The Giant Spider Invasion
Creeping!... Crawling!... Crushing!
Year of Release: 1975
Also Known As: Invasion of the Giant Spiders
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Running Time: 84 minutes (1:24)
Director: Bill Rebane
Steve Brodie ... Dr. Vance
Barbara Hale ... Dr. Jenny Langer
Robert Easton ... Kester
Leslie Parrish ... Ev
Alan Hale Jr. ... Sheriff
Bill Williams ... Dutch
Kevin Brodie ... Davey Perkins
Diane Lee Hart ... Terry
A mysterious fire-ball lights a Wisconsin sky and falls to earth, landing in a dairy pasture. Dr. Langer of the local observatory contacts NASA's Dr. Vance to investigate the strange readings on her equipment. He suspects a B-52 reported missing in the area. What they learn is... Terrifying! Chilling suspense!
Local Sheriff Alan Hale joins forces with the doctors, and together they must discover a way to destroy these house-size arachnids!
The Giant Spider Invasion, remindin' all you "casual" drinkers out there that when you start mixin' tarantulas an V8 Juice in the blender (affectionately known to connoisseurs as "The Blood Hairy") for the neurotoxin buzz, you might need a 12 step program that does more than describe the walking distance to your liquor cabinets.
An speakin' of hairy situations that go down hard, for the last coupla weeks Cleave Furguson's been spendin' every wakin' moment tryin' to impress upon me the importance of his business "goin' viral", like the moment that happens he'll be able to retire an get rich postin' videos of hisself crappie fishin' or somethin'.
I just had one question: "What'n the hell's 'goin' viral'? You mean like Charlie Sheen?"
Cleave just looked at me like I was draggin' a mile of toilet paper from my pant leg until he felt superior enough to fill me in.
"So... what? You want me to video tape myself hittin' you in the nads with a wiffle bat or somethin'?" Apparently I wasn't gettin' the message.
"The right ad campaign can make Furry Mountain Stuffing *the* go-to place for taxidermy in the Pacific Northwest, dingus," he says while shovin' a failed coon-skin cap into the incinerator.
"Don't expect me to hang around if you land a reality show, Cleave. I may have two rigs in my yard that hadn't moved since 1992, but I've still got my dignity."
"This kinda thing can help your little website's traffic too, you friggin' ape," he snapped back. "An besides that, you owe me for the RV."
"Oh get real! If I hadn't come up with a plan that bear woulda eaten the both of us an every other elk hunter on Sumac Ridge! There weren't no other choice an you know it!" I says, more'n a little P.O.'d that he had the gall to bring that up. He just stood there there starin' at me like your Dad used to do after gettin' a call from the principal til I finally caved.
"Fine, but after this we're even, dickweed," I mumbled.
You'd think that by now I'd know better'n to leave the paved road with Cleave, but I'm plum sick of the way he pouts anytime somebody brings up goin' campin', so I went anyway. Cleave had all the details worked out - apparently, we were gonna head back out to Sumac Ridge an find us a hibernatin' bear, an I was gonna film 'im pokin' it with a stick. Later on he'd dub in some audio an the line "at Furry Mountain Stuffing, you'll never hafta prod us to get the job done right." See, Cleave had this theory that the bears'd be too groggy to retaliate before we were long gone - too bad we'll never know if that's true or not, cause we just happened to find the cave occupied by that sombitch we blew up in Cleave's RV durin' elk season. NOTHIN' shoulda been able to survive that roll/explosion, no freakin' way. Heck, Jason Voorhees himself woulda kicked the bucket after that wreck, but there he was, purt'near hairless, covered in scar tissue, silverware embedded in his hide with the skin healed up around it, an lookin' just like that nappy critter from Prophecy, only even less happy to see us. Damn unfortunate that Cleave'd chosen jalapeno poppers for breakfast too, beins that's what brought ole Searano de Beargerac into our camp in the first place, cause he caught a whiff of that inside three seconds in his cave an next thing you know he was on his feet lookin' to sink his teeth into a coupla manburgers. Thank cripes Amos Anderson was out patrollin' for poachers on his quad, or we'da ended up bearitos - we jumped on the rear end an told 'im to floor it just as that monster got his one good eye focused on us an charged.
