The Giant Spider Invasion

The Giant Spider Invasion is a 1975 science fiction horror film directed by Bill Rebane. The film is about giant spiders that terrorize the town of Merrill, Wisconsin and the surrounding area. The Giant Spider Invasion was given a U.S. release in theaters in 1975, and was distributed by Group 1 Films. The film received a considerable theatrical run and became one of the 50 top-grossing films of that year. After a three-time ABC television network run, the movie achieved additional exposure many years later, when it was featured in a 1997 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It is now regarded as a cult classic in the B movie realm.

The Giant Spider Invasion
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBill Rebane
Produced by
  • William W. Gillett Jr.
  • Richard L. Huff
  • Bill Rebane
Written by
Starring
Music byBill Rebane
CinematographyJack Willoughby
Edited byBarbara Pokras
Distributed byGroup 1 International Distribution Organization Ltd.
Release date
  • October 24, 1975 (1975-10-24)
Running time
84 min.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$300,000[1]
Box office$15 million[2]

The film gives major roles to some actors who might have been considered "has-beens" at the time. The leads were Steve Brodie and Barbara Hale, with other roles going to Alan Hale, Jr. and Leslie Parrish. The film's one "Giant Spider" was constructed by covering a Volkswagen automobile with artificial black fur, with the fake legs operated from the inside by seven members of the crew. The back of the car was the front of the monster, and its red tail lights served as the monster's glowing eyes. A few other "giant spiders" were puppets representing spiders as large as dogs, while full-grown tarantulas were used as spider hatchlings.

Plot

The central plot of the film revolves around the titular spider invasion, which occurs when what appears to be a meteorite crashes down in rural Wisconsin, and spawns spiders of varying sizes.

Subplots include:

  • Dan Kester and his hate/hate relationship with his wife, Ev
  • Dan's adulterous affair with local barmaid Helga
  • Dave Perkins' attempts to make out with Ev's underaged sister Terry
  • A fundamentalist preacher leading a revival meeting
  • Drs. Vance and Langer getting involved in somewhat of a romance (all the more notable as the two lead actors were also in their early to mid-50s when the movie was made)
  • The eventual panic that results when the townspeople are confronted with the spider

The invasion is deduced (with various scientific-sounding language) to be the result of some sort of interdimensional gateway, and is ultimately thwarted when Drs. Vance and Langer manage to close off the gateway, draining the spiders of their energy and causing them to melt into puddles of disgusting sludge.

Cast

Production

Originally conceived as an idea from Richard Huff, he and actor Robert Easton, a friend of Rebane, were tasked to write the script. By the time filming began, creative differences led to a script not being made and only pages of dialogue had been written.[2] To motivate Easton, who was told to write 10 to 15 pages a day, Rebane locked him in a cabin and told him to finish the daily task or he would not be fed.[3] The cast of the film consisted of Hollywood veterans.

The Giant Spider Invasion was shot in Gleason and Merrill, Wisconsin in six weeks with a budget of $300,000.[1] Special effects artist Bob Millay was hired to design the spiders for the film.[4] While attempting to film a scene where the spider explodes, the effects team covered the prop with gunpowder and had a crew member attempt to ignite it with matches. Despite using the entire matchbox, the spider did not explode and Rebane decided to stop filming. Immediately after they stopped, the spider exploded, causing the crew members' hair to get singed.[3]

Release

The movie was released in theaters in 1975. In an interview with Fangoria in 1996, Bill Rebane claimed the movie grossed $15 million.[2] Turner Classic Movies claimed the movie made a $22 million return.[3] In the United States and Canada, video rentals of the movie in 1976 grossed to $2,347,000.[5] On television, it was featured on The CBS Late Movie.[3] The Giant Spider Invasion was later released on DVD by multiple video companies, including Retromedia in 2002 and a director's cut on May 5, 2009 by MVD Visual.[6][7] It was released on Blu-ray on June 15, 2015 by VCI Entertainment.[8]

Reception

Michael Weldon, in The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, while criticizing the special effects and comparing them negatively to The Giant Claw, he considered the movie to be "Lots of laughs".[9] Leonard Maltin wrote, "Veteran cast can't do much for this tacky horror opus filmed in Wisconsin."[10] VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever gave the film one star[11], while Robert Firsching from Allmovie gave the movie one star out of five, speaking negative about Rebane's direction and the movie's use of humor.[12]

