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Now in our tenth calendar year!
PCR #466 (Vol. 10, No. 9) This edition is for the week of February 23--March 1, 2009.

"Slumdog Millionaire"  by Mike Smith
The Giant Spider Invasion 2 Disc Director’s Cut Edition  by ED Tucker
Count Yorga Passes .... Rondo Rocks .... Congrats Mike ....  by Matt Drinnenberg
Oscar Thoughts .... Movie Notes .... Movie Related Note .... Passing On .... The Other Awards .... And The Winner Is .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2...  by Mike Smith
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CF Presents Retrorama

DVD Review:
"The Giant Spider Invasion 2 Disc Director’s Cut Edition"

Released By: Synergy Entertainment
Release Date: December 23, 2008
Number of Discs: 2
Approximate Running Time: 196 Minutes
Special Features: Audio Commentary, Image Galleries, Interviews, News Footage, Australian 8mm Film Version
Suggested Price: $19.99

Reader Advisory: This week’s DVD review is of special significance to me as it represents my first screen credit as a contributor on the bonus features. It was an honor to get to share promotional materials and rare items from my collection with Spider fans everywhere. With that disclaimer in mind, this review is still as unbiased as possible.

The Source:
A meteorite hurled from a black hole crashes in the field of a small Wisconsin farm. Spiders ranging from normal to gigantic begin to emerge from the crater and attack the surrounding area. Scientists from NASA and a nearby observatory team with the local sheriff to find a way to stop the intergalactic assault before it is too late.

Producer / Director Bill Rebane

The Fanboy Factor:
The Giant Spider Invasion is the type of movie that sounds like something right out of the 1950’s but it was made two decades later. While the story makes very little sense, the special effects are mostly laughable, and the veteran cast is past their collective primes, the film went on to be one of the highest grossing independent films of the 1970’s and is still a huge fan favorite today.

Producer/Director Bill Rebane started off with a fairly modest and economical story about a plague of reasonably normal sized space spiders being carried to Earth on a meteor. As the production progressed, the size of the spiders increased to a “giant” size of around eight feet long. Then Jaws set box offices across the country on fire and the executive producers decided the film needed a spider larger than the shark! This was the point where things began to get out of hand and the special effects budget was stretched way past its limits. The resulting giant spider is played by the chassis of a Volkswagen Beetle in long shots and a hollow version hoisted by a crane in close ups. As a general rule of thumb in this film, the larger the spider, the less convincing the effects but there are a few effective extreme close ups of the behemoth arachnid chowing down on it’s victims.

The surviving frame of the "Spider Beetle" on display.

Almost as amazing as the special effects is the cast assembled for a film of this type. Alan Hale and Barbara Hale were both well known to 70’s television audiences from heavily syndicated reruns of Gilligan’s Island and Perry Mason, respectively. Steve Brodie, Leslie Parrish, and Robert Easton were established Hollywood actors with impressive track records. The seldom mentioned supporting cast includes Western actor Bill Williams (Barbara Hale’s husband), exploitation actresses Diane Lee Hart and Christiane Schmidtmer, and Tain Bodkin who went on to steady television work for the rest of the 70s. Steve Brodie’s son Kevin even turns in a respectable performance as a teen love interest.

It is likely that without the cheesy bargain basement effects and credibly incredible cast, Giant Spider Invasion would be missing the goofy charm that continues to endear it to bad movie fans.

The Product:
If there were an award category for the most maligned home video release of a theatrical film, Giant Spider Invasion would be a sure fire winner. From the early days of hard to find budget VHS tapes to its recent inclusion on gray market multi-DVD sets, the film has never been given the treatment its cult status warranted. Synergy Entertainment has gone to great lengths to correct this error. This may not be the definitive edition of this film but it is eight giant steps in the right direction.

The so called “director’s cut” of the movie amounts to little more than a few early scenes being deleted or rearranged and some stock special effects shots being inserted. This really doesn’t change the story much but it does give the opening meteor crash a feeling of greater devastation. Film purists can remain calm though, after the first ten minutes the film reverts to the standard version for its remaining running time.

The strength of this edition lies in the bonus material including the entire second disc. The first DVD kicks off with a hilarious Star Wars style scroll expounding on the virtues and significance of the film in an obvious tongue-in-cheek manner. This is must see material to put the viewer in the proper frame of mind for what follows. The director’s cut of the film is presented with a feature length commentary by Rebane. This starts off slowly and rather generically but patient viewers will be rewarded with some great insights and funny stories about half way through when it kicks into high gear. Also included on disc one is the original theatrical trailer and a stills gallery of US and foreign promotional material that all came from my personal collection.

Disc two contains an exhaustive selection of documentaries, news, and archival footage surrounding the film and its perpetual fan appeal. Included in this is home video footage of the giant spider remains being located and salvaged for future restoration and Bill Rebane being honored with his own film festival. The final special feature is an approximately 34 minute condensation of the feature that was released on 8mm film for home viewing in Australia. This fast moving version contains almost nothing but action and was also provided from the collection of yours truly who (with the help of his amazingly patient wife Cindy) went to considerable pains to get the transfer right.

An original production still with a clearly retouched spider!

The Bottom Line:
For anyone who has never seen this film before and wants to, this an excellent opportunity to view a quality transfer. For those who already love this unique movie, flaws and all, you finally have a chance to learn just about everything ever wanted to know about it. For hardcore fans like me, the set is worth the $19.99 list price for disc two alone. This DVD is currently available online from stores like Amazon and Target and will be released to national retail chains shortly.

"Retrorama" is ©2009 by ED Tucker.   All graphics this page, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.