Starring Suzanna Ling, Herman Wallner, Ernesto Macias
Directed by Ernesto Macias
Distributed by VCI Entertainment
Well yes, most of us know the reality of the situation: Tarantulas mostly aren’t aggressive, and even if you get bit by one of them, it’ll feel more like a bee sting than anything else. In fact, their passivity makes it easy for an, uh, spider wrangler (I guess that’s what they’re called?) to work with on set.
All this is quite different from Movie Reality, of course, in which these cute little things will not only kill you, but you’ll be dead within minutes of their biting you. Or, uh, when they casually walk over you? Because in Kiss of the Tarantula (1976), that’s about all they do.
Suzanna Ling (in her only credited role) plays Susan Bradley, a teenager who enacts spider vengeance on people who intend to kill her daddy or her precious pet spiders. Is she a psychopath? Well, yes, but she’s a Dexter type in that she only kills bad folks, so at least there’s that. I mean, it’s definitely not cool for a pack of hoodlums to break into her house and kill one of her spiders, but does the punishment fit the crime? Ah, hell, who knows. But, really, if you’re on her good side, she’s quite pleasant to be around.
Susan’s dad, John Bradley (Herman Wallner) is a mortician. Always good to have one of those in your exploitation flicks. He’s also severely stupid, and he almost ends up being murdered by his wife because of it. Lucky for him, though, he has a, well, unusually close relationship with his daughter, who releases her spiders on her own mother in order to prevent her father’s untimely death.
And why was Susan’s mom going to kill her father? Because, quite naturally, she was having an affair with his brother Walter (Ernesto Macias). Not only does ol’ John Bradley not notice that his wife is having an affair with his brother, but he’s too dense to see the obvious signs that his brother wants to have sex with his daughter. Gross.
Yes, there are some strange family dynamics going on here, which makes the film all that more weird and fun.
Playing a man who works with corpses seems to come naturally for Herman Wallner, who is basically a stiff himself. And he can barely make it through his lines without completely tripping over them.
Like a lot of people in the film, this is Wallner’s only credit, which is possibly lucky for the rest of us, though everyone looks like they’re having fun with their roles. Most of their performances are passable, about what you’d expect from a C-grade drive-in flick from the seventies. So no fault to be found there. If you don’t expect acting like that in a movie called Kiss of the Tarantula, then you haven’t seen a whole lot of super low budget 70’s exploitation flicks. And that makes my heart hurt.
Well, now to the question at hand: is the movie as scary as the title would like you to believe? Unless you already have a fear of spiders, you won’t find anything frightening or gross about these little things. As I said before, their method of killing consists of casually walking over their victims until they scream themselves to death. I guess even one close-up of a spider biting someone would have made the budget spin wildly out of control.
Kiss of the Tarantula is a lot of fun. If you’re a fan of weirdo exploitation flicks, this is certainly one to add to the list. The script is tight, without a ton of filler. Director Chris Munger and his writers had a vision, and goddamn it, they stuck to it. Get in, get out, move on to the next thing. Pretty much a balanced exploitation film breakfast.
The only special features on this VCI release are a trailer and a commentary by David Del Valle and David DeCocteau. Del Valle commentaries are always a welcome feature on any disc, especially when he’s paired with DeCocteau, a wonderful cult filmmaker, possibly best known for his hilarious Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. These two know a lot about drive-in movies and regional filmmaking, so their commentary is always engaging. Collectors will certainly find a lot to like in this release.
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Commentary by David Del Valle and David DeCocteau
If you don’t take Kiss of the Tarantula too seriously, you’re going to have a lot of fun.