Week 52 – Wisconsin
The Giant Spider Invasion (1975), produced by Cinema Group 75 and Transcentury Pictures, directed by Bill Rebane, written by Richard L. Huff (screenplay and original story) and Robert Easton (screenplay), with Steve Brodie, Barbara Hale, Robert Easton, Leslie Parrish, Alan Hale Jr., Bill Williams, Kevin Brody and Diane Lane Hart, cinematography by Jack Willoughby, original music by Bill Rebane
Oh, this is just great. Two movies to go and I may have reached the movie which pushes me over the edge.
The Giant Spider Invasion is a monster movie/Sci-Fi movie/”When Animals Attack” mash-up so bad it makes Night of the Lepus look like fill-in-the-blanks-with-your-favorite-killer-beastie-movie (I personally would go with the oh-so-obvious choice of Cujo or The Birds, but you’re probably hipper than me.) It’s like an Ed Wood flick without the added giggle-bonus of knowing that it was directed by a guy in a skirt and angora sweater. This is the smelliest cheese ever produced in America’s Dairyland.
Let’s not waste any time here and get straight to the plot, which involves spiders … invading. Some of these spiders will be giant. Okay, one of these spiders will be giant.
The movie begins by introducing us to the fine people of Merrill, Wisconsin whose lives will soon be threatened by radioactive meteorites, spiders and other nasty stuff. We meet the sheriff, played by Alan Hale. For those unfamiliar with the name, Hale is instantly recognizable as The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island (especially at the start of the film when he greets one of his fellow townsfolk with a familiar “Hey, little buddy!”)
In addition to the skip … er … sheriff, there’s Dave Perkins, the newspaper reporter’s son; pretty sisters Terry (the younger, sluttier sister who provides a bit of PG-rated nudity at one point) and Ev, the eldest sister and a hardcore alcoholic. Rounding out our little group of hillbillies is Ev’s philandering husband Dan.
Also playing minor roles are Dan’s mistress, local barmaid Helga, and a fire-and-brimstone style preacher whose sermons on God’s wrath are interspersed throughout the film in an attempt to provide symbolism or perhaps turn the movie into some kind of morality tale.
Dave is on a date with Terry, Dan is getting a little action on the side from Helga, and Ev is drowning her sorrows in sweet, sweet booze, as what appears to be meteorite hurtles from the sky. It lands in Dan and Ev’s backyard. A few scenes later, the couple retrieves the mystery object – a croquet ball-sized rock — and crack it open to discover what they believe to be diamonds inside. Dan and Ev do not notice the rather large, hairy spider which emerges and scurries away.
Nearby, a man on a motorcycle eats dirt. His bike explodes and he runs into the woods. Something attacks him. A spider, maybe? A giant spider?
This movie skips around a lot, so I’m just going to recall the plot the best I can rather than give you a scene-by-scene breakdown. Feel free to print out this review, cut out the paragraphs with scissors, place them into a hat or bowl and draw them out in a random order to get an idea of what it’s like to watch this.
There’s some shots from some kind of military command post. At command post stock footage, Dr. Vance has received word of a strange occurrence in Wisconsin and are going to check it out. Apparently a plane crashed over Lake Superior too. Funny. I don’t remember that happening. Are they talking about the meteor? I’m confused. Dr. Vance meets Dr. Jenny Langer and seems surprised that she’s a woman … you know … because she’s a scientist. My wife, who is a scientist and is currently going to school for her PhD, would have thought that was a real knee-slapper. These scenes with the scientists are ridiculously boring. They sound like this: “blah blah blah neurons blah blah blah radiation.” Repeat and repeat.
In a absurdly funny scene, Dan threatens to “put (Terry) over his knee” for coming back late from her date with Dave. She says she always wondered why he used to spank her so much. It was to get his jollies. Heh. Ew. Terry is kind of hot. Just saying. All the women in this movie are pretty. The men … not so much. Take note, single fellas. Wisconsin is a single’s heaven for dudes, apparently.
Dan and Ev find some mutilated cattle and the meteorite that I mentioned earlier, including the diamonds and the spiders and so on. The rich stuff!
“We’re gonna be rich,” says Ev. (I’m paraphrasing.)
“What do you mean, we,” says Dan.
Ev says things can go back to the way they were … before the baby died.
I’m still waiting for these so-called giant spiders, but at least we get more tarantulas in the meantime as Dan and Ev’s house is quickly becoming infested with creepy crawlies. Oh yeah, Dan has discovered the motorcycle guy’s body. And Ev accidentally drinks a spider after the little bugger has crawled into the blender which she was using to make her Bloody Mary. Where is Terry?
While Dan goes into town to talk to Billy the Jeweler about the diamonds, Ev is attacked by little spiders and runs into spider webs until, AT LAST, a giant spider – at the very least, a giant spider leg – lunges at her from her dresser.
Dan comes back home. There’s no sign of his wife, so he flirts with her little sister, who has reappeared. Dan tells Terry about the diamonds. Then, when he goes to look for some more meteors he is attacked by – a giant spider. That was kind of worth the wait. The spider is obviously a puppet, but it’s a very large puppet and I wouldn’t be surprised if a great deal of this movie’s $250,000 budget went into building this monstrosity. The spider picks Dan up and chews him up while acid pours out of its mouth. That was cool.
Billy the Jeweler shows up at Dan’s house and hits on Terry, who is coming out of the shower and briefly flashes us her miniscule boobies. Billy leaves – and crashes his car after discovering a tarantula in the passenger seat. Meanwhile, Terry, who is now clad in the skimpiest of undergarments, is attacked by spiders (the smaller type). She screams and runs around until a spider (the larger type) busts through the window. Luckily, Dave shows up and saves her.
More science talk and then my favorite scene, where a giant spider attacks a county fair. People scream and run for their lives.
And … more science talk. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.
An angry mob of rednecks has assembled to go after the spider. The two scientists call in a helicopter with some type of bomb to kill the spider. The Skipper gets eaten. The helicopter drops the bomb. The credits roll.
What a turd!
This movie was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I watched the non-puppet version first, then checked out the MST3K version. I enjoy MST3K, but to tell you that their version was a vast improvement would be a lie. There are interesting and even funny parts to this movie, but you have to endure some pretty boring padding to get to them. If you’re in a wheelchair and can’t get out of the house and just sit around and watch movies all day, I probably still wouldn’t recommend this to you – even if you can watch it for free on YouTube.
I will give credit to the person in charge of the props for this movie for creating an impressive looking giant spider using a dressed up Volkswagon Beetle, a crane and about a dozen kids inside of the vehicle to animate the spider’s legs. While most giant monster movies would film regular-sized spiders crawling over a model town to achieve the humongous spider effect, the fact that The Giant Spider Invasion used a life-sized puppet is awe-inspiring – even if it does look completely ridiculous.
But, hey … sometimes extra effort deserves special recognition. And for $250,000, the total cost to deliver this monstrosity, you get what you pay for. However, if hillbillies and killer bugs are your thing, check out the much more entertaining Squirm.
Also movies filmed in Wisconsin: COVEN and, by extension, American Movie; Incest Death Squad (No, seriously.); The Smokers
Next week: Wyoming. Charlton Heston. More hillbillies.