Earth vs. the Spider



Notes: American International Pictures. MST3K #313.
Carol Flynn: June Kenney
Also starring Ed Kemmer, Gene Persson, Gene Roth, Hal Torey, June Jocelyn, Mickey Finn, Sally Fraser, Troy Patterson.

Produced and Directed: Bert I. Gordon
Executive Producers: James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff
Screenplay: Laszlo Gorog and George Worthing Yeats
Story: Bert I. Gordon
Music: Albert Glasser
Special Effects: Bert I. Gordon

Summary: A hick drives a truck late at night, gloating over the bracelet he has bought his daughter, when he runs into something dreadful. The next day, daughter Carol walks to school, River Falls High School, when she is overtaken by would-be boyfriend Mike Simpson, who has a present for her too. But she’s distracted by the fact that her father never came home. Mike reassures her: “You know how he is.” [Crow: “Yeah, he’s a boozy drunkard.”]

The science teacher blabs about electricity while Carol and Mike make plans to borrow a car from another student, Joe, to search for the missing dad after school. They find something sticky strung across the road, the present, dad’s truck, and a cave.

[MST3K break: Crow’s screenplay is Earth vs. Soup, a Cold-War parable. “Giant ants, giant spiders, giant soup….”]

The teens enter. [Joel: “It’s Carolsdads Cavern!”] They encounter skeletons and fall onto a sticky net. A giant tarantula makes screechy noise and approaches. [Crow: “Great special effects —— he’s climbing on a postcard.”] The two escape and tell Professor Kingman, but the sheriff laughs it off. Still, DDT is called in and the sheriff, professor, the kids, and others return to the cave. [Crow: “Hey, this music wasn’t here before!” Tom Servo: “Wait a minute. It says Arne Saknussemm.”] Kingman tells the sheriff that spiders kill with venom, then wrap their victims in a silk bag and drain them. When Kingman points out that it’s odd that there is no life at all in the cave, a bat appears, allowing the sheriff to scoff and shoot it dead. “No life, huh?” [“Not any more.”]

The teens find Carol’s dead father drained and wizened. The spelunkers put on gas masks, making them look like insects, and plan to spray the area. The wheezing spider appears and kills one guy despite bullets before apparently being killed with the DDT. The sheriff wants the cave boarded up, but Kingman speculates on the possibility of other spiders, whereby the traditional human hunters would become the hunted.

[MST3K break: Attempts to start a rock opera by the group Spy-Dor.]

The spider corpse is displayed at the high school and a supposed muscular contraction whacks a reporter. Carol mourns her father’s death and ropes Mike into passing up attendance at another Bert I. Gordon movie (Puppet People) at his father’s theater in order to help her look for the lost bracelet, her father’s posthumous gift. They borrow Joe’s car again. Joe and his band coerce janitor Hugo to let them practice in the room with the spider. Other teens also enter and dance, but the spider awakens and all flee. Hugo tries calling the professor but the spider breaks down the wall and kills him.

Kingman instructs his wife Helen to stay home with their baby. As Carol and Mike return to the cave, the spider appears outside the school. The sheriff shoots at it and has a narrow escape. Now we need flamethrowers and artillery from Fort Brown, since the DDT merely stunned the thing. A deputy motorcycles away on this mission.

The spider threatens the Kingman home, so we listen to a baby screaming which grates on our nerves enough for us to miss Carol and Mike finding a lower cavern under the web and the bracelet. But they get lost as the spider returns to its cave.

The sheriff kills a spider on his desk. The deputy never made it to Springdale for help. Now they plan to use dynamite and take off. Joe calls the sheriff’s office, wondering where his car is.

[MST3K break: Creepy Crawlers!]

Carol and Mike find “George Weston 1902” scrawled on a cave wall and momentarily rejoice that there are passages through. Then they see George’s skeleton below the scrawl. It turns out that Mike’s mother is in the hospital having a baby (so why is dad screwing around the sheriff’s office?). They eat a candy bar and hear noise.

Outside, men carry boxes of TNT. Carol and Mike find their way back and climb through the web but Carol gets stuck. The spider comes as the explosives go off. Kingman says the spider will die with its food supply cut off. When they realize the two teens were in there, they have to dig open the cave again, which they do from a different locale, planning to connect a cable from power lines to electrocute the spider.

From under rubble, the two kids emerge. [Joel: “Hey, did the earth move for you, honey?” Crow: “We really got stoned last night.”] The spider awakens too. Mike and Carol move to a ledge. When the spider comes, the workmen bring electrodes and throw one to Mike so that a current will pass through the spider. It drops to its death, all leave the cave, and another dynamiting shuts up this recently dug entrance.

[MST3K ending: Tom and Crow give school reports on Bert I. Gordon, whom Crow misspells as Bert I. Goron.]

Commentary: How many times do I have to tell you people, tarantulas do not spin webs. [Okay, I’m informed as of November 2006 by amateur student of Arachnology, Bernard J. Clark, Jr., that “some tarantulas do build webs, though not the orb type used in the film. The Trinidad Chevron Tarantula builds funnel shaped webs in trees for example.” My thanks to Mr. Clark for this clarification.]

This “monster” is a loner and we don’t get too many shots of it beyond a hairy leg here and there: mercifully, because the mechanical version is goofy and the photographically enlarged one does, as Crow points out, climb on postcards. No origin for the creature is postulated, not even between the lines, and the implications are ignored too. And despite the standard American obsession, weaponry seems arbitrary here, although leave it to smalltown mentality to trust in dynamite and “boarding up” caves.

The film is too stultifying to motivate further investigation into the meaning of this spider, but if it were possible, I’d start by considering the odd loose ends regarding the families in this Everytown USA. Normally, I would think the spider would be a good symbol of that kind of environment. Here, the place is weirder.

Spider Films