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Earth vs the Spider

Entry updated 4 April 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1958; vt The Spider). American International Pictures. Produced and directed by Bert I Gordon. Written by László Görög and George Worthing Yates from an original story by Gordon. Cast includes Ed Kemmer, June Kenney, Eugene Persson (credited as Gene Persson) and Gene Roth. 73 minutes. Black and white.

As the film starts Jack Flynn (Merritt Stone), father of pretty Carol Flynn (Kenney), returns late at night from a trip to purchase a birthday gift for her; his truck strikes something like a cable strung across the road, and crashes. The next day, a worried Carol asks her boy-friend Mike Simpson (Persson) to help search for him; they discover the wrecked truck some yards off the roadway, but find no body in or near it. Thinking the man may have crawled into a near-by cave for protection from the elements, the two go inside, and wander farther learning the cave leads into a vast system of cavernous Underground chambers. They encounter an arachnid Monster, and flee back to town where they inform high school science teacher Art Kingman (Kemmer) of this spider's existence. Believing them, Kingman convinces Sheriff Cagle (Roth) to gather together an armed search party and a tanker truck of insecticide; all return to the caves where they find the withered body of Jack Flynn. The spider attacks almost immediately, and proves largely invulnerable to gunfire. When it chases the group outside, the insecticide man douses it heavily, and the creature falls over, apparently dead. Kingman has the spider's body taken back to town for study, and stores it briefly in the school gymnasium; it revives when a student band plays loud music, having been only stunned by the poisons. The spider proceeds to wreak havoc on the small town, killing a number of people. Unaware of this, Carol and Mike have meanwhile returned to the cave to search for the gift her father had been bringing her, and become lost in the cavern. The spider returns, and the authorities take the opportunity to seal it in by dynamiting the cave entrance, not realizing until too late that the teenagers are inside. When this is discovered, Professor Kingman and a work crew dig an entrance from the top of the mountain; Kingman then takes a long length of electrical cable attached to near-by power-lines. Finding the pair cornered on a ledge by the spider, Kingman and Simpson electrocute the beast by catching it in an electric arc, recreating a science experiment shown earlier in the film; it falls to its death, is impaled on stalagmites for good measure, and matters end on a generally happy note.

While none of Gordon's sf films are especially good, this Monster Movie is one of his better attempts. Two major flaws are that no explanation of the spider's origin is given, nor for why it had never before shown itself. Nevertheless the film and its rear-projected spider work fairly well. Kemmer previously starred in the early juvenile sf series Space Patrol (1950-1955). After he had retired from film work, character actor Roth was killed in 1976 by a Los Angeles hit-and-run driver. [GSt]


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