Kiss of the Tarantula (1976)

So silent

So deadly

So final

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Kiss of the Tarantula (1975) crosses into two sub-genre of horror film. On one hand it is a misfit revenge movie similar in tone and competence to the killer snake movie Stanley (1972) and Horror High (1974) (a spin on the Jekyll and Hyde tale), with story elements possibly derived from Stephen King’s first published novel Carrie (1974) or Brian De Palma’s film Carrie (1976).  There are also definite similarities to the rat film Willard (1971). On the other hand, the movie falls under the category of when spiders attack films.  These include Frogs (1972)(cameo), Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo (1977) and the far superior Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), starring William Shatner.

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Introverted Susan Bradley (Suzanna Ling) lives with her mortician father Walter (Eric Mason, Grave of the Vampire, 1972) and over-bearing sadistic mother Martha (Beverly Eddins).  Susan has a fondness for spiders. Her mother beats her anytime she handles or talks to a spider. Susan later discovers that her mother has a lover and is planning to have her father killed.  Having none of that, young Susan places a plump Mexican redknee tarantula (Brachypelma smithi) in her bed. Susan’s mother has a heart attack and dies. Susan grows up to be a beautiful, albeit odd young woman who harbors tarantulas in the basement of the funeral home.

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As a halloween prank, some of the [oldest ever] local high schoolers sneak into the Bradley Funeral Home to steal a coffin. Susan discovers them, asks them to leave, but the pranksters discover Susan’s spider room.  One of the tarantulas is crushed under the boot of badboy Joe Penny (Mark Smith).

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Later, in an effective scene in a ventilation duct, Joe is greeted by several tarantulas. Claustrophobes and arachnophobes stay clear.

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Kiss of the Tarantula has a creepy sub-plot with Susan’s uncle John (Herman Wallner), who was her mother’s lover, also showing sexual interest in Susan.  Uncle John is also investigating the murders and discovers the tie to Susan.  What will Uncle John do? The ending is surprising, macabre and good twisted fun.

Kiss of the Tarantula was directed by Chris Munger. IMDb notes that along with actress Suzanna Ling, this is their single contribution to film.  It’s a shame —while Kiss is passable drive-in fodder and mediocre filmmaking, the film holds your interest and has some effective moments. This would make fun pairing with Kingdom of the Spiders (1977).  I give this film 5/10 stars. Fun drive-in nonsense boosted with unusual ending.

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Italian One-Sheet, below.

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