Review of “Earth vs. the Spider” (1958)

“Earth vs. the Spider” (1958) trailer

This is this week’s Saturday pizza and bad movie night movie. The pizza was good, the movie was hokey.

Plot:

In the opening sequences, a man (Merritt Stone) drives down a lonely road at night. He opens a small jewelry box containing a bracelet and a note: “To Carol with Love, Dad.” Something ahead startles him. An object hits the windshield, and his face is bloodied. The viewer hears his truck crash.

In the morning, high school (?) student Carol Flynn (June Kenney) walks to school. Her boyfriend, Mike Simpson (Eugene Persson), meets her and gives her a birthday present, which she refuses. She tells him her father didn’t come home the night before, after going out to buy her a birthday present. Later, during (…and this is important…) a Jacob’s ladder demonstration of electricity in physics class, they pass notes and make up. She talks him into borrowing a car from a friend, and they drive along the route her father took the night before.

Oh, and the things they find…!

The first odd thing is a rope about as thick as the rope they use to climb in gym class lying across the road. Unlike that rope, however, it’s sticky. Mike finds bits of shattered windshield. Carol finds the box with the bracelet and the note from her dad. Could he be…?

Other clues, including Mr. Flynn’s wrecked truck, lead them to a cave entrance with a sign that reads:

Danger
No trespassing
Do not enter


Well, there’s only one thing to do here.

Without flashlights, they have to rely on the usual magical movie cave light. Carol calls for her father, knocking loose a gigantic stalactite. Gallantly, Mike shoves her out of the way before it smashes down to the floor where she was standing. Not far ahead, they find (gulp) human skeletons.

Deep in the cave, they come across a net strung across a shallow cavern. Like the rope in the road, it’s sticky. While they are examining it, they hear a noise. A tarantula (later identified as a “bird spider”) the size of a city bus crawls out of a crevice and approaches them. They flee, and the tarantula breaks off the attack.

Professor Kingman (Ed Kemmer), his wife Helen (Sally Fraser), and Mike’s dad (Hal Torey) discuss the events in the Kingmans’ living room. It seems the sheriff didn’t believe the kids when they tried to talk to him about a giant spider in a cave. (I don’t know. Maybe they should have mentioned Mr. Flynn’s wrecked truck?) Kingman’s assessment of the “rope” is that it is… silk. Mr. Simpson feels strongly enough about the situation—Jack Flynn is still missing, after all—he calls the sheriff himself and catches him playing checkers with a deputy.

Thoughts:

We watched this via Mystery Science 3000. As usual, the remarks were often funny but mostly just goofy. Sometimes they obscured the movie dialogue, which I found annoying even if no major plot points were lost.

Okay, a giant tarantula in a cave is sucking people dry. I suppose one can’t expect reality, but the thing I found creepy—and not in a good way—about the movie was its odd portrayal and often dismissal of human feelings and relationships. For example, after the search party, including Carol and Mike, finds the desiccated corpse of Jack Flynn (I trust I give nothing away here), Carol is home crying on the couch. Her mother comforts her. The poor woman has just lost her husband, and she is comforting her daughter as if the tragedy were something only Carol suffered.

Later, when the spider goes on a rampage in town, knocking over cars and so on, there’s a single shot of a baby sitting alone in the middle of the road with blood on her face, crying. This even provoked a rare quasi-sympathetic comment from the MST3K crew.

No effort is made to find the identity of the skeletons in the cave—granted, a tall order in 1958. No one even mentions missing persons reports.

On the other hand, it was fun watching Mike and Carol cruise along in the borrowed two-seater convertible with white walls. It was fun watching some of the “kids” dance in the auditorium with a band playing where the authorities stored the supposedly expired spider. Earlier, one official inspecting the corpse got whopped and knocked down by a twitching leg. Sure it’s safe to keep it there, under lock and key!

I can’t say this movie is irredeemable. It’s just so odd in so many respects that it was hard to suspend disbelief. While there are fun parts, I could not go along for the ride.

The movie can be watched with MST3K here:

without MST3K here:




Title: The Spider (original title Earth vs. the Spider) (1958)

Directed by
Bert I. Gordon

Writing Credits
László Görög…(screenplay) (as Laszlo Gorog) and
George Worthing Yates…(screenplay)
Bert I. Gordon…(story)

Cast (in credits order)
Ed Kemmer…Professor Art Kingman
June Kenney…Carol Flynn
Eugene Persson…Mike Simpson (as Gene Persson)
Gene Roth…Sheriff Cagle
Hal Torey…Mr. Simpson

Released: September 1958
Length: 1 hour, 13 minutes

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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