Shout! Factory and its Scream Factory subset have become the place to find classic horror/science-fiction abandoned by its corporate masters. The AIP films have a checkered past on home video and several of the titles are long out of print (some of them never made it out of the VHS days). Thankfully, some of the most-requested 1950s AIP titles are at least beginning to surface, with War of the Colossal Beast, How to Make a Monster (both with color sequences intact) and the rumored Day the World Ended all on the horizon before year's end, joining Attack of the Puppet People and a handful of other AIP (and Universal) 1950s horrors that have made the jump to Blu. Which brings us to the 1958 favorite The Spider (also known as Earth vs. the Spider, and by reversing Scream Factory's label you can take your choice), which originally played with The Brain Eaters (still missing).
Our story: young love has smitten Mike and Carol, high schoolers who live in a remote mountain town. Young people in love do silly things, like continually wandering into a cave wherein lives a giant, huge, colossal, terrifying killer spider, who has recently eaten Carol's dad. Eventually their high school science teacher figures out a way to "kill" the beast and they drag it down and put it - get this - into the school gym. When a bunch of "teenagers" (led by actor Troy Patterson, who was 35 and looked older) form a rock 'n' roll combo and put on a show in the gym, it wakes the spider up, and the darn thing HATES rock 'n' roll and so eats school janitor Hank Ziffle from Green Acres. (Well, he DOES.) It then rampages through the town (growing or shrinking depending on the shot, this IS a Bert I. Gordon film) and even cranky Sheriff Gene Roth finally figures there might be somethin' to this silly story the teenagers have been tryin' to foist on him. They chase the spider back to its cave (the spider shrieks "HOOOOOME!" when it gets there) and blow up the entrance, but of course Mike and Carol have wandered back in there, so Sheriff Roth and company have to figure out a way to get 'em out a-fore the Spider gets 'em.
Yes, I think you can tell from the description: I love this movie. Of course I do. I want to come live in a town where 35 year olds can still be in high school and the only theatre in town only shows AIP pictures (The Amazing Colossal Man has just ended its run, and the next attraction is Attack of the Puppet People, plus if you look closely the Coming Attractions wall has a still from War of the Colossal Beast).
Professor on the phone to his wife when he learns the voracious giant Spider is headed for their street: "It'd be a good idea if you'd stay inside the house for awhile."
Ed "Space Patrol" Kemmer is the professor, Sally Fraser (who's in several 1950s AIP pictures) is his wife, and Eugene Persson and June Kenney (both in their mid-20s) are our high school lovers. The spider is movingly portrayed by a real tarantula and one enormous fake hairy tarantula leg.
Is this a good movie? Well, we define the word differently than you do, but yes, it delivers what we paid to see: lots of action, a deadly fangfest of a monster, pseudo-scientific talk (although there's no explanation whatsoever as to how the spider got so darned big, so we had to make up our own backstory, something about being picked on by the other spiders), and an inappropriately goofy musical interlude, one of our favorite parts of any AIP horror film (which reminds us, Scream Factory: where's Blood of Dracula in your release calendar?!?!?). The print is beautiful, sound is clear, aspect ratio is fine, and we have no complaints.
Includes the full MST3K version of the film, which isn't funny at all once you get past the hilarious short subject, a very serious guy giving a lecture on public speaking ("You must be PLEASING"); a rough 9 min. 8mm condensed silent version that completely rearranges the scenes and gives us a different plot (but the same spider); a wonderful, marvelous 21 min. parade of behind-the-scenes production shots (you will be as astounded as I was to see how small those sets were; no matter how small you THINK they might've been, you're wrong, they were smaller); and disappointing commentary by Ted Newsom, who doesn't seem to know or care an awful lot about the picture and the people in it, but gives a friendly chat about what's going on anyway.
Almost 20 years ago, we helped bring these AIP films to DVD in England (the planned launch of an AIP line by Lionsgate was a washout a few years later thanks to that company's mismanagement) and it's great to see these lovable old B&W scares get exemplary treatment now. It would be great if some of the other films we toiled on, including THe Brain Eaters, Rock All Night, Motorcycle Gang, Viking Women and the Sea Serpent, etc., get future love and care. Nice job, Scream Factory!