"Jesus Christ! What the hell is that thing?!" Amos yelled back to us.
"We'll explain later, just move this heap before we end up a cautionary campfire story!" I yelled back.
Eventually that monstrosity fatigued an gave up, but Cleave's Bronco is still parked out there on Sumac Ridge, where it's prolly gonna sit for the foreseeable future.
"You get anything?" Cleave asked after we'd finally made it back to town.
"Yeah, but I threw your camcorder at the bear when he started gainin' on the quad," I muttered.
"Unbelievable," was all he had to say before he started hoofin' it back to Furry Mountain Stuffing.
"Hey, look on the bright side," I hollered back, "if anyone finds it you'll own the rights to the best found footage flick since Cannibal Holocaust!"
Cleave just flipped me the bird over his shoulder an the two of us entered into an unspoken understandin' that I was not to bring it up again. I guess that's gratitude for ya.
Anyhow, we're gonna do somethin' a little different for the next ten weeks, cause this is week #1 of my tribute to the ten most enjoyable flicks to be riffed by the Mystery Science Theater crew. That's why it's only a *little* different than what I'd normally be doin' during this time, cause about all that separates these ten reviews from the last ten is a tenuous common bond. Makes it look like I know what I'm doin'/talkin' about, wouldn't you say? Yeah, me neither. Just the same, we're startin' off with my #10 pick - The Giant Spider Invasion, which is without a doubt Wisconsin's greatest contribution to civilized society since Old Milwaukee, an also serves as the perfect accompaniment to said brew. Now, I know that all you MST3K fans're already sold on the flick, but for the unfortunate souls out there who've never experienced it in all its glory, I'll endeavor to convince you of its greatness with a few bits of regional wisdom from America's dairy land. First, even a giant spider invasion isn't enough to get a cow to move its ass outta harm's way. Second, locusts're old hat. From now on, be prepared to be pelted to death by outer space spiders encased in meteorites when God's P.O.'d. An third, diamonds may well be a girl's best friend, but when they start slippin' 'em into their panties it takes the axiom to a really weird place.
Here's what I wanna know though - who's the intergalactic joker that keeps encasin' space critters inside rocks an firin' 'em at the Earth just for the hell of it? This can't possibly be some cosmic coincidence, I mean, we got The Blob, The Day it Came to Earth, Extra Terrestrial Visitors, The Alien Dead, 17 versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, an of course The Giant Spider Invasion, every one of which features little monster meteorites that hatch into somethin' the planet is woefully unprepared for, an proceed to threaten the rural way of life. Always crash down in some backwater burg too small to find on the map due to their uncanny ability to be purged by a poorly placed thumb tack hole, too. They never bust through a 9th story office building window in Denver for some reason. Seriously, I wanna know - are we part of some kinda interstellar social experiment? An alien reality show? What the heck is this? Is there some extraterrestrial schmuck named "Wink" who constantly sports a shit-eatin' grin out there behind all this? An are the subsequent events bein' transmitted into space an broadcast for little green guys with arms growin' outta their asses under some tacky title like "Oh that Humanity!"? Ya know, I enjoy a good joke as much as the next guy, an firin' an amorphous mass of Jello directly into the heartland of America was pretty hilarious, THE FIRST TIME. It was funny *once*, but apparently these aliens studied comedy at the Seth McFarland Academy for Dead Horse Abuse or somethin'. I'll tell ya somethin' else too - us country folk don't like bein' made fun of, an we *really* don't like bein' made fun of AND gettin' screwed out of our residuals. So if you cosmo-twats ever *do* plan on landin' an givin' one of those sappy "we come in peace" speeches someday, you might wanna think twice about landin' anywhere too sparsely populated to support a Chuck-E-Cheese. I mean, unless you plan on bringin' a coupla space kegs to make amends with.
