Horrors of Spider Island

October 28, 2010 at 2:16 am (7 Heads, Horrors of Spider Island) (, , )

Horrors of Spider Island – 1960 – Germany

Horrors of Spider Island is a reedit 1962’s It’s Hot in Paradise. Either title is appropriate for this creepy, titillating flick. Spider Island is dubbed from German, shocking that I didn’t realize it while watching. The dubbing matches well (disregarding a variety of hilarious accents) and it’s so thematically derivative of American drive-in fare, I never questioned.

A bitchy, sexy nightclub dance troupe’s plane crashes with a cool montage of fiery stock footage and close-up screams. Amazingly, the girls and their manager survive. Thirsty, they drift the ocean in a raft. Simple shot compositions and silence make an effectively bleak scene. The dread atmosphere increases as they reach a desolate island. Exploring the beautiful and sinister wilderness, they find a cabin. Its lone dead occupant is strung in giant web. While cheap looking, this image is genuinely chilling.

Here Spider Island’s dismal tone disintegrates as the girls survive for weeks in the cabin. Catfights (including a vicious belt beating) and chicks in underwear are enjoyable, but detract from the ambiance, although the tension between the girls is palpable. Meanwhile, a freaky spider puppet bites their manager, mutating him into a spider-man. His gross but half-assed makeup consists of a deformed hairy face and big claws, like an insectoid Wolfman. You see, there’s uranium on the island—presumably where the spider got its Marvel-debted bite. Then, two uranium miners arrive by boat and flick breaks down entirely.

Ecstatic at being rescued, the lonely girls don bikinis of exotic flowers and throw a party, dancing and flirting with the skeezy miners (“What are dancers? Hot goods for cold nights.”). Occupying 20 minutes of the flick, the party features necking, fistfights, and new love. The horror is at a standstill until Spider-Man reappears, killing a miner. Since Spider-Man inexplicably fears fire, the girls wield flares, chasing him through a series of eye-catching scenes as clusters of white flames surge through the dark jungle. Spider-Man blunders into quicksand, sinking and grunting desperately, as the remaining miner grimly utters, “Better dead than to continue living.”

From that extreme description, you understand how strange Spider Island is. An ambiguous jumble of sexiness, comedy, romance, and horror, Spider Island is uneven and chaotic, but interesting. The horrific moments, where the tortured Spider-Man stalks the mysterious island’s jungles, are captivating and sublime (in Victor Hugo’s sense). A dozen girls scrambling in skivvies is absorbing too, even if clashing thematically. Toss in a great sultry jazz soundtrack, atmospheric locations, and uniquely lazy effects and you have trash worth watching.

Spider Island is fun with friends for laughs or alone for thrills. A definite oddity, even jaded drive-in buffs will raise an eyebrow at. And you have to love the evocative title.

Rating: 7/10 Shrunken Heads. Immediately after the credits, I decided Spider Island was 6 Heads. After writing, I got so pumped I impulsively opted for 7. Make what you will of that.

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