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  Giant Spider Invasion, The Eight Legged Freaks
Year: 1975
Director: Bill Rebane
Stars: Steve Brodie, Barbara Hale, Alan Hale Jr, Robert Easton, Leslie Parrish, Christiane Schmidtmer, Kevin Brodie, Tain Bodkin, Bill Williams, Diane Lee Hart, Paul Bentzen, J. Stewart Taylor, William W. Gillett Jr
Genre: Horror, Trash, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: It seems like just another summer night in an American smalltown, but tonight is different - there's something big headed this way, something from outer space. There's a revivalist meeting in this town, which cattle farmer Dan Kester (Robert Easton) tells his alcoholic wife Ev (Leslie Parrish) he is going to attend, and her sister Terry (Diane Lee Hart) is out with her boyfriend Dave (Kevin Brodie), the son of the local newspaper owner. Presently there's a flash of light in the sky and a large explosion, and it's evident something big has landed in Dan's field, but he decides to wait and investigate it in the morning, much to his wife's disbelief. However, government scientists immediately take an interest when the radiation levels in the area are raised sky high, and whatever's landed has brought a nasty surprise.

I had a nasty surprise of my own the first time I watched this film. A little personal reminiscence if I may: when I was much younger, I had seen a picture of The Giant Spider Invasion in a book of science fiction films and been impressed by the convincing picture of a crowd fleeing from a huge arachnid. Imagine my delight when this film was scheduled for a showing on late night television and I settled down to be entertained. Imagine, then, my dismay when the giant spider turned up and it didn't look anything like the picture in the book, yes, the picture had been doctored to look more realistic and this low budget film's special effects were decidedly substandard. A part of me died that night.

I won't give away what the giant spider is actually, and painfully obviously, fashioned from, but let's say you'll be surprised that its ambulations aren't accompanied by the sound of a car engine. However, before we reach scenes with the monstrous creature, there are smaller versions to contend with. It's apparent that nobody involved is sure how seriously to take the subject matter, so the script by actor Easton and Robert Huff tends to veer between cringeworthy humour and cringeworthy drama, often in the space of a few lines.

One of many nineteen seventies horrors that restaged fifties sci-fi with a new ecological, what are we doing to the environment? conscience, this is more of a throwback to cult favourite Tarantula, but even that had more acceptable effects, and Clint Eastwood dropping a bomb on the monstrosity to boot. This has spherical rocks found at the meteorite crash site that, when broken open, reveal the insides to be encrusted with diamonds. Oh, and there's a tarantula inside as well which will join its fellows to menace the cast, including one which gets liquidised in a bloody Mary for a pointedly yeuchy moment. Soon the area is, er, crawling with the eight legged beasties.

Meanwhile, as Dan and Ev weigh up the benefits of being rich with diamonds with the drawbacks of having their cattle stripped of flesh, a distinctly overage couple of scientists, Vance (Steve Brodie) and Langer (Barbara Hale) investigate. Here the humour raises its unwelcome head once more in the shape of the sheriff, Alan Hale Jr apparently thinking he's still on Gilligan's Island and firing off weak jokes at every opportunity; when faced with a Geiger counter, he quips that there aren't any Geigers around here. Naturally he comes across as insane, but seems to fit in with the general hullabaloo as the giant spider creates mayhem by chomping on the townsfolk - well, three of the townsfolk - and destroying a house. Pretty much ridiculous from start to finish, The Giant Spider Invasion is really only valued for the unintentional humour it inspires. Music by director Bill Rebane.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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