Sunday, September 25, 2011

HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND (1960) - sort of like Swiss Family Robinson, but for dumb people who are scared of spiders

Here's the whole movie...public domain, yo.

I don’t mess with spiders, so hopefully they won’t mess with me. Folks, I stay out of their way. Say every spider decided to team up and horde all of the world’s shoes, and a group of them snuck into my room at night to snag my Sketchers. Even if I’m well aware of what’s going on, I’m gonna pretend to be asleep. Now I know what you’re thinking; what would spiders need with shoes? Maybe they could sell them for drugs, or build sneaker forts to protect themselves from predators. Or, maybe, just maybe, they want to make humans extra nervous as they walk around in their socks, scared that they’ll step on something sharp (or even worse, a spider). Resultingly, the human race become slaves to fear within a new arachnocracy.

So, maybe my fear of spiders makes me a big pussy, but I’d like to think that a fear of spiders is an evolutionary trait in all humans, genetically passed down from primitive man, who were big pussies that were deathly afraid of spiders. So, in summary, I blame primitive man. Anyway, because of this, Horrors of Spider Island manages to conjure these fears (at least within myself), no matter how little the spiders are seen, or how shitty they look. Just walking around “spider island” is gonna have me trembling like a wet noodle with the shakes (if noodles could be alcoholics).

Well, a bunch of swinging babes (one girl takes down a “no smoking” sign and then lights up) are auditioning for a dancing gig in Singapore, the only apparent qualifications being that they need to have nice legs. Since these girls have GREAT legs, they are immediately hired and fly off on a rickety plane so rickety it crashes into the ocean. They are left floating in a life raft, perhaps upset that they were naïve enough to think that becoming a dancer in Singapore was a solid career move.

"Before I die, I'm mo fuck me a fish"

These girls eventually land on "spider island", and are obviously no match for the rigors of island life. Luckily, they are accompanied by a manly man who takes care of the manly stuff, like when he happens upon a hammer and correctly concludes that it was used to mine for uranium. I didn’t realize that hammers were so specialized. It’s shit like this that explains why your average Home Depot is approximately the size of JFK airport. Anyways, they are overjoyed (or maybe just vaguely interested) at their luck, that they crashed into the ocean and paddled to an island filled with valuable uranium deposits. This joy (vague interest) is quickly squelched when they happen upon a dead scientist stuck inside a giant spider web. I’m not quite sure how he walked into the web without noticing, considering it looks like it was made out of common rope, but either way, the message is clear: this guy is dead, and some asshole spider is responsible.

Well, our male lead decides to explore the island shirtless (that’s how real men go about their business), and he is unfortunately bitten by a large, goofy looking rubber spider. When I say it looks “goofy”, I mean it looks like a big action figure for a cartoon spider, if that makes sense. Anyway, the dude turns into a “spider-man” that looks like a furry vampire (but maybe it could be said that tarantulas are like little furry vampires). Well, just like in Peter Parker’s case, with great power comes great responsibility, and this spider dude decides that it is his responsibility to hang around while the girls frolic and bath and dance, and (very) occasionally show up to bite somebody. You’d think these girls would be looking to get outta dodge as soon as they find out they are being sorta stalked by a spider monster, maybe try to build a getaway boat out of coconuts and hemp. But no, now that the guiding male is out of the picture, they are helpless to deal with the situation, so I guess they figure they might as well have fun, which includes flirting with two young men who happen to show up (they are assistants to the scientist). After all, as Cyndi Lauper famously implied, girls want to have fun because that is what they excel at in life (but maybe my interpretation is off).

So, instead of a shipwreck survival story married to a spider-dude horror fable, we have a movie about hot German models hanging out on an island (including Barbara Valentin, who would later become a Fassbinder regular), and occasionally other stuff happens. An obvious point of comparison is with She Demons (1958), also about a group of people shipwrecked on an island. Instead of spiders, they find out that a Nazi scientist is using the island to experiment on a group of models, turning them into monsters in the process. The most amusing/annoying character in She Demons is Jerrie, the shipwrecked rich bitch who complains about her fedora sweater getting stretched, that sort of thing. The castaways in Horrors of Spider Island are all like less annoying versions of this character (minus the male chaperon, of course), or akin to campy B-movie precursors to Ginger from Gilligan’s Island. This is a pretty brilliant move, since any potentially boring parts in She Demons is enlivened by Jerrie’s campy dialogue, and Horrors of Spider Island has many such characters to supply similar dialogue during those parts of the movie where nothing else is happening, amped up by the goofy dubbing (especially in the case of the girl with the southern accent).

There is also the brilliant exploitation setup of getting hot chicks onto an island and making sure they stay hot (don’t think Gilligan’s Island didn’t employ this). Even if they don’t immediately start making out, or one of them doesn't bump into Christopher Atkins and start getting frisky, their wardrobe will begin to erode, and there will be plenty of exotic ponds for these girls to wade in and splash water on each other’s chests. Apart from that, there is an implied bet placed by the filmmakers, putting their money on the hope that a male audience will overlook any lapses in logic and plot and simply stare at the ladies. It's money well invested folks. After all, I believe it was the great German philosopher Gunter Heinzburger that said "if you're gambling on the lowest common denominator, always bet the under."

P.S. This was written as part of Project Terrible over at Mondo Bizarro. This particular movie was suggested by Maynard over at Maynard Morrissey's Horror Movie Diary. I guess this movie is supposed to be crap, and if it is, while no S
he Demons, it's the kind of crap I enjoy.

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