The Giant Spider Invasion (1975)
Director: Bill Rebane
Starring: Steve Brodie, Barbara Hale, Robert Easton, Leslie Parrish & Alan Hale Jr.
Released by: VCI Entertainment
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Becoming one of the top money grossers of 1975, The Giant Spider Invasion takes place in the rural community of Merrill, Wisconsin where an abrupt black hole appears, ushering in a swarm of giant deadly spiders. As scientists struggle for a solution, the local population falls victim to the outer space monsters. Steve Brodie (Out of the Past), Barbara Hale (Perry Mason), Robert Easton (Needful Things), Leslie Parrish (The Devil’s 8) and Alan Hale Jr. (Gilligan’s Island) co-star.
An ode to the sci-fi efforts of the 50s, The Giant Spider Invasion does little to improve on the low-budget production values set forth by its inspirations while, simultaneously retaining their cheesy charm. Headlined by a surprisingly memorable cast despite the film’s campy nature, Director Bill Rebane’s (Blood Harvest) Wisconsin shot effort tends to press the viewers’ patience with the increased dramatics of a redneck family resulting in a Z-grade interpretation of The Last Picture Show. Not soon enough, a meteorite-like explosion takes place on their farmland opening a black hole for eight-legged monsters to wreck havoc on Earth. As the film’s scientific minds, Dr. Jenny Langer (Hale) and Dr. J.R. Vance (Brodie), are called into the area to better understand questionable data, a drawn out exposition of scientific mumbo jumbo ensues. Although more desirable spider-centric sequences are withheld until its climax, The Giant Spider Invasionpasses time with an enjoyable appearance from Alan Hale Jr. as the town sheriff. Mainly restrained to his office fielding phone calls, Hale Jr. appears to be having a fun time that is undeniably infectious. At long last, the hairy-legged critters make their full blown appearance that lives up to their ridiculousness. Crafted by covering a Volkswagen beetle with fur and mechanical legs, the queen spider is a hilarious concoction that quickly washes away the film’s previous attempts at yawn-inducing NASA explanations and forgettable character development. Affectionately roasted on Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Giant Spider Invasion is by all accounts, not the poster child for higher art but, instead a glorious staple of B-movie mayhem that remarkably laughed its way to the bank.
Celebrating the film’s 40th anniversary, VCI Entertainment presents The Giant Spider Invasionwith a 1080p transfer and preserving its 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Relatively soft at times with instances of vertical lines on display, the transfer still manages to relay strong colors and moderately warm skin tones. Shot cheaply, black levels fall on the muddier side but still worlds above previous releases that made visibility near impossible. Considering its low-budget and less than stellar home video releases, VCI Entertainment has done an admirable job on this drive-in throwback. Equipped with a LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is clean and free from distortion making the film’s listening experience a pleasant one. Containing a tremendous cobweb of supplements, special features include, Daniel Griffith’s informative and well edited Size Does Matter! Making The Giant Spider Invasion (15:20). In this Ballyhoo Motion Pictures featurette, Director/Producer Bill Rebane sits down to trace his early beginnings in the industry before climbing into the director’s chair. Also included, a re-edited Super-8 HD Version (30:17), a Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery (14:32) and the Original Theatrical Trailer & TV Spots (8:14). Found on the release’s DVD, Archival Interviews with Director Bill Rebane, Members of the Cast & Crew and TV News Reports (2:13:09!), Archival Interviews with Actor Robert Easton (17:00), Kevin Murphy & Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Introduce Bill Rebane (7:06), a worn but nostalgic Super-8 Version of the film (28:25) and an Archival Newsreel – Bill Rebane on the Set of Rana (7:36). Finally, a bonus CD containing 14 tracks from the forth-coming stage play of The Giant Spider Invasion – The Musical, a Mini The Great Spider Invasion Collectible Comic and Linear Notes by Tom Stockman of WeAreMovieGeeks.com round out the nearly endless bonus features.
Hailed as a film “so bad, it’s good”, The Giant Spider Invasion is a well-intentioned crash course in campiness. Achieved on a shoestring budget and starring a web of notable character actors, Director Bill Rebane’s giant-monster opus is a hilarious love letter to the 50s that will leave viewers doused in cheese. VCI Entertainment celebrates this schlockterpiece’s 40th anniversary with its finest home video release to date and a glut of bonus features that will leave fans caught in its web for an extended time period.
Available now from VCI Entertainment, The Giant Spider Invasion can be purchased exclusively through VCIEntertainment.com.
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