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Film / Earth vs. the Spider

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Earth vs. the Spider (also known as The Spider and Earth vs. the Giant Spider) is a 1958 American International Pictures black and white Sci-Fi Horror film produced and directed by Bert I. Gordon, who also wrote the story on which the screenplay by George Worthing Yates and Laszlo Gorog is based. It stars Ed Kemmer, Eugene Persson and June Kenney.

The film is about a giant spider terrorizing a town as well as teenagers and other 1950s things.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.

The name is also shared by a 2001 horror movie, made as a tribute to the original, though this version can also be seen something of a Darker and Edgier Deconstruction of Spider-Man. The tribute revolves around a comic-book-loving security guard at a lab that does genetic modification research on spiders. When his partner is killed, he deliberately infuses himself with spider DNA in hopes of becoming like his favorite super-hero. Instead, he is warped into a grotesque hybrid of human and spider traits and is consumed by an insatiable appetite for human flesh, voraciously eating person after person until a police officer manages to shoot him before he can snack on the girl he had a crush on.

Earth Vs The Spider contains the following tropes:

  • Artistic License – Music:
    • Whatever Joe the conductor is doing, it ain't conducting. "Having an epileptic fit while holding a stick" would probably be a better description.
    • And whoever heard of a rock and roll/jazz band having a conductor anyway? Joe should really be singing or playing a lead instrument like guitar or trumpet.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: What do you think?
  • Badass Normal: Mr. Kingman, as he always maintains a cool head and has a logical scientific explanation for every circumstance. He proves to be the real hero of the film in being willing to fight the spider as well as being the one who devises the solution to permanently kill it.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: See title.
  • Cassandra Truth: Sheriff Cagle refuses to believe the kids about the existence of the giant spider until he can see it for himself. He quickly changes his attitude about it when he does see it. Unusually for a movie of this type, Cagle does take the appropriate actions for a giant spider outbreak — even calling in a tanker truck of DDT and gas masks — on the say-so of the kids' science teacher Mr. Kingman. Even so, neither he nor the half-dozen deputies and insecticide techs take it seriously, until one of them dies...
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Mr. Kingman's lecture on electrons and poles, complete with demonstration. (A bit... heady for a high school science class, then or now, but it works.)
  • Crusty Caretaker: Hugo the janitor is a relatively benign example, being merely a bit gruff and kind of hard to understand. The "teens" seem to view him with great affection.
  • Disconnected by Death: Happens to Hugo, the high school janitor, at the start of the spider's rampage in town.
  • Enforced Plug: We see ads for two other films by Bert. I Gordon: Attack of the Puppet People and The Amazing Colossal Man. The former is also worked into the dialogue.
  • Expy: In the 2001 remake, comic book character "The Arachnid" is clearly a stand-in for Spider-Man.
  • Hollywood Darkness: The cave. They don't even bother with flashlights or torches in the slightest, though this is Handwaved with a mention of luminescent algae. There's a reason for this: The movie was filmed in Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, but only on the condition that they not use any studio lights, as that would accelerate the growth of microscopic organisms that would deteriorate the cave's structure much faster.
  • Informed Ability: The spider expert repeatedly refers to it as an insect.
  • Not Quite Dead: It turns out that the spider wasn't killed by the poison, merely rendered unconscious. It ends up being awakened by the noise of an impromptu sock-hop.
  • Passing Notes in Class: There's a pretty typical example between the two teenage leads during a tedious physics class. The teacher catches them, although he doesn't ask them to read it out loud.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Zigzagged with Sheriff Cagle. He literally can't stop laughing when told about the spider at first. But he does organize a search party to find Carol's missing father, as there's more than enough proof of something happening to him, and begrudgingly lets the science teacher come along, as it's another pair of eyes. He dismisses the death of Carol's father, despite his looking like a mummy, but quickly turns serious when faced with undeniable proof of the spider's existence. The subsequent mishaps and errors happen because he and his deputies really have no training or equipment for such an occurrence.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: "Starring" is misspelled as "starrring" in the opening credits.
  • Somewhere, an Entomologist Is Crying: Spiders aren't insects; they're arachnids. You'd think a scientist would know that.
  • Survivor Guilt: Carol heavily blames herself for her dad's death, because he had travelled to a neighboring town to purchase a gift for her and was killed by the spider on his way home.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: Even if the spider had been dead when its body was stored in the gym, one would think security surrounding it would be at a higher level than allowing a bunch or air-headed teenagers to hold an impromptu sock-hop in the same room!
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Carol drops her bracelet in the giant cave after nearly being killed by the giant spider. What does she do? She goes back in to look for her bracelet, resulting in her and Mike nearly getting killed six ways to Sunday.note 
    • During the spider's rampage in town, a woman gets the hem of her skirt caught in a car door and frantically tugs on the skirt whilst completely ignoring the door handle two inches away from her hand.
    • The school's resident rock and roll band decide to hold a spontaneous dance in the same gym where the spider is being stored. Even if they thought it was dead at the time, the sheer number of unknowns relating to its biology and how it got so big should have been a major cause for concern!
  • The Unreveal: It's never revealed what caused the spider to grow so big.
  • Versus Title: It's barely one small town, but presumably "A Single Small Town In The Middle Of Nowhere vs. The Spider" wouldn't have sold as well.
  • Your Size May Vary: The spider is much bigger during its rampage through town than it is the rest of the movie.