Horrors of Spider Island (1960)

Hi, my name is James and I’m an arachnophobe. I fucking hate spiders. HATE. I would gladly see them wholly eradicated from the world’s ecosystem tomorrow. Obviously when I watched The Thief of Bagdad recently there was one scene I made a point of not looking at directly, and for the same reason I shall have to be content with never watching Tarantula, Eight Legged Freaks (I nearly shat myself at the George St cinema complex one day when I passed one of the promotional things for that), Kingdom of the Spiders, The Giant Spider Invasion, Arachnophobia, and certain scenes in The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Beyond, The Serpent and the Rainbow and a few others I can’t think of right now. And I for one won’t mourn the loss of the giant spider scene from the original King Kong.

But everything I’ve read about this infamous German film suggests its horror are of a different order. Cf. this Amazon review: “The acting is bad, the dubbed-in dialog is dumb, the plot is ludicrous, the editing is poor, the special effects are awful, the direction is amateurish, and it’s not even in color.” Yes, it doesn’t even have the common fucking decency to be in colour! Surely Germany should really be more ashamed of this than it should the Nazi regime… Anyway, this was Nigel Honeybone’s offering this week (it even got a mention in the Sydney Morning Herald), so I sat down expecting something bloody horrible. And oh my god/dess did I get it, not least in terms of the print quality… For the first half hour or so, and indeed for a while thereafter, it keeps acting more like a sexploitation film than a horror film, no doubt because that’s kind of what it was… several minutes with a lot of nudity were hacked out for its Americanisation, but it still can’t escape its origins; the sheer maleness of the fantasy at work here—man hires several women to perform in what we may assume is a supremely dodgy club in Singapore; the plane they’re travelling on to get there and only he and the women survive—is stunning even to me and I don’t consider myself a great feminist at all.

But the overall uselessness of the thing is equally stunning; the island seems to be infested by exactly one spider (which doesn’t even look like any spider I’ve seen), which transforms the man into a werewolf (?) who only seems to attack once every three weeks or so… eh? The godawful dubbing is merely icing on the cake; I presume the film is still a shocker in German. I did find it interesting that the film’s male lead, Alex d’Arcy, apparently claimed to have been the film’s real director rather than the pseudonymously credited Fritz Böttger, and having seen the film I’m actually inclined to believe him, if only cos I can’t imagine why else he’d want to claim credit for it. This is a quite remarkable film, and it makes me glad I decided from the outset with this blog not to rate the films I write about, cos I really don’t know how to appraise this in numerical terms. All I can do is kind of… boggle.

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