Horrors of Spider Island DVD

Eight babes versus eight armed horror

In 1960, sexuality had only begun to become more explicit on U.S. screens in imported art films, or cloaked in the nervous laughter of nudie-cutie pictures shown in downtown grindhouses. Horror films were still relatively chaste, with sex only appearing in the subtext of films like The Wasp Woman. However, in Europe, horror pictures were already adults-only fare, so filmmakers thought, “Why not throw in some sex as well?” Producer Wolfgang Hartwig had a hit with his weird and lurid A Head for the Devil, which was released in the U.S. as The Head in 1962 (and subsequently heavily influenced the badfilm classic The Brain That Wouldn’t Die). His next film would draw even more heavily on the sex & monsters theme.

Ein Toter Hing im Netz (“Corpse Hanging in a Web”) has plenty of babes, an exotic location, bare-chested he-men, gruesome monsters and grisly deaths. This is the sort of material seen most often in men’s pulp magazines of the day, when titles like Male and Stag featured stories like “Blood Brides of Malaya” and “I Escaped the Nazi Torture Harem”. These pulps are the most underappreciated influence on fright films of the time, helping shape I Eat Your Skin, The Flesh Eaters, She Demons, and many others.

Egyptian born Alex D’Arcy stars as the robust All-American hero (or so it appears). D’Arcy plays Gary, a New York showman who has booked a night club review in Singapore. He and his gorgeous assistant Georgia hire most of the girls that show up, choosing pulchritude over dancing talent. With a bit of scratchy airline stock footage, the dubbed Europeans are on their way from New York to the Far East. When they run out of stock footage, the plane crashes somewhere in the South Pacific (portrayed by a few close-ups of the girls screaming). Pilots, hostesses, and any other passengers all perish.

Our little troupe manages to paddle their life raft to the closest island, some of them still in heels. They find a shack on the island, and in the shack is the title body – a dead uranium prospector hanging in a huge, phony web. After disposing of the corpse, Gary prepares to settle in for what would make a promising Survivor spin-off: a guy stranded on an island with 8 showgirls and a spider monster. However, Gary is too caught up in watching various cat fights and hanky panky to make any defensive preparations to protect the group from whatever killed the prospector. Maybe he’s got tropic fever, but he wastes little time before he wanders off to get bit by a funny-looking giant mutant spider puppet.

Instead of gaining super powers, or dying from deadly venom, Gary is instantly transformed into a hideous, chunky were-spider. The girls spend a few hours hunting for their missing boss, then get back to their grousing, pouting and skinny dipping. Every so often, Gary’s clawed hands reach out for someone from a dark shadow, only to retreat for no apparent reason. It’s no wonder the girls don’t take him seriously. When the prospector’s two assistants show up, they don’t take the monster seriously either, preferring to engage in extensive soap opera maneuvers for most of the third act. Frustrated, Gary finally gets down to business and starts killing the most annoying castaways.

In 1962, Pacemaker Pictures acquired the U.S. distribution rights to the picture. Unable to figure out what to do with it, they used the title It’s Hot in Paradise to release it as a sex film on the raincoat circuit. It’s this 77 minute version that Something Weird Video has remastered for this release, the longest version available, though it still seems to be missing some frames of nudity. By 1965, the market had opened up enough for it to be re-released (trimmed by several minutes) under the present title on a double bill with The Fiendish Ghouls.

Too bad the trailer wasn’t included, as I recall it being hilariously sensational, and some subtitles would be welcome as well to help through the rough dubbing, but once again Something Weird has done the trash film world a great service. Always eager to provide more bang for the buck, the disc comes with 3 extra short features. “The Stripper and the Spider Girl”, an exotic dance number, seems to be an excerpt from a color Eurothriller I can’t quite place. “Spider Girl” is a black & white strip tease short starring Mary Blair, a big web, and a tarantula bikini. The most insane short is a brilliantly colored Scopitone with Joi Lansing (Hillbillies in a Haunted House) wearing some really wild outfits, struggling to lip-sync “Web of Love” on Tiki-Hell sets.

The DVD is capped off with another great gallery section of exploitation advertising art, accompanied by horror flick radio spots (“Filmed in Hollywood – by maniacs!!”).

This entry was posted in DVD, Movie, Review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *