Film Review: Earth Vs. The Spider (1958)

Also known as: The Spider, Earth Vs. The Giant Spider (Germany), Vengeance of the Black Spider (Italy)
Release Date: September, 1958
Directed by: Bert I. Gordon
Written by: László Görög, George Worthing Yates
Music by: Albert Glasser
Cast: Ed Kemmer, June Kenney, Eugene Persson, Gene Roth, Hal Torey, Sally Fraser, June Jocelyn

Santa Rosa Productions, American International Pictures, 73 Minutes

Review:

“Well, speaking of spiders – are you sure rifles are just the thing? Insects have a pretty simple nervous system, sheriff. You could plug holes in one all day and never hit a vital spot. If you want to be on the safe side, call the pest control people in Springdale and have ’em send out all the DDT they can find.” – Mr. Kingman

As bad as Bert I. Gordon movies can be, they get a much worse wrap than they probably deserve. Reason being, they all have some sort of charm to them and even if they are a clinic on how not to make a film, they are still pretty entertaining for what they are.

Earth Vs. The Spider is no different.

This is not a good film. It’s riddled with bad effects, bad acting, bad direction and a bad script. But if you love giant insect, reptile, amphibian or atomic disaster movies from the early Cold War era, then you’ll probably enjoy this on some level.

The sets in this actually weren’t bad for the time. The stuff in the cave actually looks good, even if the giant spider’s web looks like rope netting from a playground. The setting within the spider’s lair does come off pretty well for a ’50s low budget sci-fi picture.

A problem with this film, which is a problem with all the films within this weird but popular subgenre, is that it’s predictable and there aren’t any real curveballs thrown. But no one watches these flicks for intelligent storytelling.

This was one of many Bert I. Gordon movies that was riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000. In fact, MST3K is how I originally learned of Gordon and came to have an appreciation for the poorer man’s Roger Corman.

I’d say that this is one of the better films in Gordon’s oeuvre. It might not seem like it has any merit at first glance but there is something about it that brings me back to it every now and again. But I also have a deep appreciation for old school schlock films.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: other low budget, giant animal movies from the 1950s.

Film Review: The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)

Also known as: The Amazing Nth Man (working title)
Release Date: October 4th, 1957 (Las Vegas premiere)
Directed by: Bert I. Gordon
Written by: Mark Hanna, Bert I. Gordon, George Worthington Yates (uncredited)
Music by: Albert Glasser
Cast: Glenn Langan, Cathy Downs, William Hudson, Larry Thor

Malibu Productions, American International Pictures, 80 Minutes

Review:

“What kind of sin could a man commit in a single lifetime to bring this upon himself?” – Manning

Bret I. Gordon loves his giant monster movies. The Amazing Colossal Man is actually part of a two movie series with its sequel War of the Colossal Beast. The monster is the same character in both films but in the sequel half of his face is a skull. Here, he’s just some dude in a diaper. I prefer skull-faced diaper dude much better.

Like its sequel, this film was lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000 during the Joel Hodgson run. It makes for a good episode but the film on its own is hard to get through minus a few scenes like the awesome one shown below this review.

Basically, this soldier grows to a massive size and decides to kick the crap out of Las Vegas. This is an anti-nuke movie, as atomic fears were very high in the 1950s and Hollywood loved to capitalize off of that. While this is extremely dated and wasn’t that good, even for its time, this is a nice nostalgic look at that era’s technophobia.

I prefer anti-nuke movies with giant insects or reptiles or animals of some sort. At least I can suspend disbelief and enjoy the creature effects or the forced perspective awkwardness. When the threat is a giant man, albeit one in a diaper, the film becomes more silly than anything. But I guess these were essentially American kaiju pictures but Hollywood just didn’t have the creativity of Eiji Tsuburaya, the special effects director on most of Toho’s Japanese kaiju pictures.

The Amazing Colossal Man isn’t good but it also isn’t a waste of time. It’s unintentionally funny but to be honest, the people that worked on this film were probably just having a damn good time making some hokey schlock to throw on drive-in screens across the U.S.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: War of the Colossal Beast or Village of the Giants.

 

Film Review: War of the Colossal Beast (1958)

Also known as: Revenge of the Colossal Man, The Terror Strikes (alternate titles)
Release Date: June, 1958
Directed by: Bert I. Gordon
Written by: Bert I. Gordon, George Worthington Yates
Music by: Albert Glasser
Cast: Sally Fraser, Dean Parkin, Roger Pace

Carmel Productions, American International Pictures, 69 Minutes

Review:

“The foot that made that print is about ten times the size of a normal man’s. That would make him about sixty feet tall.” – Dr. Carmichael, “Glenn was sixty feet tall!” – Joyce Manning

Bert I. Gordon was synonymous with bad movies. So much so that he had eight of his films featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. He also had a penchant for making pictures like this one, where the threat is some sort of human giant. This particular human giant flick is a sequel to an earlier Gordon film, which was also featured on MST3KThe Amazing Colossal Man.

This movie picks up on the previous film’s story but it wasn’t actually marketed as a sequel and has an entirely different cast.