The movie begins with this redneck (Dan) who looks to be the cause of a lotta yer local Goatman sightins tellin' his boozy floozy of a wife (Ev) that he's headin' into town to praise Jesus at the big religious revival/NRA meetin' they're havin' an to see if the faith healer'll rub an SKS on his feet to clear up his gout problem, even though he's *really* plannin' to go visit this Swedish trailer trash transplant to check out the current food stamp to tramp stamp exchange rate. Then this kid (Davey) pulls up in his Fleetmaster to pick up Ev's little sister (Terry), only Ev stops 'im at the porch an starts waxin' orgasmic about how if he was a little order or drunker she'd invite 'im in for a roll in 'er crabbage patch. Eventually Terry slips into 'er best bandana blouse an she an Davey drive off to make out in the wreckin' yard, an a coupla hours later Dan comes home to find Ev totally P.O.'d at 'im on account of 'er havin' a pretty good idea about where he's been since it's exactly where she'da been if their situations were switched. Fortunately, before things devolve into an episode of the Jerry Springer show, this comet buzzes the farmhouse an crashes out yonder in the cow pasture, an while Dan's plum hornshwaggled about just what in tarnation it was, he figures it can wait until mornin' an heads inside to shake all the skunks outta the laundry hamper an get some shut eye. Meanwhile, at NASA, Steve Buscemi's Dad tells this scientist with a face like a bowl of marshmallow fluff (Vance) that they're gettin' some weird readins from Wisconsin showin' up on the science meter an that he'd better pack up his cheese wedge hat an make sure none of the local farmers've harnessed the power of cattle methane to create a controlled dairy fusion reactor. So Vance flies into Merrill Municipal Airport an drives over to the community college to meet with Professor Langer an spend the next 10 minutes tryin' to process 'er gender like he's filmin' an All in the Family sketch an reconcile that with what's goin' on in his underpants. The next mornin', Dan an Ev head out to their field to survey the damage an find about a dozen dead cows that look like they've been sucked through the engine on a 747, an Dan's understandably P.O.'d bein's how he had a verbal agreement with the space aliens not to mutilate more'n five cows at a time. He can always sell what's left to the guy in town who runs the Thai restaurant an don't speak English so it's not *that* bigga deal, an the outrage subsides pretty quickly when they find a crater surrounded by geodes an decide to take one back to the house an crack it open like an Old Mil Tall Boy.
Nobody seems to notice the tarantula that crawls out cause after it rolls onto the floor an splits open Dan an Ev start practicin' for Hee Haw tryouts, but once the spider's skittered off to harass William Shatner they finally look down an notice the geode's loaded up with enough diamonds to resurface Zsa Zsa Gabor. Needless to say, we're talkin' Bud Light wishes an Copenhagen dreams here, so Dan heads back out to the crater to round up more geodes, cept he ends up findin' a corpse an decides to cover it up rather'n report it cause the sheriff just happens to be the Skipper from Gilligan's Island an they've got an illegal pot grow out back. A perfectly sensible precaution, considerin' once the Skipper gets the munchies they can pretty much kiss their cattle goodbye. Then Dan goes to bump britches with the Swiss Miss again an tips 'er with a rock the size of his pinky like Donald Trump buyin' a porn star's silence, while Ev prepares for bed an discovers a muppet-sized spider inside 'er underwear drawer when she goes to mix 'er nightly Percocet smoothie. She tries runnin' out the front door, only there's this big ole web attached to it now an she ends up wrestlin' around in there for awhile until she's able to tear free, an of course by that time she's gotta sweep a buncha 'nids out of 'er rack before eventually gettin' sacked like Brett Favre on a safety blitz by a 5' roided up Charlotte Cavatica. Hollywood's fickle like that - one minute you're the belle of the ball, an the next you've put on 200lbs an hafta take gigs from Wisconsin-based schlockmeisters just to put flies on the table. But anyway, the next mornin' Dan goes to visit his cousin at the local rock shop an finds out that his diamonds're basically on par with the ones sold by guys who wear trench coats an conduct all their business behind porno theaters, but Dan decides to keep diggin' anyway since it's obvious his cousin's better suited to pourin' De Beers than workin' for 'em. Then he heads home an tries to curry sexual favors with Terry in exchange for some stones, but she turns 'im down cold in spite of fact that a diamond is forever, an Dan's stamina generally gives out inside three minutes. Turns out that little exchange would be the last bout of sexual harassment Terry'd have to endure for a full six minutes, cause when Dan wanders back out to the pasture to scoop up some more rocks he ends up gettin' fanged by Aracula an findin' out what it was like to be Andre Delambre in The Fly.
