• Horrors Of Spider Island (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: June 16th, 2020.
    Director: Fritz Böttger
    Cast: Harald Maresch, Helga Franck, Alexander D'Arcy
    Year: 1960
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    Horrors Of Spider Island – Movie Review:

    Our film begins with a man named Gary Webster (Alexander D'Arcy) and his assistant auditioning lovely ladies to join a dance troupe that’s going to fly off to Singapore to perform. He isn’t too impressed with the ballerina, but the stripper is hired on the spot. Gary is that kind of guy. After assembling a veritable bevy of beauties to join his show, he and his assistant are off on their latest adventure. This means that Georgia (Helga Franck), Ann (Helga Neuner), Gladys (Dorothee Parker), May (Gerry Sammer), Nelly (Eva Schauland), Kate (Helma Vandenberg), Linda (Elfie Wagner) and the wonderfully voluptuous Bags (Barbara Valentin – hubba hubba!) are all on board that plane when it goes down somewhere over the South Pacific.

    Presumable the pilots don’t survive but the others make it into a rubber dinghy and make their way to a nearby island. Gary, he-man that he is, gets the girls ashore and soon enough the start poking about to see what they can find. Thankfully there’s plenty of fresh water but unfortunately there’s also the presence of some pretty big spiders. These aren’t as big as some movie spiders, like in Tarantula for example, but they’re about as big as a medium-sized dog which, by spider standards, is still pretty damn big. Anyway, they come across a cabin where a lonely professor once lived but find his lifeless corpse trapped in a spider web that crosses from one side of the room to the next. Thankfully, they find the professors pistol but then Gary winds up being bitten by one of the spiders and transforms into a weird looking monster with a lot of hair and a goofy, pointy fang.

    Things take an interesting twist when two burly he-men, Robby (Rainer Brandt) and Joe (Harald Maresch), show up looking for the professor. They’re sad to learn he’s dead but stoked to find that the island is now populated by hot women in skimpy outfits, sometimes even less. They spot the girls skinny-dipping and figure they’re in for a good time, and sure enough, they are – one pretty cool cat fight later and then a wonky exotic dance/strip tease and everyone is ready and willing to get it on – but instead they wind up trying to figure out how to get off of this God forsaken rock in one piece without getting killed by spider-Gary!

    Originally produced in 1960 and released in Europe as Body In The Web, the film was then retitled Horrors Of Spider Island and trimmed of its nude scenes to be given new life in the North American market as a schlocky monster movie. Even with the monster material in the movie it never quite feels like a horror picture per se, but it’s entertaining as can be if you’re in the right frame of mind for what is essentially a weird mix of cheesecake, jungle adventure tropes and big spiders that look like Muppets. Fritz Böttger makes sure that there’s enough going on at any given time so as to ensure that the audience is never bored, and as such, the pacing is pretty decent. Yeah, fine, the opening scene where the ‘dancers’ are auditioned might feel like padding but if you enjoy looking at pretty women, if doesn’t sting so much. The thrills in the movie are definitely of the cheap variety, to be sure, but they’re thrills never the less.

    The acting isn’t great at all, but it works in the context of the story being told. Harald Maresch, Rainer Brandt and Alexander D'Arcy (who pops up in Al Admason's Blood Of Dracula's Castle! and Russ Meyer's Fanny Hill) all play their ridiculously macho roles well enough, sucking in their guts to give viewers the appearance that they’re in better shape than they probably were. The ladies were all cast for their looks rather than their acting chops, but their looks are impressive and their acting chops sufficient enough to run the gamut from horny to horrified well enough. The effects are super low budget and neither the spider monster nor the spider-Gary get enough screen time, but the film is just so loveably stupid that you can’t help but have a good time with it.

    Note that this version of Horrors Of Spider Island is seemingly completely uncut. That means that there’s nudity in the skinny-dipping scene, that the tops come off during the cat fight, and that boobs peek out from under the skimpy outfits during the exotic dance scene. It’s also worth noting that the movie was skewered on the July 25th, 1999 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

    Horrors Of Spider Island – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings Horrors Of Spider Island to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen “scanned from the Düsseldorf dupe negative” taking up just under 26GBs of space on the 50GB disc. There’s a bit of print damage here and there, white specks and the occasional scratch, but while this isn’t pristine the majority of the movie looks quite good. There aren’t any noticeable issues with major compression artifacts (you might spot some very minor ones if you’re looking for them) or edge enhancement nor are there any noticeable problems with noise reduction. The black and white picture shows good detail and depth and overall, if the elements were in less than perfect shape this still offers up a pretty solid transfer, quite a nice upgrade over the previously released DVD from Something Weird Video.

    24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks are provided in English and German language options. For the bits of the film that were never dubbed into English, when that track is selected it will automatically switch to subtitled German for those brief scenes, and then back to English. There are separate subtitle options provided for each track (meaning no dubtitles). Both tracks sound okay even if they show the limitations of the source material. There’s occasional hiss and sibilance now and then but it isn’t overpowering or distracting. Otherwise the levels are balanced well enough and there are no real issues here.

    The biggest extra on the disc is the alternate U.S. release version, which uses the alternate title of It’s Hot In Paradise. This version runs an seventy-seven-minutes (compared to the uncut version, which clocks in at just under eighty-four minutes) and uses just over 18GBs of space on the disc. It’s presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition as well, and is “scanned from a pristine low con print.” This is basically the movie without the nudity in it and while it’s definitely nice to have it here for the sake of creating the most complete package possible, the uncut version is the way to go.

    The disc also includes a fifteen-minute featurette entitled The History Of Spider Island where film studies Professor Dr. Marcus Stiglegger speaks for fifteen-minutes about the film being shot on location in 1959, the prodcuter Wolf. C. Hartwig's history of producing exploitation pictures after the Second World War and how the war affected the German film industry and the market that developed locally that was 'longing for thrills.' He then covers Horrors Of Spider Island, how it started out as 'It's Hot In Paradise' and how the director used an alias on the US version of the movie. He gives us some background on Fritz Böttger's life and times, explains how German-Italian film collaborations became common around this time, the success of Hartwig's work on Peckinpah's Cross Of Iron, how D'Arcy became involved in the film, the film's American distribution, the importance of a few key cast members like Valentin (who worked with Fassbinder quite a bit) and quite a bit more.

    Also be on the lookout for a three-minute audio interview with actor Alexander D'Arcy by conducted by film historian David Del Valle. Here D'Arcy talks briefly about how the director didn't know what he was doing and how he had to direct the film, how he had to re-write the story and the film's success in Europe. It’s short, but pretty amusing!

    Eight minutes’ worth of alternate clothed scenes is included here as well (presented in fullframe) – these basically just cover up the ladies in the scenes where their clothes come off. A two-minute trailer (which is in fullfame and uses the Horrors Of Spider Island title) for the feature is also found on the disc. Menus and chapter selection are provided and this release comes packaged with some nice reversible cover sleeve artwork and, for the first 3,000 copies, a limited edition slipcover.

    Horrors Of Spider Island – The Final Word:

    Horrors Of Spider Island is a seriously cool slice oddball horror, a film that is at times as creepy as it is campy and which wears its Indonesian roots plainly on its sleeve. Severin Films has done a really nice job bringing this one to Blu-ray with an impressive transfer, fine audio and a few decent extra features as well. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized ‘uncut’ Horrors Of Spider Island Blu-ray screen caps!