Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Bill Rebane's 1975 astonishingly goofy horror film The Giant Spider Invasion frequently is quoted as one of the worst films ever made, and while I can't necessarily argue anything contrary to that assessment, I'll go on the record saying that it's certainly one of the most enjoyable. Filmed in rural Wisconsin, this is one of those no-budget regional horror efforts that showed up in the drive-in circuit, then was resurrected by TV syndication and Mystery Science Theater 3000. I'm fairly certain the first time I saw the film was on MST3K, and if any film is deserving of a skewering, this would be it. Filled with absurd special effects, a name cast attempting to soldier through a frankly awful script (which for my money, is one the element that sinks the film), and a astoundingly high number of truly ludicrous scenes, Rebane's film is about a must for bad cinema connoisseurs, and almost has to be seen to be believed.
The film starts out like many a lousy sci-fi effort, with a meteor crash landing in the middle of nowhere, but this meteor carries with it a inter-dimensional gateway. When a family of hicks stumble upon the meteor, they discover geodes that, when split open, are filled with diamonds. Unfortunately for the family and everyone else in rural Wisconsin, the geodes also unleash large numbers of spiders which are rapidly growing in size. Meanwhile, government officials in Washington have been monitoring the loss of a bomber in the area, and send a NASA specialist to investigate along with the help of a local astronomer. Finally realizing what they're up against, the scientists recruit the bumpkin sheriff to help fend off the titular "catastrophe."
Apparently, this film was the result of a pair of writers, Robert Easton and Richard L. Huff, who apparently approached the material in different ways. One writer was attempting to give the film a serious tone, the other was more interested in giving it tongue-in-cheek humor. The resulting screenplay comes across as completely asinine and confused: one minute it's straight-faced, with the scientists providing a hogwash explanation for the situation, the next, we're treated to a scene where a spider is mixed up in a blender or a lecherous uncle tries to get it on with his niece. There are plenty of moronic moments to be witnessed in this flick including a drunk woman who seems to trade sexual favors in exchange for booze delivered to her house, a local couple engaging in a make-out session in the local junkyard, or numerous gratuitous scenes in which the local sheriff gets unbelievably flustered - while sitting at his desk taking phone calls as his town goes apesh!t all around him. The dialogue is hilariously bad, and the script frequently interjects thoroughly unneeded scenes into the film at inopportune times, undermining any sense of building tension.
Rebane, for his part, appears to be trying - perhaps too hard. He endlessly shoots day for night, with numerous, horribly underexposed shots remaining in the final film. Literally, there are long stretches where nothing onscreen is visible, perhaps most confounding when we get inexplicable close-up shots of God knows what. (I also had to chuckle at one interior scene where the boom mike operator was trying a little too hard to ensure that he recorded good audio - in the lower quarter of the frame throughout the entire sequence, the mic is painfully evident moving back and forth as different characters recite their lines.) If nothing else, Rebane attempts to deliver what the audience for the film would want, as we get some goop and gore, plenty of creepy crawlies scampering around throughout the film, a pace that keeps us on our toes even when the film goes off the deep end of lunacy, and even some nudity from the one (busty) member of the cast any teenage male would want so see topless. In many ways and considering the miniscule budget, this is a masterful film just for the fact that it was completed in the first place.
Much of the attention given to The Giant Spider Invasion has been focused on the film's notoriously bad special effects, but I daresay that if this film is still somehow remembered, even if for the wrong reasons, can it really be considered to be an "awful" film or even a failure? In either case, the special effects have to be seen to be believed. The one giant spider is made out of a Volkswagen covered with fake fur: the car's headlights are mocked up to be the creature's eyes, and eight dangly legs shoot off in every possible direction from the "creature." At one point, giant hairy legs destroy a house in pursuit of a nubile teen, and scenes of the creature prowling the Wisconsin countryside defy belief. Along the way, the creature gobbles up a few people, and, for a PG-rated film, there's some eye-popping violence at times.
Despite the grade-Z effects, though, I really have to commend the makers of this film for even getting the work in the can in the first place. One has to imagine that most of the budget went to assembling the cast, that, surprisingly, is made up of some very familiar faces. Ron Jeremy lookalike Steve Brodie shows up as the NASA scientist paired up with Barbara Hale to figure out how to combat the beast, while Alan Hale from Gilligan's Island is the perpetually goofy sheriff. Hale is particularly funny to watch act in this film, his jocular performance can’t possibly be taken seriously. Rounding out the cast are B-movie favorite, veteran actor and co-writer of the film Robert Easton as the scheming farmer trying to use the diamonds to amass his fortune, and character actor Leslie Parish appears as his heavily alcoholic wife. Certainly, not many of the performances in this film are spectacular, but to have a name cast (even if the majority were in the 'has-been' stages of their career at the time) in a film like this is is a credit to the production crew.
Retromedia's DVD of the film has an annoying, painfully unfunny intro by horror movie host "SON OF GHOUL” that’s far more irritating than anything in the film itself. The print used for the DVD is mediocre at best but fairly decent considering, and the disc also includes the original trailer for the film, a reproduction of the film's promotional comic book, and a short interview with director Bill Rebane. Rebane mainly discusses the various hardships faced in the making of the film, which he refers to as "The Giant Spider Disaster."
While this film's often looked down upon, I really can't fault anyone but the screenwriters for the majority of The Giant Spider Invasion’s problems. If the writers could have only decided whether they wanted to make this a horror film or a comedy, many of the film’s issues would have been instantly solved. As it stands, Bill Rebane's film is immensely entertaining, and despite obvious, glaring, unforgivable errors and gaffes in the film, I'd easily give it a recommendation. Sure, it's bad cinema, but it’s also a whole lotta fun.
Blood & Gore = Some surprisingly goopy and disgusting scenes, with spider good dissolving human victims
Language = A few mild expletives
Fap Factor = Get the pause button ready! Rebane treats us to a (brief) topless scene by the one good-looking woman in the film. Pure win.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older