CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS

1977. Directed by John 'Bud' Cardos

A tame horror film with a script that goes through the motions and sees its main star bumble by with a quite lame script.  The few scares and 'Jaws-esque' mimicry offer slight salvation to an effort not delivering the big punch.

Way down in ye olde Arizona we are introduced to Dr Robert 'Rack' Hansen (William Shatner), a local vet in Verde Valley.  Resident Walter Colby (Woody Strode) contacts the doctor due to his calf being sick.  The calf dies, Hansen is clueless and sends samples of the calf's blood to a university lab.  Enter Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling), an arachnologist for the lab, who informs Hansen the calf was killed by spider venom.  From here more deaths ensue, a dog, a few people and then a Spider Hill is discovered by Colby.  A theory arises that the spiders are attacking and eating anything they can in order to survive as pesticides have eradicated their natural food supply.  The race now begins to destroy the plague of eight legged beasts although the local mayor is keen to interfere so as to save his local county fair.  Eventually a few survivors are trapped in a lodge and the fight is on - the question is who will survive and how will the creepy-crawly invasion be stopped.

This film has its moments but they are too few and far between to drag matters above average.  Shatner tries his best, the special effects are decent enough and the ending is neatly done but... the nuances and touches to create a classic are missing and we are left a trifle deflated come the final shock. 

   

THE DEADLY MANTIS   

1957. Directed by Nathan H. Juran   

A decent 'big bug' film with a storyline like that of many similar flicks, the scientist, hero and love lady all thrown in plus a few scientific exchanges to try and give the film a touch of reality and depth - it fails, as this movie is just one slab of delightful hokum.

After a volcano erupts in the south seas, ice bergs move in the North Pole and a frozen Giant Praying Mantis is brought back to life. Col. Joe Parkman (Craig Stevens) is soon in the mix, exploring a military station that fails to respond to any contact.  After a plane is attacked and a large hook-like object is found Parkman decides to call in Professor Anton Gunther (Florenz Ames), to examine the object.  Gunther recommends calling in Dr. Nedrick Jackson (William Hopper), a palaeontologist at the Museum of Natural History, who turns up with museum magazine editor Marge Blaine (Alix Talton).  It isn't long before Jackson susses out what is going on, we get a glimpse of the destructive beast and Blaine and Parkman fall for each other.  The film picks up pace, some effects of the Mantis are spot on but when in flight things leave a lot to be desired.  A high-flying chase, a final confrontation and a closing kiss makes for pure cornball going's-on but who cares, this is sci-fi escapism done in a typical 50's style, warts and all.

With films of this ilk, you get what you get.  Cheap plastic monsters, a typical storyline and a few token gesture characters added.  This is a good fun and one in an almost bottomless pit of creature features to indulge in - forget anything profound or ground-breaking, just disappear into a world of make-believe. 

   

THE RETURN OF DRACULA  

1958. Directed by Paul Landres

An overlooked film featuring the infamous Count, this time done in a slow, simmering style and with the use of colour only thrown in for one brief moment of horror.

After fleeing from the clutches of Investigator John Meierman (John Wengraf) Count Dracula (Francis Lederer) boards a train, kills Czech artist Bellac Gordal and ends up with the dead man's family in the United States.  Here Bellac's widowed cousin Cora (Greta Granstedt) and her children Mickey (Jimmy Baird) and teenager Rachel (Norma Eberhart) all welcome the Count with open arms with Rachel slightly smitten by the swarthy and sophisticated European. The bloodsucker's behaviour is noted as rather odd, Mickey's pet cat is found mutilated in a nearby mineshaft (where Dracula keeps his coffin) and Rachels best friend Jennie (Virginia Vincent), mysteriously dies after a short illness. As the story unfolds Dracula takes a liking to Rachel, Meierman gets closer to catching his prey and the recently dead Jennie is seen to be still roaming in the night and is duly disposed of. Of course our lead deviant is destined to meet his downfall, how this comes about is all rather tame and leaves the viewer... dissatisfied.

A middling movie with one or two nice touches and some solid acting but with a lead vampire lacking in mystery, depth and terror-instilling impact. I would invest more time in this one, it is however a very sedate flick lacking in any spine-tingling chills, sometimes though this can be a good thing. 

   

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