. That is one very long hose!

Third, and most distressing to me, is that even at this short length the film has stretches of dullness that could have been easily shortened. The second time we watch characters descend a hillside to examine a wrecked truck or walk a long distance into a cave I kept thinking that the editor had fallen asleep or stepped out for a smoke. Of course, I know that this footage is in the film to push the movie to feature length but it makes the whole thing feel overlong even with this brief running time.

While I enjoyed watching the film it was strange to notice these problems this time around. My memory was of an engaging if low budget giant monster vs. teenagers tale but what I got was a fairly average AIP effort that shows its weaknesses all too clearly. It's still a fun film for me and I assume for fans of genre cinema of the 1950's, but I think Mr. BIG did better work. Or did he? It might be time for a career retrospective.  


Nick Rentz said...

This is one of several movies my dad saw when he was younger and couldn't remember the title. I made his day when I showed him the double feature of War of the Colossal Beast and this one. What are your favorite and least favorite BIG movies?

Stevie B. said...

I was disappointed when I first watched this and the spider didn't have that cool skull-head on him!

Rod Barnett said...

Stevie - Yeah! The lack of a skull head would have pissed me off! Luckily I never saw that artwork until after I'd already seen the film.

Nick - Fave BIG films - THE MAGIC SWORD, TORMENTED, WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST. Least fave - KING DINOSAUR, BEGINNING OF THE END. I still need to see several of his later work like THE MAD BOMBER and BURNED AT THE STAKE.

Nick Rentz said...

I have a hard time not enjoying his movies from the 50's and 60's. However, King Dinosaur is one of those movies where they use lizards as dinosaurs and I'm not a fan of those. I would throw out Empire of the Ants as another least favorite. I haven't seen his latest movie from last year, though I suspect it's not very good.

Rod Barnett said...

You would be right - SECRETS OF A PSYCHOPATH (2015) is pretty bad. I caught it on Amazon streaming the other night.