Earth vs. The Spider

Earth vs. The Spider.
American International Pictures 1958.

Before watching the movie:

I feel like I’ve seen clips of this movie used as a generic sci-fi B movie in a lot of places. I was definitely thinking it’s the source of the giant spider footage in Lilo And Stitch, but I think I’ve seen giant spider movie clips in other places not noted on Wikipedia, but I might be thinking of giant ants and THEM.

As far as what I know to expect, apparently there is a giant spider in this movie. My supply of midcentury schlock sci-fi seems to be more exhaustible than it seemed like it was a few months ago.

After watching the movie:

Carol’s father never came home from a trip into the next town to buy her a birthday present, and gets her boyfriend Mike to borrow a friend’s car and help her search. They find her father’s truck thrown off the road near a cave, along with the bracelet he bought her, and when they explore the cave to try to find him, instead they discover a giant spider web and a 15-foot long spider. Though the town sheriff doesn’t believe them, with Mike’s father vouching for his honesty they are able to convince their science teacher Mr. Kingman, who is able to talk the sheriff into taking a search party to the cave along with exterminators carrying DDT. Spraying the spider until it’s motionless, the party takes the body back to the high school gym for study, but soon it awakens and rampages through the city on its way back to its nest, while Carol and Mike have returned to the cave to look for the bracelet she dropped somewhere inside.

The most amazing element of the story to me is that the authorities are actually useful. Mike’s father believes his son to not make up stories. The kids get the scientist convinced enough to act on the assumption they’re correct until other evidence can prove otherwise. The sheriff actually calls in the pest control men even though he’s still laughing at the idea of anyone taking the giant spider story seriously. The turns of misfortune in this story don’t happen because the authorities didn’t believe in the problem, they happen because of underestimation and lack of communication.

The effects showing the tarantula and the humans on the screen at the same time were surprisingly good. A few times I picked out what I thought was the obvious place where they’d spliced the images together and then the spider crossed that line seamlessly. It’s also very rare for scenes in caves to not be in very obvious sets, but this movie was shot on location at Bronson Caves and used stills from Carlsbad Caverns for effects shots, and the use of the real locations heightens the realism significantly.

As B-movies go, this is probably a B-plus. The production value is relatively very high and the cheese factor is low. It feels like a story that could actually happen if there was a giant man-eating spider in a cave outside small town America. As a result it’s not the most exciting “Giant X” movie, but it’s still a good value for the time spent.

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