The film is listed on 'The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made' in the book The Official Razzie Movie Guide by Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson.[13] Wired listed the movie as one of the "cheesiest movies" ever made.[14]

Legacy

In 1997, The Giant Spider Invasion was featured in season 8 of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K), a comedy television series in which the character Mike Nelson and his two robot friends Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo are forced to watch 'bad films' as part of an ongoing scientific experiment. Regarding the episode, Director Bill Rebane thought it was strange, but overall accepted it due to its popularity.[15]

In 2006, Rhino Entertainment released the MST3K episode as part of the "Volume 10" DVD collection of the series, along with Godzilla vs. Megalon, Swamp Diamonds, and Teen-Age Strangler.[16] The boxset was later recalled due to the rights to Godzilla vs. Megalon being disputed. It was redistributed in the "Volume 10.2" collection in 2008, with Godzilla vs. Megalon being replaced by The Giant Gila Monster.[17]

Bill Rebane had a festival given in his honor; the "Bill Rebane Film Festival" took place in Madison, Wisconsin in May 2005. Hosting the festival were MST3K stars Michael J. Nelson and Kevin Murphy, the voice of Tom Servo.[15] In an article recapping the festival in Scary Monsters Magazine, the two noted that although they lambasted the film during their show, they admired how Rebane was able to pull cast and crew together to get the film made. In 2011, it was announced that the movie was going to be remade into a musical.[18]

In a 2012 interview with Wisconsin television station WSAW-TV, Rebane remarked that he was not sure how the movie became popular, saying it was not an initial hit until it became a cult classic. He also stated that while the movie grossed millions of dollars over the past 35 years, he never saw a fraction of the money, calling the film "one of the most pirated movies in history." Despite his grievances, Rebane was proud of the impact that the movie made for the city of Merrill, Wisconsin.[1]

In 2012, film historian Bill Dexter found the shells of the two 30-feet spiders with the intent on restoring the spiders to their original form.[19] In 2013, the shell of one of the main giant spiders was reported stolen by Rebane. Weeks later, a recycling facility announced that the giant spider was brought to them as scrap metal.[20]

In 2019, MST3K stars Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett (the voice of Crow in MST3K during its last seasons) will be riffing the movie live as part of RiffTrax Live as one of the three movies being riffed on August 15.

See also

References

  1. Knox, Al (December 4, 2012). "Director of 1975 Movie, The Giant Spider Invasion, Reflects Back On Film". WSAW-TV. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  2. Bearden, Keith (November 1996). "The Rebanes of the Day". Fangoria. No. 158. pp. 65–71.
  3. Kalat, David. "Behind the Scenes". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  4. "The Giant Spider Invasion". Famous Monsters of Filmland. No. 127. August 1976. pp. 13–17.
  5. "Big Rental Films of 1976". Variety. January 5, 1977. p. 14.
  6. Kiernan, Matthew; Gingold, Michael (July 2002). "DVD Dungeon". Fangoria. No. 214. p. 53.
  7. Miska, Brad (March 13, 2009). "'Giant Spider Invasion' Gets Director's Cut Release". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  8. Rigney, Todd (May 5, 2015). "The Giant Spider Invasion Spins Its Web on Blu-ray This Summer". Dread Central. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  9. Weldon 1989.
  10. Maltin 1998.
  11. VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 1995.
  12. Firsching, Robert. "The Giant Spider Invasion (1975) - Review". Allmovie. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  13. Wilson 2005.
  14. Hart, Hugh (August 19, 2010). "Piranha 3D's Painful Predecessors: The 24 Cheesiest Movies Ever Made". Wired. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  15. Thomas, Richard (June 18, 2015). "Wisconsin cult filmmaker celebrates 40 years of 'Giant Spider'". Duluth News Tribune. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  16. Staff (August 29, 2006). "IMPOSSIBLE!! TICK!! MST3K!! SUPERMAN!! ANGEL!! KATZ!! AD!! TNG!! DS9!! 24!! HercVault!!". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  17. Gibron, Bill (March 11, 2008). "Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Volume 10.2 (The Upgrade)". Popmatters. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  18. Foywonder (September 12, 2012). "The Giant Spider Invasion to be Remade as a Musical Comedy". Dread Central. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  19. Schilder, Elizabeth (December 8, 2012). "Giant Spiders Return To Gleason". WSAW-TV. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  20. WSAW Staff (August 28, 2013). "UPDATE: Giant Spider May Have Been Scrapped". WSAW-TV. Retrieved January 17, 2019.

Bibliography

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