Thursday, November 21, 2013

Horrors of Spider Island (1960) – MST3K Review

Gary (Alexander D’Arcy) is taking a group of dancers to exotic Singapore (or maybe it’s exotic dancers to Singapore… anyway) for a tour. Along the way the plane goes down somewhere in the Pacific. Gary and the girls are able to find a deserted island and explore it. 

Before Gary can feel pretty good about living on an island with a bunch of sultry ladies, they find remnants of an expedition on the island. But it appears that the expedition was destroyed by a giant spider! The giant web gave it away. Seeing no sign of the spider Gary and girls enjoy their time – until Gary disappears. Now the girls have to fend for themselves and hope help arrives. Will the confident Georgia (Helga Frank) be able to keep buxom Babs (Barbara Valentin) and the other girls away from the Horrors of Spider Island?

Movie Review:
I'm surprised SyFy hasn't attempted a remake. It would
probably be an improvement.
Girls in bikinis trapped on an island and being chased around by a mutated guy. Sounds like it might have some good points, right? If only the people behind the camera knew what they were doing. Sorry to say that the Horrors of Spider Island or Body in the Web as it is known in German, has more to do with inept film making than a scary monster. But they did get the girls in bikinis part right.

Let’s start with the basics, you know, the plot. This movie’s goal to was to show girls in bikinis and have them get attacked by a monster. So I wasn’t expecting Shakespeare (we already had that episode). it is about as flimsy as you expect. Characters are either broadly drawn archetypes (Gary is certainly the alpha male, Babs is the rowdy tough gal, Georgia is the competent one, etc) or they are just bodies with little personality, but look good in bikinis (most of the rest of the girls).

It looks like some thought was given to actually get Gary and the girls into the plane. The whole audition scene seems to be an attempt to show Gary and Georgia's relationship. Even the goofy "crossing the legs" move seems to be an attempt to give them some background. But after the ridiculous plane crash sequence, the movie devolves into the girls wandering around, looking pouty and being almost attacked by the silly looking mutated Gary. Even the injection of the returning expedition members, Bobby (Rainer Brandt) and Joe (Harald Maresch) does little to make the movie any more interesting. Mostly this is because the characters are so thin that you don’t care what happens to any of them. Part of this is the writing, but it also falls on the acting.

Georgia is too stunned by the battle of Babs to
realize she is in danger!
Horrors of Spider Island was made by a German cast, and that means what we get is a dubbed mess. You’ve got some seriously bad voice acting in this movie. With Gary getting the super masculine deep voice, and all the girls being dubbed by what sounds like three women. All these women were directed to coo, and pout and sound like they are all on some kind of depressants. Some distinctions are made in the voice work – Babs sounds about as tough as she looks, but for the most part its a really poor job.

As for the physical part of the acting, well it’s about what you’d expect. The girls are good at showing off their assets. Gary is good at looking beefy and masculine. Even the two researchers are good at being annoying and jerky. So really I guess they all fit the parts, but there is silliness to the performances. Or maybe it’s the fact that they all know they are in a movie called Horrors of Spider Island, I don’t know, but the cheesiness goes from the script right into the acting.

"Captured by sexy women? Sure I'll surrender!"
If you’re looking for hot girls and studly guys, well you might find something to like. The guys are uniformly beefy and lumpy. Most of them end up with their shirts off at some point, but it doesn’t help matters. And for those of you who like watching guys punch each other – well there are a couple fight scenes between the dorky Joe and Bobby and then between Joe and mutated Gary (who still has his shirt off in mutated form – but retains his slacks).

As for the ladies they are all pretty or sexy in an early 60’s European kind of way. Some of them will have more appeal than others, only because they get a little more screen time. Georgia is the smart one who takes command. Then there’s the sweet Ann who falls for Bob. And of course there’s Babs, the Amazon of the group. Tall, blonde and built like a linebacker, Babs intimidates all the girls and even stands up to Gary. Of course the filmmakers spend lots of time showing us Babs, and one of the movies key scenes involves Babs wrestling one of the other girls. Yeah – it’s a key scene for this film, which doesn’t say much. Oddly Babs and Gary remind of a low budget beefy German version of Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni from La Dolce Vida which was made the same year! Coincidence? I think not!

The professor was caught practicing his jazz hands.
So what about the horrors and the monsters and such? Well our titular spider is really a goofy looking puppet that hides in a tree most of the movie. This thing would make Roger Corman blush – maybe. Its big scene is when it attacks Gary, but it takes so long to get to the scene, that you begin to wonder if Gary’s shirtless chest is the horror of Spider Island. Anyway, after Gary gets bitten, he gets a furry face, funny looking teeth and a clawed hand. He looks nothing like a spider, more like a were-wombat or something. The rest of the movie Gary will move his hand threateningly toward one of the girls and then hides. When he finally kills someone he does so by waving his arms until they fall off a cliff. The other “special” effect is the huge spider web that our castaways find at the beginning of the movie. It’s very fake looking. The poor dope playing the professor caught in the web like he’s doing jumping jacks, or was caught in the air during a fabulous dance montage moment. Mike and the bots have a field day with this in a host segment.

