The Film (4/5)
In our cinematic universe there are movies that are all time classics, and films that are just awful. Some of these awful movies are referred to as *B* movies, and have often been classified as *so bad it’s good*. They can be considered a camp classic, a guilty pleasure or even great trashy cinema. Depending on your taste, The Giant Spider Invasion is one such film that can fall into the great American mid-western sleaze category. It’s also one of my favorite guilty pleasure films that I could watch all the time. I first watched this movie in Fresno, CA on a channel that played monster movies every Saturday.
The Giant Spider Invasion, in a nutshell is about, you guessed it, a really large spider (and many normal sized ones as well) that is from another dimension to kill and eat people in a small town in Wisconsin. Some of the characters in this movie are so revolting, so incredibly trashy, that for once you root for the monster to eat them all! The main character for the first forty-five minutes is Robert Easton as a farmer that cheats on his often drunk wife, and also offers sexual favors to his wife’s sexy sister (Diane Lee Hart) that the camera constantly focuses on below the neck. Even more “appealing” to the audience, Easton wears red long johns with a girdle thing around his waist. He discovers *geodes* that have landed on his farm, where the home of the big queen spider is. He opens up the geodes to discover there are diamonds. Somehow he doesn’t see the spiders dropping out the geodes when he opens them up. Leslie Parish, as Easton’s wife also is another charming character, always drinking booze and flirting with her sister’s boyfriend. She has two great memorable scenes where you can clearly see her pretending not to see a spider go inside a blender while she fixes an alcoholic beverage, and also is the first victim we see getting attacked by a medium sized spider. They actually used a body double (Barbara Hale, also in this movie) for that scene. I’ve always wondered if that was a different spider or the same one that grows into the giant spider. It’s a spider puppet anyway, so perhaps it doesn’t matter. Alan Hale, the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island, has a role as an unfunny sheriff with some really bad lines, such as talking about prunes, and the classic line about the giant spider making the shark in Jaws look like a goldfish. Bruce the Shark and Steven Speilberg would like a word or two with you about that. He also gets in a *Hey little buddy* line that was his catchphrase on Gilligan’s Island.
Steve Brodie (Wild World of Batwoman) and Barbara Hale (Perry Mason) round out the cast as the only ones in *playing it straight* roles.
Even though the director of The Giant Spider Invasion, Bill Rebane has done other films such as Rana, Legend of Shadow Lake and Blood Harvest, this movie is by far his most famous (or infamous) work. It gained a lot of national attention due to it being an *experiment* on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and has gained a very large cult audience.
Previously released from both Retromedia and Syngery Entertainment with full screen releases that were good during the DVD era, VCI Entertainment has put out the absolute best release to date on this camp classic. Presented in 1080p with an MPEG-2 encode in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio, the results while not super stunning are very good. Daylight scenes look great, grain is present, contrast looks terrific; it seems boosted up because some of the scenes of the film that I could not see well before I can now such as the big spider puppet jumping on Leslie Parish (technically, her body double). Some scenes are a little hazy here and there but overall it’s the best the film has ever looked. If VCI goes to an AVC encode I would assume the results would still look even better. The audio is perfectly fine, a good robust 2.0 English LPCM. No audio issues that I was aware of.
VCI has really outdone themselves with the extras. They are spread over three discs, making this package from the label simply outstanding. This release is just loaded with extras. They are as follows. It’s a nice long list of extras that collectors will enjoy!
To start with, there is a NEW 2015 Documentary by Daniel Griffith – “Size Does Matter! Making the Giant Spider Invasion”
The rest of the extras include A Super-8 version (re-edited in HD), a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, an original theatrical trailer and TV Spots, archival interviews With Cult-Film Director Bill Rebane and other members of the cast and TV news reports, an archival Interview with Actor Robert Easton (Kester) Even Kevin Murphy and Mike Nelson from MST3K also are part of the extras. They introduce Bill Rebane
There is also another Super-8 Version (the original Home Media Format), an archival newsreel—Bill Rebane “On the set Of Rana”
The third disc actually a CD of 14 songs. The back of the blu-ray says it is a forthcoming musical based on the movie.
There is also a Giant Spider Invasion comic book if the other extras were not enough.
The only thing I would have liked is that an audio commentary from Bill Rebane which is on the Syngery release which is a hard to find DVD.
The Giant Spider Invasion has earned its reputation for a sleaze classic, but it’s never dull. The acting might not be much, the special effects (even Bill Rebane himself said if only he had more money for them) which is basically VW Beetle with a spider costume on are what one would expect from a film on a very tight budget. Watching Robert Easton getting pulled into the spiders’ mouth is straight out the Creeping Terror carpet monster effects. This has just enough gore to satisfy gore fans, very brief nudity and more than enough sleaze to satisfy trash film lovers. The package from VCI is just outstanding. While I think the film could still look better under more restoration, VCI has done a great job with it, and the extras are just over the top, as if Scream Factory or Arrow Films had released it! A very highly recommended package!