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Giant Spider Invasion, The
Boo-ahh-ahh-ahh-ahh! My quest to have a copy of all of the best Giant Spider movies ever made is nearer completion! (OK, so I'm probably not trying that hard.) (Also, inasmuch as a tarantula is a giant spider, let's just let this category be fairly broad.) (And while we're at it, we'll acknowledge that there are a lot of levels on which The Giant Spider Invasion might not be considered the 'best' of anything.) (And there you have it, my quest to write a review with three or more parentheticals in succession is done, too!) So, "boo-ahh-ahh-ahh!" I say! I decree this extras-packed Blu-ray, DVD, CD, Combo, lovingly released by VCI Entertainment, is just what the Holistic Health Care Professional ordered for you! Yes, you!
It's simple really, a meteor crashes behind the farmhouse in which some country-folk are rehearsing Tennessee Williams outtakes or something, spewing geodes full of industrial grade diamonds, possibly. The geodes also spew a half-dozen tarantulas, plus one that grows to the size of a Winnebago. Rolling back the years to 1975, when this reviewer was a precocious 5-year-old, you'll see that The Giant Spider Invasion is probably the best movie ever made. Flashing back to 2015 for this 40th anniversary Deluxe Collector's Edition, you'll see the fairly threadbare plot, technical deficiencies, goofy and uneven tone, and woeful special effects make this 75-minute feature probably one of the best movies ever made.
Legendary huckster, director Bill Rebane (Monster A-Go-Go, The Capture Of Bigfoot) marshals everything in his $300,000 budget to craft a truly crowd-pleasing creature-feature that went on to gross a reported 20-million (!) in its first year of release. Certainly times were more innocent then, audiences were willing to laugh along with the film's deficiencies while still enjoying the novelty of a rampaging creature movie. (Jaws was released the same year, and its feature creature was a bit creaky too, but that's another article.)
But this Blu-ray release is a pure celebration of the human capacity to, at the very least, amuse each other, which this movie does, in spades. Things start off with a star turn by Alan Hale Jr., who lets the air out of the tires early by greeting his pal with a "Hi, little buddy!" a clear reference to Hale's role as The Skipper on Gilligan's Island. Other bits of comic relief crop up to ease the 'tension' in a movie clearly designed to appeal to kids from five to ninety-five. No offense to The Skipper or anyone else involved, but pretty much all the heavy lifting, acting-wise, is done by Barbara (no relation) Hale, AKA the white-hot Della Street of Perry Mason fame, who is still hot as a pistol a decade after her run on that long-standing series from the mid-fifties.
What puts the butts in the seats, though, is the giant spider. Here, real tarantulas are available to menace, and they do, and it's always effective, because they're real. (See the other contender for best movie ever, Kingdom Of The Spiders.) But in addition, there's that show stopping, built-on-a-VW-Beetle-chassis-monstrosity, (who should have a name, I'm dubbing him Gordon) a giant spider so simple and so wrong that it is the best giant spider ever. Gordon cruises the countryside while college students riding around under the bearskin exterior furiously pump the arachnid's legs up and down. While fooling no one, the effect is surprisingly effective, or at least thoroughly entertaining, because it's real. Gordon can even lift people into his mouth, slowly, for some bright-red-blood infused chomping, and his showdown in the town streets is nothing short of ... folk art? Whatever the case, you're getting your money's worth. Rebane even throws in plenty of smart edits and juxtapositions of scenes countered by footage of a raving revivalist preacher. Find that in any other giant spider movie, I dare ya!
My love of Giant Spider Movies is true, I even have a place in my heart for 8-Legged Freaks , but few such entries possesses the moxie of The Giant Spider Invasion. Packed with shivery thrills, a handful of tarantulas, good old Southern melodrama, (yes, I know it was filmed in Wisconsin) and the greatest fake giant spider ever put to screen, the Invasion is pure fun. This jam-crammed with extras Blu-ray / DVD / CD combo belongs on the shelf of any genre fan. DVD Talk Collector Series .
The movie comes in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in this new 1080P MPEG 2 transfer. You can fit this release in the 'best as it will ever look' category, which is somewhat a mixed message, since the movie probably didn't look all that good to begin with, considering its wonky special effects and shot-on-the-fly feel. This transfer displays a bit of minor damage here and there and healthy film grain. Details are fine in the foreground, and naturally get less distinct as you move back through the frame. Despite an instance or two of bad focus from the film itself, this is a good-looking transfer for an old, low-budget film, with strong colors and no compression or other digital artifacts.
English LPCM 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio comes from the original Mono audio track. This also was not a state of the art audio mix at the time, but as presented here, it is just fine, clear and distortion free, and nicely balanced.
VCI really piles on the extras, starting with Liner Notes by Tom Stockman on the reverse side of the cover, and a four-page Comic Book Insert that acts as a creepy-crawly teaser for the movie. Casually thrown in with the comic book is a Bonus CD with 14 songs from the upcoming musical The Giant Spider Invasion - The Musical, kinda corny but pretty fun and groovy, and yes, of course there is a song titled "Spider Rap".
Next up is a fifteen-minute Documentary: Size Does Matter! Making The Giant Spider Invasion consisting mostly of an interview with director Bill Rebane, though brief, it covers plenty of ground, making for fun viewing. You get the Super-8 Version Re-Edited In HD, it's a spiffed-up transfer of the Super-8 version of the movie made for the home market. A Beefy Behind The Scenes Photo Gallery continues to build on the impressive archive this release is. Finally, the Blu-ray disk shares the Original Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots.
But wait! There's another disk! This Bonus DVD houses over two hours of Archival Interviews (and more), including but not limited to: Interviews with Rebane, footage from a Rebane film-festival in Wisconsin, adulation of the rusted carcass of the giant spider, news reports, press clippings and more. To call the selection exhaustive would be an understatement. It's a fantastic document of low-budget exploitation filmmaking and its residual effects. There's an archival Interview with Robert Easton, seventeen minutes of the actor reminiscing about his involvement with the film. In this (and the other extras) there is some overlap, something hard to avoid when so much material has been assembled. Kevin and Mike from MST3K Introduce Bill Rebane, who speaks of his legacy for seven minutes before a theater audience. You also get the Original Super-8 Version, about 28 minutes of the best scenes from the movie, assembled into a digest version of the film. This probably looks about as rough as when your cool dad screened it in the back yard one summer night in 1976. Finally, you get seven minutes of BTS footage, Bill Rebane On The Set Of Rana, his movie about a vengeful Frog God. I think. A Smashing set of extras, although it would have been nice to have a commentary track too. Talk about overload!
The Giant Spider Invasion has moxie. Packed with shivery thrills, a handful of tarantulas, good old 'Southern Melodrama', and the greatest fake giant spider ever put to screen, the Invasion is pure fun. This jam-crammed with extras Blu-ray / DVD / CD combo belongs on the shelf of any genre fan. DVD Talk Collector Series.