Then Cousin Douchey comes over lookin' for Dan an tries gettin' into Terry's lunchbox until she kicks his hillbilly hinder an sends 'im fleein' down the road where he runs into Shelob an ends up steerin' his rig into a gas station. We're talkin' Hick-fil-a, it's not a pretty sight. Kinda ironic though, cause he was drivin' a Matador at the time. Unfortunately for Terry, that's right about the time the Daddiest of Long Legs comes creepin' outta the forest an starts jabbin' his arms through the drywall tryin' to get Miss Muffit to snuff it, comin' pretty close after causin' the ceilin' to cave in on 'er. Needless to say - he's got legs, an he knows how to use 'em. Fortunately, Davey just happens to drive by an notice Jack Webb skitterin' off into the sunset an manages to lug Terry out to his car an drive 'er back to town where he immediately begins searchin' for a really big newspaper. Meanwhile, in town, this ole boy who owns the cafe (Dutch) has taken it upon himself to rile up a buncha militant Orkin Men an convinced 'em to go round up all their kinfolk so they can squish the spider an protect the nation's cheddar supply, despite the Skipper's insistence that they're gonna need a bigger boot. Cept while that's goin' on, the spider's hoofed it on over to the Little League game to catch some flies, an the umpire ends up havin' to cancel the game on account of rain in everybody's pants. Then it scurries into downtown Gleason for some spaghetti an mothballs an chews up a whole mess of ammosexuals an generally pounds 'em into the ground they're standin' until they hafta retreat. That's alright though, cause after several extended sequences in the biology lab of the community college, Vance an Langer've discovered that the spiders seem to be emergin' from a mini-black hole that's threatenin' to rip through the fabric of space an time an possibly ruin the big muskie tournament set for the followin' weekend. Obviously, they're not takin' any chances, so they rig up this doohickey that's supposed to close the rift an really fix the giant spider's station wagon. Trouble is, it's gonna be a pretty risky operation considerin' the vortex shutter dealie hasta be dropped precisely upon the comet's point of impact from a helicopter, an you just know the moment Tito A. Tarantula sees the chopper he's gonna mistake it for a mega-fly an make a beeline for it, so in light of all that, this is where I stop the summary so's the endin' don't get spoiled.
