Kingdom of the Spiders is a 1977 feature-film starring William Shatner as Dr Robert "Rack" Hansen, a local vet in the US state of Arizona. The film begins with a cow mysteriously dying, akin to the famous shower scene from Psycho:
Meanwhile, the star is riding around on a horse...
And fooling around with his late brother's widowed wife, portrayed by Bill Shatner's then real wife Marcy Lafferty.
A dog dies too...
...so a feisty entomologist is sent to investigate, with Bill Shatner's character also trying to seduce her.
There be spiders everywhere causing the deaths!
Slowly, more and more spiders invade the local town.
A spider climbs on a man's bald head.
Hiding inside a barricaded house proves futile...
...as finally, the spiders get to Bill Shatner.
What to make of all this then? Hitchcock's The Birds but with spiders? Sadly, not quite. More like The Devil's Rain, with spiders instead of satanists. Certainly not Jaws with spiders (more plot and analysis of films that possibly inspired Spiders in Wikipedia's entry for the film). We really wanted to like this movie, hoping for some kind of kitsch classic (not really expecting the movie to be scary), but found that Kingdom of the Spiders just wasn't anywhere near as entertaining as it could be.
The pace of the movie is deadly slow, with the spider-induced drama really only coming about during the movie's conclusion. The characters, including Bill Shatner's vet are all pretty two-dimensional and uninteresting. Dare we say that Bill Shatner's performance isn't really that good in this movie - he doesn't seem to know who his character is. The horse riding and adding of Marcy Lafferty to the movie - her performance really is pretty dreadful - all come across as concessions to a star rather than having any dramatic merit.
In short, there's a plot - spiders attack town - but there is really no story to carry that plot, nothing really to hold the viewer's interest beyond the next spider-induced fright. So the audience is left waiting for something to happen...it never really does.
Let's move on to the hair, which proves far more interesting. The style is certainly early "TJ Curly", but also something of a hybrid toupee in that the hair is still quite straight, far more like the previous "Lost Years" style. Interestingly, at times it is straighter in the movie...
And at other times, it is curlier - a clear transition taking place before our very eyes...
There's a scene where we see Bill Shatner stroking through someone else's hair:
And then there is the crucial scene at the end of the movie - Bill Shatner and his toupee being attacked by spiders:
There's a wealth of potential toupee metaphors that we can interpret here. Did the writers want to create a kind of anti-Tribble? A toupee that instead of being cute and cuddly, is frightening and dangerous? What if the toupee came to life? What if its spawn crawled off the mother head and began to multiply - and then decided to return? Yet another toupee nightmare?
Kingdom of the Spiders is available to buy as a recently released remastered special edition DVD. A film that one can't help but wish were better than it actually is.