Tiffany Bolling Movie Night # 5
"A Living, Crawling Hell On Earth !"
I meant to post this last week for her birthday on the 6th, but unfortunately fell behind on my blogging chores, as I decided to get things a little organized around here. To that end I pulled all my various video formats off the shelves (not to mention the random stacks on the floor) and spent several evenings sorting amidst piles of stuff. Now everything shelved IN ORDER and I can actually walk up to the shelves and find immediately what I want (what a novel concept !!)
Later in her life she would try and distance herself from the more exploitative credits in her film career. She appears in an interview segment for Subversive's DVD of THE CANDY SNATCHERS, in which although she seems to be rather proud of her performance also states that it ruined her career. No matter how she feels about this stuff, she'll always be on the Mt. Rushmore of 70's cult actresses - along with Claudia Jennnings, Candice Rialson & Linda Haynes (their my picks at least !).
In 1977 she appeared alongside post Star Trek Will Shatner (here giving one of his typical clenched jawed 70's performances) in John "Bud" Cardos's KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS. A personal favorite and one of the better entries in the "nature on the rampage" genre that proliferated in the 1970's (especially post JAWS), it features a simple plot unburden by lengthy scientific explanations (nothing "giant" here - just millions of pissed-off normal sized spiders) and fine work by its leads (along with a wonderful supporting cast). Plus of course the presence of Tiffany Bolling, who gamely kneels besides crawling mounds of hairy tarantulas and even tenderly pets one as she holds it in her hand !
Shatner stars as local veterinarian Robert "Rack (?)" Hansen who upon finding rancher Walter Colby's (Woody Strode) prize bull dead by mysterious circumstances sends the blood off to be tested. The results come back in the form of arachnologist Diane Ashley (Tiffany) who suspects something amiss as the bull had massive amounts of spider venom in it - that combined with the discovery of huge spider mounds and millions of the creepy & crawly hairy little buggers. As mentioned before there's not a whole lot of science here, although it's speculated that the massive use of DDT (cue 70's ecology) has gotten the spiders riled up (and undoubtedly made them immune). As a further nod to JAWS, we also have the spineless mayor worried about the upcoming county fair and wanting to keep the spider rampage quiet (gee, I wonder how that'll work out for him).
The film does a commendable job working up the suspense and the expected romance between Shatner's "aw shucks" country vet and Tiffany's cool as a cucumber scientist doesn't interfere with the spiders too much, in addition there's also a plot point with Shatner's relationship to his brother's widowed wife that adds another dimension to the goings on. The film climaxes with the massed attack on the town with the main survivors (including Lieux Dressler & Adele Malis) holed up in an increasingly claustrophobic hunting lodge.
Although they are obvious "dummy spiders" about there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of the real deal scuttling about (animal trainer Jim Brokett is credited as "spider wrangler") and the entire cast does a commendable job interacting with them - including a terrifying sequence with a little girl on a swing (and later on a bed), "Rack" having deal with a dark basement full of them and the expected plane ride with some extra passengers. Also with down home character actor Hoke Howell, Marlboro Man David Mclean and songs by Dorsey Burnette (including the theme song "Peaceful Verde Valley"). Although this has been released on a variety of DVD labels, the Shout Factory edition is the one to get - nice transfer & extras.