Alrighty, there ya have it, experiment #810 (or Episode 10 from Season 8) of the immortal Mystery Science Theater 3000. Some members of the original MST3K crew have expressed frustration with the Sci Fi Channel era in the show's history, due to various restrictions and additional rules that were placed upon them at the time (the most significant of which was Sci Fi's early insistence that every movie have either a Science Fiction, Horror, or Fantasy theme to it), but honestly, the Sci Fi Channel era was in my opinion far and away their most successful. At least once they moved past all the Universal titles that were, frankly, too well made to make good MST3K episodes. Depending upon how you look at it, The Giant Spider Invasion was either 20 years too late, or right on time, as it draws its inspiration from and pays tribute to all the classic atomic critter flicks of the 1950s. Nostalgia essentially functions in 20 year increments, and 1975 was the perfect time to release a giant monster flick to a nation of children who'd grown up watching the old '50s versions on TV, while simultaneously luring in the parents who will have seen the them during their original theatrical runs as teenagers. Eco-Horror was definitely in fashion after the success of Jaws earlier that year, and despite a limited budget, Jaws was very much a standard that the filmmakers were attempting to hold themselves to, whether that was plausible or not. Either way, The Giant Spider Invasion is a pretty ambitious flick, and when you consider its budget, you can't help but be impressed by what they were able to do, and by what they *attempted* to do. One scene in particular comes to mind with regard to that last statement, involving a shot that was to feature the giant spider dropping from the sky and crushing the farmhouse. The spider was to be dropped from a crane as a bulldozer pulled the supports from under the house, but instead the spider's legs flew up into the air, causing its torso to hit the roof first, damn near impaling the puppeteers inside when the house's splintered lumber came jabbing through. They also tried filming a sequence wherein another large spider was to be blown up in a tree, but that didn't pan out either when the gunpowder on the spider's back failed to ignite. A few seconds after the director yelled "cut," the matches that had been tossed onto its back finally lit the powder and blew up the prop as intended, but of course the cameras weren't rolling at the time, so that scene never made it into the film either. Apparently the resulting fireball scorched the hair on the crew members who were tossing the matches down onto the spider and started several small brush fires as well, but that was indie filmmaking in the '70s for ya. Despite the absence of what should have been two of the best scenes in the movie, the flick went on to become one of the top 50 grossing titles of 1975, and nobody can take that away from them... well, sides the IRS, I mean.
In any event, let's have a looksee at the mileage those spider-chauffeuring VW Bugs've gotten over the last 43 years and find out if this turkey's still serviceable. The plot, one could argue, is the film's biggest failure, and I say that with the knowledge that the giant spiders were riding around on Volkswagen Beetles. The *reason* I say this is not necessarily because of the ridiculous pseudo-science involved in explaining the spiders' origin, but simply because we don't *need* any of that nonsense. The "miniature blackhole" crapola is completely gratuitous, and an utterly unforced error. There's zero reason why that comet needs to do anything except release all the hairy little boogers trapped inside it, which then grow as a result of some undisclosed difference between the atmosphere and/or gravity of the Earth in relation to wherever they came from. Essentially, they took the plot to The Blob and complicated it to the point of being asinine. The acting falls a little flat, but features a slightly above average performance for every slightly below average one, so generally speaking, it all balances out. The reason the whole thing feels a little uneven is because the movie had two screenwriters - one that maintained a fairly serious tone, and another (the guy who played Dan Kester) who added numerous goofball touches to the dialog, thus creating a movie that depicts people being violently munched by 50' shag carpet spiders, and which sees Alan Hale referring to one of the kids as his "little buddy." Honestly, given the budget constraints and the fact that many of the crew members were somewhat inexperienced, the intentional comedy is a positive force for the movie's enjoyment factor, despite the fact that it's a pretty obvious attempt to hedge their bet.
Here's who matters and why (less Alan "the Skipper" Hale): Steve Brodie (Frankenstein Island, The Wild World of Batwoman, Donovan's Brain, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms), Robert Easton (Needful Things, Pet Sematary II, Star Trek VI, The Touch of Satan, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea 1961, The Neanderthal Man, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms), Leslie Parrish (The Astral Factor, Missile to the Moon), Bill Williams (Night of the Zombies 1981, Space Master X-7, The Body Snatcher, Zombies on Broadway), Tain Bodkin (Frankenstein Island), Paul Bentzen (Invasion from Inner Earth, The Alpha Incident, The Demonsville Terror, Witches' Night), J. Stewart Taylor (Monster a-Go-Go), Christiane Schmidtmer (Scream Pretty Peggy), Joel Thingvall (The Devil's Hour, Remake, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The First Avenger, Man of Steel, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Ghost from the Machine, Killer Movie, It Came from Somewhere Else, Blood Hook, You'll Like My Mother). Do be advised that we've got a few faded stars sprinkled about the cast, so if you'll indulge me, here're the credits of which these fine folks remain unashamed: Steve Broadie (Fisher in Out of the Past), Barbara Hale (Della Street on Perry Mason), Leslie Parrish (Jocelyn Jordan in The Manchurian Candidate), Bill Williams (Kit Carson on The Adventures of Kit Carson).
