Earth vs the Spider aka The Spider – USA, 1958 – overview and reviews

‘Bullets won’t kill it! Flames can’t hurt it! Nothing can stop it!’

Earth vs the Spider aka The Spider is a 1958 American science-fiction horror feature film produced and directed by Bert I. Gordon, who also wrote the story, upon which the screenplay written by George Worthing Yates (Tormented; Frankenstein 1970) and László Görög (The Land Unknown; The Mole People) is based. The movie stars Ed Kemmer, Eugene Persson and June Kenney.

Bert I. Gordon also provided special effects. In the USA, it was released by American International Pictures (AIP).

Plot:

A middle-aged man is driving along a country road with a bracelet birthday present for his teenage daughter, Carol (June Kenney). However, he meets a horrific sudden death.

Next day, after studying at River Falls High School, Carol enlists the help of her boyfriend, Mike (Gene Persson), to track down her missing father. The teenagers trace his path to an eerie cave containing a huge web and a massive spider and barely escape with their lives.

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Naturally, the sheriff (Gene Roth) doubts their story but does heed the warning of Mr Kingman (Ed Kemmer), the science teacher at the local high school, to bring a pest-control crew along with his deputies, a posse, and a tanker loaded with DDT.

The posse comes across Carol’s shrivelled dead father and then the creature, and, after losing one of their men, dispatch it with the insecticide. Kingman persuades the sheriff to bring the carcass into town so that he can arrange to have it studied, leaving it in storage at the high school recreation room, for lack of anywhere bigger to keep it.

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Unfortunately, the spider is merely stunned. As the local rock ‘n’ roll band rehearses, the giant spider comes to bloodthirsty consciousness, breaking out of the building and ravaging the town. Bullets won’t hurt it — as Kingman says, you could punch holes in it all day without hitting a vital spot — and the town is soon cut off when the telephone lines are knocked down…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“The effects are predominantly what you’d expect, but for its microscopic budget, you get far more action and thrills than what crawled across the screen in Jack Arnold’s more expensive Tarantula (1955). Some mild gore, genuine suspense and a creepy theremin tinged score enhance this potent Sci Fi-horror potboiler.” Cool Ass Cinema

“A tarantula portrays the titular menace – though it does seem to change species a few times. However, this is combined with some decent matte work to surprisingly reasonable effect (sometimes the spider is matted in, sometimes the people). On the other hand, the use of photographic mattes to give foreground detail to the cave scenes results in geological features of a two-dimensionality unseen since the days of Georges Melies.” Cult films and the people who make them

“With its preposterous plot, the movie is certainly good for a laugh or two or three, as there is no way it can be treated seriously thanks to its plethora of hammy acting and lousy special effects.  Kemmer, Kenney and Persson do their best with the material.” Derek Winnert

“One of Bert I. Gordon’s better efforts, this has a great opening scene before it becomes pedestrian […]The spider does change size at times and the characters aren’t developed, but this is a fairly straightforward exercise. The tacked-on rock and roll number isn’t terrible, either.” Down Among the Z Movies

” …works better than most Bert I. Gordon pix because we basically like the teenaged heroes, even though they’re so badly directed that it’s hard to believe anything they do. Bert Gordon rarely put a lot of effort into dialogue or direction, which leaves the kids wandering into obvious danger (with spooky Theremin music telling them so) as if taking a stroll in the park.” DVD Savant

“Bert I. Gordon’s special effects look better than usual this time around, and I actually like the rock ‘n’ roll song in the gymnasium scene; it actually sounds like rock ‘n’ roll. And I do admit that the opening scene is a doozy.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

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“The film quickly falls into the cliches of the 1950s atomic monster/giant bug film (although Earth vs the Spider is one of the few in the genre where atomic radiation is not used as an explain-all for what is going on). Gordon uses his customary technique of optically enlarged bugs – the film here is so cheap that he even uses some of the same shots several times.” Moria

” …the main success with The Spider is Bert I. Gordon’s talent of storytelling. It’s easy to forget that behind all overgrown creatures and dancing teenagers. Gordon can tell a story, the editing is effective and camera work and light is always above average. The budget might be low, but there’s a lot of heart and passion in his movies.” Ninja Dixon

” …though the film is entertaining, it’s missing the little touches that made Gordon’s Colossal movies such classics. Flawed as it may be, Earth vs. the Spider is still a lot of fun. Some of the kills are actually quite bloody for the ’50s and the spider’s mummified victims are pretty cool as well.” The Video Vacuum

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Cast and characters:

  • Ed Kemmer … Professor Art Kingman
  • June Kenney … Carol Flynn
  • Eugene Persson … Mike Simpson (as Gene Persson)
  • Gene Roth … Sheriff Cagle
  • Hal Torey … Mr Simpson
  • June Jocelyn … Mrs Jack Flynn
  • Mickey Finn … Sam Haskel
  • Sally Fraser … Mrs Helen Kingman
  • Troy Patterson … Joe
  • Skip Young … Sam the Bass Player
  • Howard Wright … Jake
  • Bill Giorgio … Deputy Sheriff Pete Sanders
  • Hank Patterson … Hugo the Janitor
  • Jack Kosslyn … Mr Fraser
  • Bob Garnet … Pest Control Man

Filming locations:

  • Bronson Caves, Bronson Canyon, Griffith Park – 4730 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles, California
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park – 727 Carlsbad Caverns Highway, Carlsbad, New Mexico
  • Universal Studios – 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California

Censorship:

When originally released theatrically in the UK by Anglo Amalgamated, the BBFC made cuts (13/11/1958) to secure an ‘A’ rating. All cuts were waived in 1991 when the film was granted a ‘PG’ certificate for home video.

Trivia:

  • Mike works at a movie house where The Amazing Colossal Man has just played. The marquee and stills show that Attack of the Puppet People is the next feature; both are Bert I. Gordon productions.
  • The spider makes lots of noise even though arachnids are unable to make sounds.
  • A copy of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland can be seen in one scene,

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