Friday, November 23, 2018
HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND
In Joshua Kennedy's THE FUNGUS AMONG US, the main cast is holed up in an empty house up for sale. During their stay, the characters turn on the TV and watch a film being shown--a film that I was not familiar with. Josh informed me that the movie was HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND, a title that I had never seen, but certainly had heard of. HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND has a reputation for being one of those Golden Turkey-type "so bad it's good" low-budget monster flicks, and I decided to check out the film for myself on YouTube.
HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND starts out presumably in the USA, with a sleazy manager named Gary (Alex D'Arcy) auditioning showgirls for a dance troupe bound for a Singapore nightclub. Instead of getting the story off to a roaring start, we actually see some of these auditions, which are nowhere near as enticing as one would expect (one of the girls performs a ballet recital!). Finally Gary and the chosen girls take off, but their plane catches fire and crashes somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Going by the stock footage used for the crash, there's no way anyone should have survived this--but Gary and his curvy beauties did survive, and they are now floating aimlessly on a emergency raft. The group does make it to an island, and during their explorations of it they come across a shack, where inside they find the corpse of a middle-aged man trapped in a giant spider's web.
A reading of the dead man's journal reveals that he was a Professor searching for uranium on the island. The fact that there might be lethal giant spiders around doesn't deter the girls from sniping and whining at each other, or from Gary to go off walking alone at night. The guy gets bitten by a--or should I say the large spider, since it's the only one we see in the movie. Gary shoots the creature but he becomes a werewolf--or werespider?--type of monster himself. He kills one of the girls, and the rest of them are at a loss about what to do with this situation. Two men, who were working with the Professor, then arrive on the island. They inform the girls that a boat will be coming in a few days, and despite the fact that WereGary is still out there roaming around, the girls start trying to seduce the Professor's helpers. WereGary shows up to put a stop to all the in-heat hijinks, and the rest of the cast eventually chase him around with signal flares, driving him into a quicksand bog, where the poor guy goes under.
A cursory reading of the plot of HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND is not enough to reveal the various sundry details of the actual film. The movie tries to be an exploitative potboiler--there's a catfight, a few moments of skinny dipping, and the tendency of the girls to lounge around half-dressed--but it's never as entertaining (or as seductive) as one expects it to be. The girls are all attractive (in an obvious sort of way) but none of them stand out particularly. In my opinion the most interesting part of the film is Gary being turned into a creature by the large spider--but this subplot almost winds up being forgotten.
As for the (one) large spider--it's about the size of a small dog--it's an effective menace, with a frowning visage that reminded me of one of FX man Paul Blaisdell's many creations for American-International Pictures. Apparently the budget could only afford one of these creatures, and the one we do see isn't used enough. There's no explanation for why there's a large spider on this island, at least in the version of the film that I watched (I assumed it had something to do with the uranium deposits that were found).
It's understandable why HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND is considered notable by bad-movie lovers. The English dub on this version is filled with atrocious dialogue ("Hello Daddy-O..how about turning those lamps on someone else for a change?"), and some of the voices almost sound cartoonish. The music score sounds cartoonish as well, at least when it's not sounding like it comes from a cheap nightclub. Even if I had heard the original voices of the performers I doubt that would have made their acting any better.
According to my research, HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND is actually an edited English version of a 1960 West German film called EIN TOTER HING IM NETZ (which roughly translates to "The Body in the Web"). The movie has also been referred to as IT'S HOT IN PARADISE and THE GIRLS OF SPIDER ISLAND. The movie was written and directed by Fritz Bottger, and it was supposedly shot on location in Yugoslavia. The version I watched ran about 75 minutes--running times such as 86 and 82 minutes have also been listed for this feature.
Would a viewing of a full-length version of this story, with the original voice track, cause me to change my mind about this movie? Maybe, but I doubt it. I honestly wouldn't want to watch this movie again. Josh Kennedy told me that he was actually thinking of doing a remake of HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND, and that project wound up being THE FUNGUS AMONG US. I'm pretty sure Josh's version would have been much more entertaining.