I've kinda got a soft spot for the special effects in this one, because where it concerns the giant spiders, I think they showed a lot of ingenuity and, generally speaking, did almost everything as well as was possible under the conditions. With the exception of the tire tracks left behind by the vehicles carrying the spiders, they did a pretty decent job of hiding their methods... ya know, when they weren't driving the cars in reverse and cutting out eyeholes to be fitted over the rig's brake lights. Particularly impressive are the leg movements operated by the puppeteers inside the spider's torso, because they really do a decent job of making its movements seem fluid in conjunction with the car beneath them. All that said, the bigger (but not "biggest") spiders are really bad, as are the legs of the gigantic spider that break through the walls in the scene where it's attacking the farmhouse. The cat-sized spider in the drawer was obviously a hand puppet, and reaches Ed Wood levels of terrible, while the human-sized version that attacks Leslie Parrish in the cabin is a slightly less awful, but still ridiculous due to its stiffness and extremely lightweight construction. Other than the spiders, you've got the mutilated cows, which were in fact, mutilated cows that the crew obtained from a local slaughterhouse (so bonus points there for putting up with the stench of said props during a summer shooting schedule), a hollowed-out human body (just okay), and several buckets of blood (the stuff gushing out of the spider's mouth while eating its victims has decent consistency, but most of the blood that's shown in any detail was probably paint, as it's really thick and bright). Logic pretty much says there's no way these special effects can receive a passing score, but at the same time, anyone giving them a 0 out of 10 is being decidedly unfair.
The shooting locations are probably the high water mark, despite being a little unincredible. Shot entirely in the state of Wisconsin in and around the town of Merrill, the bulk of the filming took place in its nearby meadows and other generally flat areas necessary to accommodate the spider's primary power source, as well as properly showcase its size. The overhead shots from the helicopter do the spider far more justice than the land based cinematography, and these meadows and pastures not only do an excellent job of providing scale, but also net the film some much needed "down home" authenticity, as does the baseball diamond setting during the Little League attack sequence. As far as interiors, you've got the farmhouse (very authentic), the cafe (a nice slice of rural Americana), and the "police station" where Alan Hale gives 90% of his performance (an abject failure consisting of a standard business office likely belonging to a lawyer, given all the plaques/diplomas on the walls). The soundtrack has very little in the way of variety and tends to recycle the same science fiction style synth track over and over again. It's not "bad" exactly, but it's a textbook example of a soundtrack that exists solely because you're generally required to have one in a movie these days. That said, it's got such a dated quality to it that it fits the theme of the resurrected 1950s atomic age monster flick being trotted out one more time for the sake of nostalgia, so even though it's not the least bit catchy or memorable, it works. Overall, The Giant Spider Invasion falls just short of a passing grade for entertainment value and, of course, fails in a more pronounced fashion based upon its technical merits, but whatever you do - never put so much as an ounce of faith in the IMDB rating of *any* movie that's been riffed by Mystery Science Theater. As a general rule, less experienced B-movie viewers tend to assume that every title ridiculed by the MST3K crew is among the worst of the worst, and that's simply not the case. The movies they select are bad to be sure, but their best shows always feature movies that're enjoyably so, while episodes that showcase flicks like Invasion of the Neptune Men are painful even with their commentary. Truly squalid movies simply don't work for the Mystery Science Theater formula, and you'll notice that when they try working with them (The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy, Rocket Attack U.S.A., ect) the episodes suffer greatly for it. So, with that in mind, I'd still recommend this flick to fans of the giant monster subgenre, as well as fans of regional independent films, because despite its shortcomings, it still has its moments.