DirectorBert I. Gordon
Release Date(s)1958 (June 23, 2020)
Studio(s)Santa Rosa Productions/American International Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: D+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B-
Bert I. Gordon’s The Spider (aka Earth vs, the Spider) was released in 1958 when a glut of cheaply-produced horror quickies were hitting drive-in screens all over the country, many making a quick buck on double and even triple feature bills. American International Pictures was only four years old at the time, but it had already established itself with a plethora of B movie titles such as It Conquered the World, The She-Creature, I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Daddy-O, and The Screaming Skull (the latter released the same year as The Spider, and sometimes on the same bill, depending upon where one saw it).
Neither the plot or the execution of The Spider are all that complicated. A couple of teenagers wander into a cave outside of town, one of them in search for her missing father. They find the titular oversized arachnid hiding inside, much to the disbelief of their families and the local authorities, but with great interest from the resident scientist. That’s basically it. Most of the action takes place in or around the cave, and even though the final running time is 73 minutes, it feels more like 150. Characters mostly go through the same motions over and over again to pad out the story (look in the cave, see the spider, tell somebody, go back to the cave, see the spider, tell somebody, etc). It’s all very boilerplate, failing to even ape Tarantula! from three years prior.
That said, The Spider has maintained its cult appeal over the years, thanks in no small part to repeated showings on late night TV, and later on in its life gaining new viewers by its appearance on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Bert I. Gordon would also go on to direct many more low budget genre films, including Attack of the Puppet People, Village of the Giants, The Food of the Gods, and Empire of the Ants. These films and others like it previous to The Spider helped to establish Bert I. Gordon as one of the reigning kings of no budget fantasy filmmaking, though he is sometimes overlooked next to Roger Corman’s schlock-driven oeuvre.
Scream Factory brings The Spider to Blu-ray for the first time utilizing a new 2K scan of a fine grain film print. It is erroneously listed as coming from the original camera negative on their site, but it does carry the title Earth vs. the Spider. For a film that’s been battered around for years on TV, the element for it is in relatively good condition. The obvious flaws can be found in the transitions and the optical effects, as well as the opening titles which are pretty rough. However, the rest of the film exhibits a mostly clean and organic appearance, aside from minor speckling. Grayscale is decent, giving characters and objects proper shape without appearing milky or too dark. Blacks are inherently crushed, but they too offer a surprising amount of fine detail. Brightness and contrast levels are satisfactory and the image is stable throughout.
The audio is provided in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise. It’s a mostly narrow track, but the score has plenty of push to it. Even sound effects have occasional life to them (the sounds of the spider screaming are perhaps the most effective). The track is also free of any leftover hiss, crackle, distortion, or dropouts. Nothing amazing, but it represents the film aural quality quite well.
The following extras are also included:
- Audio Commentary with Ted Newsom
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 Version of Earth vs. the Spider (SD – 1:37:41)
- 8mm Version of Earth vs. the Spider (SD – (9;01)
- Theatrical Trailer (SD – 1:49)
- Still Gallery (HD – 256 in all – 21:20)
The audio commentary with late, great Ted Newsom (may he rest in peace) is an enjoyable analysis of the film, pointing out both its flaws as well as its more interesting facets. He gives occasional background information about actors and crewmen, while also contextualizing the film in the era it was made. The MST3K version of Earth vs. the Spider is a memorable episode from the Joel Hodgson era. The 8mm version of the film featuring the title Earth vs. the Spider is a silent, 9-minute version of the film, which was provided for collectors in the pre-home video days. The theatrical trailer carries the film’s original title, The Spider. The still gallery contains 256 photos, many of them rare, including on-set stills, behind-the-scenes photos, promotional photos, posters, and lobby cards. Not included from several overseas DVD releases is an hour-long audio interview with Samuel Arkoff.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of The Spider is bound to please long-time fans of B movie horror and sci-fi. It’s not a particularly good movie, but it’s fun one, particularly with a group of people. The A/V quality and bonus materials offer the film in an excellent presentation, definitely worthy of any monster movie fan’s Blu-ray collection.
– Tim Salmons