2/5/07

1011 Horrors of Spider Island

(1959, Horror, b&w)

An Exxon girl tanker ran aground.

Rating: 1/2*

In a nutshell:

A bevy of exotic dancer castaways wash up on a remote island.

Summary:

The giant spider in its first and only appearance.For the first quarter of the movie we watch a beefy manager named Gary, his prim assistant Georgia, and a very Dr. Strangelove-ish agent named Mike as they audition a seemingly infinite string of exotic dancers for a gig in Singapore. When the selection process finally finishes, Gary explains his process to Mike; if his legs are apart, Georgia sends the hopeful on her way, but if his legs cross, she hires the auditionee on the spot. This turns out to be of no significance whatsoever.

The second (and most eventful) quarter starts with the girls packing into an airplane, which subsequently bursts into flames and nose-dives into the ocean. Gary, Georgia and the girls put to sea in a life raft, none the worse for wear. They land on an island populated by a dog-sized spider marionette and its most recent victim: a middle-aged uranium prospector. Gary finds the prospector’s corpse strung up in his own cabin; he takes it down and moves his girls in. Of course they take off most of their clothes and drape themselves sensuously all over the immediate landscape. The most indiscriminately amorous among them tempts Gary with passionate smooches; Georgia discovers and scolds them. Gary strides out into the night, where he wrestles and kills the marionette spider. Its bite transforms him into a hideous man-spider.

The third quarter begins with the indiscriminately amorous girl’s strangulation-induced death, inflicted upon her by The Man-Spider Formerly Known as Gary. Apparently benched by the movie’s director, he sits the rest of this quarter out while the surviving six to twelve girls fret, strip to their underthings, and wrestle.

The fourth quarter tries to spice things up even further with a new pair of characters: Bobby and Joe, a pair of handsome young uranium prospectors who’ve been dropped off to assist their now-dead colleague. They seem quite happy to hang out with the marooned exotic dancers instead. Joe radios his ship and schedules it to come pick them up the next day. He spends the evening canoodling with a fresh young Minnesotan named Ann, while the libidinous Bobby arranges a secret rendezvous with a particularly needy castaway named Gladys. Bobby and Gladys slip off into the night to be murdered by the spiderated Gary. Joe arms the rest of the girls with flares; they drive Gary into a deadly patch of quicksand.

Introduction:

Mary Jo is a trooper.Following Larry King’s lead, Crow becomes a syndicated newspaper columnist. Also like Larry King, his columns steer well away from anything informative or controversial with such obvious declarations as “Shoelaces are handy” and “TV shows aired last night.” Mike rejects the column as “not particularly substantive,” while Tom calls it “brilliant” for more or less the same reason.

Host Segment One:

Pearl interrupts Crow’s brainstorming session for his next column. (He wants to take Mike’s advice and write about weightier matters, like goose poop.) Pearl tells them she has moved the castle to another neighborhood at enormous expense—more than two million dollars, by Brain Guy’s estimation—so that she can save forty dollars per year on her monkey license. The new neighborhood has its own problems, though; Bobo and the neighborhood dogs start chain barking, and soon they’ve got the ‘Bots barking along with them.

Host Segment Two:

Mike has gotten caught in the giant spider web that now stretches across the bridge. Crow mocks him until Tom arrives with their dinner: a giant potato bug, baked of course. They leave Mike hanging in the web, where his frustrated squirming attracts a giant spider.

Host Segment Three:

Mike is Gary; Tom is Georgia; and Crow is the Dr. Strangelove-ish Mike from the movie. They call up the denizens of Castle Forrester and command them to audition. Bobo starts with a soft shoe routine, but is rejected by Gary/Mike’s uncrossed legs. Brain Guy dons a long curly wig and drenches himself, Flashdance-style. Gary/Mike’s crossed legs make him a star. Pearl prances around in a tutu for a moment before she falls over. An undecided Gary/Mike demands that she “give us a little leg.” At her insistence, Brain Guy rips off one of his just below the knee and sends it up for Mike’s perusal.

Host Segment Four:

The ‘Bots come to Mike with a query. Do airplane crashes turn people into languid, helpless, sex-starved mumblers? Mike deliberately crashes the Satellite to find out. The Satellite crew’s disheveled wigs, alluringly torn dresses, and barely intelligible semi-erotic banter answer that question in the affirmative.

Host Segment Five:

Mike has become a hideous man-spider…in more or less the same way as Gary, i.e. face paint, hillbilly teeth, and one glove from a gorilla costume. Down in a women’s public restroom near her old neighborhood, Pearl explains that, due to a local ordinance against throwing garbage out the window, she’s put the castle onto a flatbed truck so she can haul it back to its original location. Bobo arrives with a handful of individually wrapped balloons he bought from a vending machine in the men’s room. Brain Guy confiscates them while Pearl takes Bobo to one side for “The Talk.”

Stinger:

The plane plummets while the girls scream from a sound stage many miles away.

Thoughts:

Screams from another dimension.The movie does include a were-spider, but I hesitate to call it a were-spider movie. At various times Horrors of Spider Island also includes a pair of dark glasses, a flaming airplane, and several bottles of liquor, but I would also hesitate to call it a “dark glasses movie,” a “flaming airplane movie,” or a “several bottles of liquor movie” (except in the sense that it is probably meant to be viewed while drunk). In fact, given the sparse and hamfisted script, the awful sound and cinematography, and the general lack of anything even remotely resembling tension, I hesitate to call it a “movie” at all.

What manner of abomination is it then, you ask? Or rather, you would ask if you hadn’t already seen it and/or read the words “exotic dancers” in my summary above. It’s not hard to tell; watching it, you can almost feel the flimsy strands of B-movie plot being thrown aside like cheap curtains to let in the harsh neon glare of porn. Well, not quite porn. The movie shows almost nothing that doesn’t involve languid, wriggling partial nudity, but there’s no explicit sexual activity or exposed genitalia. It’s actually just a mild and rather pornish horror flick. Judging by the twelve-minute difference in running times, however, I’m guessing the original Yugoslavian version was more of a mild and rather horrorish porn flick.

The auditions highlight the host segments; Mike and the ‘Bots movie personas work well, but the Pearl and her henchmen’s excited participation is hilarious. Testing the ‘Bots’ plane crash hypothesis is brief but perfectly executed. The rest of the host segments are funny enough.

The Satellite crew does their best with the film segments, dividing their comments more or less evenly between the horrible filmmaking and the vast acres of exposed flesh. Crow makes fun of the girls’ audition routines by calling one of them the “drunk aunt at the wedding dance.” Mike comments on one of the girls’ rather muscular physique by saying, “Babs played fullback for the Lions.” Somewhere around the middle, Tom declares the whole thing “a sexy, spider-filled version of The Tempest.” It’s not an episode I’ll go out of my way to watch again, as the movie it showcases consists almost solely of badly dubbed and photographed young women wrestling in their undergarments. Regardless of any mockery heaped upon it, I’d rather have a story any day.