The Giant Spider Invasion
This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (June 2015)
|The Giant Spider Invasion|
|Directed by||Bill Rebane|
William W. Gillett Jr.|
Richard L. Huff
Richard L. Huff
Alan Hale Jr.
|Music by||Bill Rebane|
|Edited by||Barbara Pokras|
|Distributed by||Group 1 International Distribution Organization Ltd.|
|Box office||$2,347,000 (United States and Canada rental)|
The Giant Spider Invasion is a low-budget 1975 science fiction horror film produced by Transcentury Pictures, a partnership owned by the film's director 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 iconic theatrical poster art was a throwback to the monster movies of the 1950s. The film received a considerable theatrical run and became one of the fifty 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 (MST3K) (season 8, episode 10). It is now regarded as a cult classic in the B movie realm. 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.
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.
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.
- 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-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.
Despite the film's B-movie status, it does feature a cast that, if not exactly a "star-studded" one, contains members that are at least familiar to most North American TV and film viewers of the period:
- Steve Brodie (Dr. J.R. Vance), already known to MST3K fans for his appearance in the film The Wild World of Batwoman; his son, Kevin Brodie, also appeared in this film, playing Dave Perkins.
- Barbara Hale (Dr. Jenny Langer), best known for her role of Della Street in numerous Perry Mason episodes and television movies. Married to actor Bill Williams, who co-stars as Dutch, the barman.
- Alan Hale, Jr. (Sheriff Jones), best known for his role as the Skipper on the situation comedy Gilligan's Island. This is jokingly referenced in his first line of the film, when he calls Dave "little buddy". He also appeared in two other MST3K episodes, Angels Revenge and The Crawling Hand.
- Leslie Parrish (Ev Kester), played roles as varied as Daisy Mae in Li'l Abner (1959) and the doomed bride of the assassin in the 1962 film version of The Manchurian Candidate.
- Bill Williams (Dutch), best remembered for playing the title role in the 1950s TV series The Adventures of Kit Carson. Real-life husband of co-star Barbara Hale.
- Robert Easton (Dan Kester), known as the "Henry Higgins of Hollywood" (at least, in his IMDB Entry) due to his mastery of numerous accents and dialects. He also appeared in the MST3K episode The Touch of Satan, and provided the voice of "Phones" in Stingray.
- Paul Bentzen Owner of the rock shop. Currently in the core group of American Players Theatre in Spring Green, WI. Plays banjo, too.
- Christiane Schmidtmer (Helga), best known in America as the sexy Lufthansa stewardess Lise Bruner in Boeing Boeing.
The characters who portrayed Ev and Dan also had links to the Star Trek series. Leslie Parrish played Lt. Carolyn Palamas in the Original Series episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?." Robert Easton later played the Klingon judge in the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
Director 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. 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.
- At the beginning, a pilot can be heard talking about the giant spider he has seen. That person is David Hoff, an actual pilot in the Wisconsin Air National Guard.
- The television control room sequence was shot after sign-off at WAOW-TV, Wausau, Wisconsin. Instead of post-production (green-screen) insertion of the screen images, live displays were used. The flying saucer was provided by the lead producer (name unknown) made with such materials as a paperplate overexposed. The electronic equipment was operated by Ralph Reinhold.
- The planetarium sequence was shot in the Astronomy Department at UW-Stevens Point.
A VHS release of the film in the mid-1980s was distributed by Media Home Entertainment. The MST3K version was released by Rhino Home Video, as part of the Collection, Volume 10 and Collection, Volume 10.2 box sets. The film has also become available on DVD as part of a two-disc "deluxe" version from Silver Street Pictures and Synergy Entertainment which includes some additional materials, such as audio commentary and an interview with director Bill Rebane.