After hearing about some food truck robberies in Mexico, the character of Joyce is convinced that her brother, the giant from the previous film, survived his dramatic death and is responsible for these strange crimes. Joyce, along with an Army officer and a scientist, heads off to Mexico to find her giant brother. The giant, once found, is disfigured from his injuries in the earlier movie: half of his face is mostly just a skull. He is captured, chained to a slab in a warehouse and eventually escapes. He then rampages through Los Angeles until he commits suicide in a really bizarre finale.

War of the Colossal Beast is pretty terrible but it certainly isn’t close to being the worst film featured on MST3K. It’s use of forced perspective and trick shots to display the giant in the same frame as tiny normal people is actually better than similar movies of the time. The effects aren’t necessarily good but they are a step, well… maybe half a step, above other pictures that employed the same techniques.

I can’t say anything good about the acting or the script or really anything else about the film. But I don’t hate it and it presented some solid material for MST3K riffing.

As is customary when reviewing a film of this ilk on Cinespiria, War of the Colossal Beast must be put through the Cinespiria Shitomter. The results read, “Type 5 Stool: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (passed easily).”

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: The Amazing Colossal Man or Village of the Giants.

Film Review: Village of the Giants (1965)

Release Date: October 20th, 1965
Directed by: Bert I. Gordon
Written by: Bert I. Gordon, Alan Caillou
Based on: The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth by H.G. Wells
Music by: Jack Nitzsche, The Beau Brummels
Cast: Tommy Kirk, Johnny Crawford, Beau Bridges, Joy Harmon, Robert Random, Tisha Sterling, Toni Basil, Ron Howard

Berkeley Productions, Embassy Pictures, Joseph E. Levine Productions, 81 Minutes

Review:

“I’m hungry too. What’s for breakfast?” – Elsa, “Sheriff, on toast.” – Fred

A movie with Ron Howard and Beau Bridges in it that is based off of an H.G. Wells story? Well, at least it sounds good on paper.

This movie was featured in an early Mike Nelson episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and I guess this was one of the few that I have never seen because I would have remembered this bizarre train wreck of pure, unadulterated awesomeness.

These juvenile delinquents that are overly delinquently and dance like cracked out schmucks every chance they get, come into contact with this chemical that makes living things grow to much larger proportions.

However, before we even get a town ravaged by kaiju sized teen douches, we get to see ducks the size of rhinos dancing around in a nightclub. We also get to see one get barbecued, which was kind of sad because a one ton party duck isn’t just something you skewer, set on fire and cover in Sweet Baby Ray’s! These dumb kids could have paraded that duck around from town to town getting lots of money from curious rednecks and baffled farm folk.

This film is terrible but it’s that extraordinary kind of terrible where it has just enough bizarre kookiness to make it pretty unique and quite entertaining. I can’t realistically give this even an average rating but I was charmed by the absurdity of it and for the fact that it is a fun dumb movie. It’s nowhere near as bad as most of the dreck you’ll see on MST3K and if I were to make a list of best movies to watch that were featured by MST3K, this would be high up on that list.

Village of the Giants is stupid but its a stupid you can laugh at and enjoy.

Rating: 4/10

Film Review: King Dinosaur (1955)

Release Date: June 7th, 1955
Directed by: Bert I. Gordon
Written by: Bert I. Gordon, Tom Gries, Al Zimbalist
Music by: Louis Palange, Gene Garf (uncredited)
Cast: William Bryant, Wanda Curtis, Douglas Henderson, Patti Gallagher

Lippert Pictures, 63 Minutes

Review:

Bert I. Gordon was one of the most prolific b-movie sci-fi and horror directors of the 1950s and 1960s. While he isn’t as well known as William Castle, he still put out a lot of pictures at the same time. Unfortunately for Gordon, his films aren’t nearly as good as Castle’s and many of them were actually lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000, this being one of those films. He may actually be the director that has the most films riffed on MST3K, as his tally sits at eight… eight!

Gordon had to start somewhere and this is it. King Dinosaur is his first picture, as sole director. He co-directed Serpent Island with Tom Gries a year earlier.

This was not a good start but the film apparently didn’t hurt Gordon, as he continued to direct through the 1980s but none of his later films are really known.

King Dinosaur holds a 1.9 rating on IMDb, which is absolutely abysmal. Is it that bad though? Well, yes.

The picture is incredibly tough to get through, even when watching it on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Some films should be too awful for them to even attempt to make fun of and this should be on that list. It is so boring and horrendous that North Koreans use it to torture South Korean hikers that accidentally cross the border.

There is nothing positive about this film other than its short running time. 63 minutes is still too damn long though. Hell, the trailer below is too damn long.

The movie is a bad mixture of horrendous acting, terrible sound and an overabundance of poorly used stock footage. But at least they used a real snake in a scene, even though it wasn’t exciting or all that suspenseful.

I’d feel bad for Bert I. Gordon but somehow he turned this turd into a long career behind the camera.

Before I end this review, I have to run this rotten turkey through the Cinespiria Shitometer. My trusty machine is a little miffed that I gave it this picture to calculate, however. Oh well, it has one job to do and this is it! Alright, here are the results… King Dinosaur comes out as a “Type 1 Stool: Seperate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass).”