Or, Just River Falls vs The Spider

Earth vs the Spider directs itself toward teens; horror and sci-fi turned that direction as the ‘50s closed out. See: The Blob. Oddly though, most of the blame falls on kids during this movie. While no one initially believes high schoolers glimpsed a sizable arachnid, soon it’s real, the adults kill it (with copious DDT), but the kids manage to wake the bug back up with that darn rock & roll.

Maybe director Bert I. Gordon, low-budget, chintz cinema specialist, meant Earth vs the Spider as a parable – listen to your parents, cut off that racket, and leave monster brawling to the authorities. During the last act, protagonists Mike (Eugene Persson) and Carol (June Kenney) head back into the spider’s lair to look for a bracelet. That goes as well as expected and what happens when defying mom and dad.

In Bert I. Gordon’s own way, Earth vs the Spider is stupidly charming

Universal made practically this same movie a few years prior with Tarantula. The small town, the overwhelmed sheriff, copious dynamite; it’s all there too. Tarantula blamed science, because that’s what Universal horror did back then. Earth vs the Spider never offers an explanation, content to trot out the eight-legged beastie sans reason, in spite of local professor Art (Ed Kemmer) wanting to solve this mystery early in the movie.

Gordon made a number of monster “epics” during this period, from oversized radiated men to hungry locusts attacking Chicago. It was all about playing to trends, using marketing to lure patrons, and then profiting since budgets were so impossibly low. In Earth vs the Spider, like Tarantula, it’s a real spider, but here produced without any real care. It’s rushed and sloppy, the muddy, derivative story no gem between those effects either.

In Gordon’s own way, Earth vs the Spider is stupidly charming. It casts actors in their mid-30s to play teens, and so thinly contextualizes anything, the story becomes a peak back to the simplistic ‘50s by way of its lacking effort alone. Once it’s going, there’s marginal excitement, matched to any B-tier genre flick from the period. Not a classic – or even close – but kooky and exploitative enough to smirk through.

Video

Scream Factory gives this Bert I. Gordon cheapie a pleasing master on Blu-ray, densely packed black levels and sharp contrast representing the black & white cinematography precisely. Depth is never lost, even as the shoddy composites naturally crush some shadows. Gray scale admirably keeps up.

Print damage makes light impact at its worst. A few scratches, a little dust. There’s nothing severe. Well preserved grain renders cleanly thanks to this encode, giving the images a believable filmic aesthetic.

Resolution fluctuates, although that’s more on the dirt cheap, quick filming methods than anything in the transfer process. At its peak, definition protrudes, well rendered and defined. A smidgen of facial texture escapes, with overall detail above expectations for something so low rent.

Audio

In DTS-HD, Earth vs the Spider’s vintage sound comes through almost faultlessly, pristine even. No static or popping to report, and clarity impresses. Even at the peak, namely the gurgling spider “roar,” there’s no distortion to note.

All this goes for the score too. Rendered well, high treble sustains its clarity, avoiding fidelity loss.

Extras

Ted Newsom takes the commentary duties in the audio menu. Over in the extras, the Mystery Science Theater episode is included in full, along with the 8mm edition (radically changing the story, even character names), a trailer, and loaded stills gallery.

Earth vs the Spider
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

Charmingly stupid and cornball, Earth vs the Spider still manages to click in the “teens versus monster” sub-genre of the late ’50s.

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