Flowery bikini or not, Babs will BREAK you!
When it comes down to it, Horrors of Spider Island was made for the guys. It’s got girls in bikinis, and lots of jumping and running and wrestling. It’s also got a really misogynistic feel to the dialogue as well as the whole tone. Certainly this is nothing new for a bad B film. I’m just warning you. Don’t expect any respect for any of the girls in this movie. 

That’s funny because I get the feeling that Babs could kick the ass of any of the guys in this movie. If anyone demands respect – it’s Babs… well maybe not in that flowery bikini.

It was just a joke Babs. No seriously put down that chair! NOOOoooooo!

Episode Review:
And now you see the horror of spider island. Not
too impressive is it?
In many ways this reminds me of a classic Mike episode from season six. The movie is black and white, it’s got that early 60’s feel to it. It’s even got enough women in bikini’s to rival Mike’s first episode The Brain that Wouldn’t Die. You’ve got the beefy guys and cooing girls. Sure lots of the movie spent with characters wandering around or writhing around but that should be easy. Mike and the bots had a lot less to work with in films like Starfighters or Racket Girls or one of the Coleman Francis trilogy. So Horrors of Spider Island  should be a great episode.

Yeah, you saw the “but” coming didn’t you.

But, this isn’t a great episode. It’s really lacking in a lot of areas and the big one is energy. There is a real lethargy in the riffing, and long stretches without much of a comment. When they do come they aren’t anything really memorable. In fact when I remember this episode, I remember the movie itself more than the actual riffing. Gary’s little leg crossing bit, or Babs, or Gary as a spider in slacks, or Babs, or the crash sequence, or Babs. But when it comes to specific riffing, I don’t remember much at all.

Upon rewatching Horrors of Spider Island, some of the funnier moments revolve on how sleazy the movie is. Crow asks, "Should we have on our filthy raincoats to watch this?" After the umpteenth scene involving half naked women writhing around Crow says, "This is too much, even for me. Can we see a couple elderly scientists talking for 2 hours, nonstop?"  

"Hi, I'm Bob Boxbody."
Speaking of Gary, he’s a good source of comedy. From his opening moments with his auditions, to his final moments as a crazed hairy not-spidery-at-all monster – Gary provides laughs. His booming voice is easily imitated by Tom and he makes the already misogynistic dialogue worse. Although Tom observes that "He has Torgo area!" which is a horrifying thought.

Of course there’s big ol’ Babs, who’s brute force and [cough cough] charms makes her a focal point for riffing. Her scenes on the island and during the wrestling sequence are pretty funny by themselves. But Mike and the bots add some more humor, with Tom fainting whenever she’s getting really provocative. Babs is just too much woman for him! I love Crow's comment about the scene below, "I usually have to go online to see this kind of thing. Like"

So what are the boys final thoughts on Horrors of Spider IslandTom concludes that "By this point I think the name Spider Island is misleading". Crow adds, "I'm not just wondering if there is a point to this movie, I'm wondering if there is a point to life." Mike delcares, "Too bad we can't squish this movie with a tissue and flush it down the toilet". So yeah, they didn't like it too much.

The host segments are have some good moments. Things start off with Mike discovering that Crow has a syndicated opinion column in many newspapers in the US. Crow has a lot to say about not too much at all. Then Mike checks on the Pearl in Castle Forrester and finds out that the castle is gone! Pearl moved so she wouldn’t have to pay so much for Bobo’s monkey license. But the move has made everyone crabby and so Pearl inflicts Horrors of Spider Island on Mike and bots because she’s so cranky. At the first break, Mike is caught in a giant web. The bots tease him and enjoy the bounty of giant insects they’ve caught with it. At the next break, Mike and the bots hold auditions just like Gary in the movie. Pearl, Observer and Bobo all try out. This is probably the funniest of the bunch. Next up, the bots want to know that if you survive a plane crash do you become all helpless and whispery like the dancers in the movie. They test the theory and the results are predictable, but pretty amusing. After the movie ends, Mike has turned into a monster – kinda – not really. Meanwhile Pearl is moving the castle back, and they’ve stopped at a truck stop. It gets a little creepy from there on.

Mike just had to jump out of the theater, and now he's
caught in a web of deceit!
A couple of funny host segments just don’t help. Horrors of Spider Island is so goofy that it would be OK to watch without any riffing. But the reason for the show is so you get to see the pros do it. But I get the feeling that with only two more shows left after this one – the cast and crew just weren’t into it. The lack of energy and low rate of jokes make this barely worth seeking out. To me its even more disappointing because this could have been a classic episode, or at the worst, an average episode. But what we get here is a movie that is really asking for it, and a crew who doesn’t seem to be that interested. Its’ a sad mix, that that makes it below average.

I give this two Babs out of five.

This episode is available on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection Volume 11.


  1. I saw this movie without an MST3K lubricant. Just as well it seems. Yet, despite the buxom German girls in bikinis, I had forgotten all about it until your review. Perhaps that says it all.

    1. Yeah sadly it's not a terribly memorable episode of the show. I wish they had tackled it earlier in the run, I think it could have been a classic. Still Babs was fun to watch. :)