Release Date(s)1960 (June 16, 2020)
Studio(s)Pacemaker Pictures/Rapid Film/Intercontinental Filmgesellschaft (Severin Films)
- Film/Program Grade: D+
- Video Grade: C+
- Audio Grade: C+
- Extras Grade: B-
Most people have only ever seen or are aware of Horrors of Spider Island thanks to Mystery Science Theater 3000, myself included. It’s one of those films that wasn’t easy to seek out for a time, unless it aired on TV prior to MST3K, which was not often. Today it’s looked at as both an important piece of German exploitation, but also as a notoriously good/bad horror film.
After holding a series of auditions with women who offer a variety of beauty and talents, a nightclub manager and his selections board an airplane bound for Singapore, only to crash into the ocean. Surviving in a lifeboat, they float their way to a mysterious and seemingly uninhabited island. Discovering a cabin nearby with a dead man in a giant spider web inside, they quickly realize that something is not right. However, that won’t stop them from bickering and fighting with each other, even when they start disappearing to become victims of a horrible monster.
Horrors of Spider Island is pure exploitation. It’s basically a group of scantily clad women who are full of unrest and desire thrown into a generic horror plot involving dog-sized spider creatures on strings, as well as a monster that is the result of being bitten by one. The monster itself is nothing more than a single-toothed werewolf with no spider-like looks or tendencies. To be fair, the film’s title isn’t all that accurate. In Germany, it was released as Ein Toter hing im Netz, or A Corpse Hung in the Web, which is closer to what we actually see. It was later cut up and retitled a number of times in the US, featuring titles like It’s Hot in Paradise, The Spider’s Web, and the one that stuck, Horrors of Spider Island, despite only seeing maybe one or two spiders at most.
In short, Horrors of Spider Island is far from good, but it’s unintentionally hilarious, particularly due to its English overdub. You have a myriad of characters running around with a variety of accents and terrible dialogue, which is a recipe for entertainment of a different sort. Exposure to it on Mystery Science Theater 3000 has only further established its reputation as a good/bad movie.
Severin Films brings Horrors of Spider Island to Blu-ray for the first time with a couple of different viewing options. The main feature has been scanned from a low dupe negative (or internegative) and is presented in English with occasional scenes in German, which were never dubbed into English. The other version, presented separately, has been scanned from a low contrast print, and is entirely in English. Both presentations are plagued with instability, speckling, scratches, and other flaws throughout. However, it adds to the appeal of the film’s low tech nature. Both versions appear natural to their sources, but the main feature seems to have the edge when it comes to grayscale. Blacks are deeper and whites aren’t quite as bright.
The audio is presented in either English or German 2.0 mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English or German. Like the video portion, the audio also contains evident leftover damage, including hiss and crackle. On both tracks, dialogue exchanges are clear, though the hilarious English overdubbing stands out much more comparatively. Sound effects don’t have much of a boost, but the music does, often overpowering the track with occasional dramatic stings.
The following extras are also included:
- It’s Hot in Paradise (Alternate US Release Version) (HD – 1:17:01)
- The History of Spider Island (HD – 15:02)
- Alexander D’Arcy Audio Interview (2:36)
- Alternate Clothed Scenes (SD – 8:06)
- Trailer (SD – 1:48)
It’s Hot in Paradise is the full English language version of the film, though later titled Horrors of Spider Island, and is over twenty minutes shorter. The History of Spider Island is an interview with and an introduction to the film by German film professor Marcus Stiglegger, who goes over the history of the film and its context within the German film industry at that time. The brief interview snippet with Alexander D’Arcy by David Del Valle is fleeting, but it offers a glimpse at a time when the film was nearly impossible to see. The alternate clothes sequences are just that, replacing the nudity in the main feature with clothing. The low quality trailer advertises the film with its current title.
Severin Films brings this gem of German sleaze to glorious high definition with a decent amount of extras to back it up, including two versions of the film. Though a commentary, particularly with David Del Valle, would have been appreciated, there’s very little to complain about with this one. If you’re into movies that entertainingly miss their mark, then Horrors of Spider Island is for you.
– Tim Salmons