Sunday, January 24, 2010

THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION: A Volkswagen disguised as a giant spider!

By Steve D. Stones

The 1970s was a time in low budget filmmaking when directors attempted to bring back the giant bug craze of the 1950s. Kingdom of The Spiders, Bug, Squirm, Empire of The Ants and The Giant Spider Invasion were just a few of these films in the 1970s to use the theme of giant insects.

Bill Rebane, who brought us the 1960s cult classic(k) Monster-A-Go-Go, directed The Giant Spider Invasion. Alan Hale, who played the skipper on TV’s Gilligan’s Island, is typecast as a local Wisconsin sheriff. Hale also appeared as a sheriff in the early 60s cult classic The Crawling Hand. Other veteran actors include Barbara Hale of TV’s Perry Mason and Steve Brodie of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

A meteor crashes near a farm in Wisconsin. A farmer and his alcoholic wife soon discover their cattle are being slaughtered. The farmer picks up a small meteor fragment and takes it back to his home to crack it open. When he’s finally able to crack the meteor open, a larger spider comes out with fragments of diamonds. Soon, the home is infested with spiders. The farmer collects all the diamonds he can find in several meteor fragments he smashes open. He hopes to get rich from the diamonds.

Later, the farmer discovers a dead body in the field, which was attacked by spiders. He decides not to report the body to the sheriff, but instead buries it. He leaves his wife later that evening to fool around with his mistress who lives nearby.

While retiring to bed that night, the farmer’s wife discovers a giant spider in her dresser. She runs out of the home and into a shed, where she is attacked and killed by an even larger spider. The spider used for this scene reminds me of the cheesy rubber spider used in countless 1950s science fiction films, such as Cat Women of The Moon, Queen of Outer Space and Missile To The Moon.

Eventually the farmer is attacked and killed by the largest mother spider. Scenes of the farmer and other victims being attacked by the mother spider look similar to the victims being attacked by the giant carpet shag in The Creeping Terror. Victims appear to shove themselves into the mouth of the spider, instead of allowing the spider to pick up the victim with its teeth. This is an obvious special effects blunder from not having the capability to use digital technology at the time, or some type of animation effect.

There are a number of hilarious sequences in the film. The sequence of people running across a baseball field as the spider is chasing after them is perhaps the funniest. The giant spider appears to be made of paper mache. Most sequences of the giant spider are so quick that the viewer hardly has time to make out what it is made of. That is likely intentional.

Michael J. Weldon says in The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film that the mother spider was attached to a Volkswagen beetle and driven around during filming (get it, a bug driving a bug?). The director Bill Rebane confirms this in an interview on the DVD of the film put out by Retromedia.

I would say that The Giant Spider Invasion borrows mostly from two 1950s films, The Blob and Tarantula. It’s a mixture of giant spiders and falling meteors. If you’re interested in seeing or purchasing this film, I recommend that you seek out the DVD version put out by Retromedia. It includes an introduction by Son-of-Ghoul washing a midget at a car wash. A comic book is also contained inside the DVD case. It’s a copy of the original comic book of the film that was distributed in theaters in the mid-1970s when the film premiered. You can also watch the film at Keep a can of bug killer on hand for those pesky spiders!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The "Skipper" sure had a cult taste in films he made off Gilligan's Island!