Giant Spider Invasion
1975, 84 minutes, PG
actors: Alan Hale Jr., Steve Brodie, Barbara Hale, Robert Easton, Leslie Parrish, Diane Lee Hart
director: Bill Rebane
Taxonomy: Cheapo home-grown giant critter flick.
Plot: Giant spiders create havoc amongst northern rednecks when they emerge from a black hole that crashes into rural Wisconsin.
Bluntly: Absolutely need to see The Skipper's chesthair? This film's got ya covered!
Now this is a gen-yoo-wine classic! Oh yeah! A cheap as dirt flick with a cast full of b-movie and cult TV folks shot in and around Harrison and Gleason, Wisconsin, U S of A! Wisconsin native Robert Easton cooked up a - ahem - story and got Bill Rebane to direct. I have a feeling this will not be the last time these guy's names turn up at The Duh Spot! They got the movie made and it was apparently distributed to drive-ins and TV at roughly the same time. Ain't 'Merica great!?
The flick starts out, as all great cheap drive-in flicks do, with real crappy synth music and cheap titles. Then we get to see a black hole fall to earth on a farm in rural Wisconsin. Cool effects? That would be no. The black hole effect resembles a lava lamp.
So after that intro, we meet the cast of characters we become oh so interested in during the rest of the flick. There are three main groups of characters:
1. The Kesters: money hungry Dan (Robert Easton), his hottie boozey wife Ev (Leslie Parrish) and her teen lil' sis Terry (Diane Lee Hart). Later we meet Dan's cousin the money hungry and lecherous Billy. The Kesters are a fine and loving example of northern white trash. Dan runs what I guess is a dairy farm, though it is never clearly stated, and he and Ev spend time bitching at each other. Ev is a mature hot blond who has turned to the bottle after the death of her baby. Terry is a cutie who's only in the film for flashes of skin and to give Billy (and lets face it - Dan) something to leer at. Guess who's farm the black hole smacks into!
2. The sheriff and local police. Sheriff Jeff Jones is played by none other than Alan Hale Jr.! For those of you who may not recognize that name, Mr. Hale just happened to create one of the finest TV characters of all time - Jonas Grumby! Still don't get it? He was "The Skipper" on Gilligan's Island! So what does The Skipper do as sheriff in Giant Spider Invasion? Does he figure out how to stop the spiders? No. Does he protect the locals from the crazed beasts? Not really. Does he sit around with his shirt open way to far down his chest, do dumb phone gags and tell prune jokes? Damn straight! The very first line in the movie is Sheriff Jones saying, "Hi little buddy!" That's the level of humor we are dealing with here.
3. The scientists. Dr. J. R. Vance comes to Wisconsin from "NASA." So he came from Texas? Florida? California? Washington DC? No idea, Dr. Vance is just from NASA. Unless he is from the Bahamas. Given his scientific skills, that would be more likely. Dr. Vance meets up with local professor Dr. Jenny Langer. Ooooh! A woman scientist! How progressive! And sure enough there is the same old stupid awkward introduction as Dr. Vance assumes that Dr. Langer would be a man. Okay folks, this shtick was old even in 1975. Dr. Vance and Dr. Langer set out to solve the enigma of a local gamma ray / X-ray source - oh and to find out what happened to a fully loaded B-52 that dropped off radar and disappeared. Details shmetails!
Well, grumpy old Dan gets grumpier when he finds out that some of his cows have been violently killed. And there seems to be a big crater on his pasture land! Dan takes home some funny round stones he finds near the crater. What will he do about the cows? Butcher them and sell the meat to the local bar & grill, what else?
What Dan should be grumpy about, but ain't is that his wife is flirting with and flashing thigh at her teen sister's boyfriend! Why does Dan put up with this? Maybe he's just a progressive kind of guy, this was the 70's after all. Nah! He's having an affair with the local bimbo!
Dan and Ev fire zingers at each other until he cracks open one of the round rocks and finds it full of diamonds! Gee, all of a sudden Ev is all lovey-dovey, hmmm. What neither of them notice is that a tarantula was in the rock too. I would have seen it first thing, but I guess the lure of easy money blinded the Kesters.
Well no sooner than you can say, "Big hairy spiders!", Dan and Ev collect as many of the rocks as they can. Oh and they hide the body of a dead neighbor they find on their land. Can't let no one else get the magic rocks now can we? Eventually Ev is claiming to have seen big hairy spiders in the house, but Dan thinks that is just the booze talking. Then one of those great b-movie moments happens! Ev starts adding all the ingredients for a Bloody Mary into a blender and...you can see it coming can't you?...a tarantula plops into the blender while her back is turned! She blends up the drink and takes a big hit! Spit-take baby! Got to love the spit-take!
During all this Dr. Vance and Dr. Langer are throwing around physics jargon like snowballs. Gamma rays, x-rays, black holes, worm holes, higher dimensions, and all the while Einstein is spinning in his grave. In one scene, the good doctors are in a collage lab getting some data from a computer. Oh yeah, a mid-70's computer! Huge buttons, tape reels, superfluous lights and a 3 inch wide raster printout! In the background there is a huge teaching aid of a slide rule! They finally use satellite data to find the energy anomaly. Why, it's coming from a local farm!
Meanwhile Dan has gone to see his cousin Billy who runs a gem and mineral shop in the city. Billy tells Dan that the round rocks are geodes and his diamonds are industrial grade and that he would need a barrel full to make him rich. Dan seems to think this is just fine!
Back at the homestead we are shown what we already guessed, the geodes are popping open by themselves and there is a tarantula in all of them - they're eggs! Dun dun daa!
Finally we get to see the giant spider and it is a sight to behold! According to web sources (what else?) this thing was built over the frame of an old VW bug and had several people in it to work the legs!
Next a little more flesh as we see Ev tormented by spiders as she sleeps. She eventually runs out into the shed - nice ass Ev! - and gets munched by the giant spider. Dang! At least she was nice to look at!
Dan comes home and goes looking for more geodes, oh and Ev, and gets eaten by the giant spider. This is a cool scene! He is drawn up into the spider's mouth (Huh? Nevermind, just go with it!) and we see literally gallons of blood spill out! Then the spider spits out Dan's bones! That would have made some kids stop necking at the drive-in! Well, maybe. At least there would have been some horn honking!
Two Kesters gone, two to go! Billy shows up the next day to talk to Dan about the diamonds. Dan and Ev are not there, but Terry is and Billy puts the moves on her! Terry kicks Billy out of the house. On his way home, Billy is attacked by some baby spiders and than he runs into the giant spider's web! He pops the car into reverse and speeds off, but the lil' spiders are still hungry. He runs into the pumps and building at a gas station and ends up roasted when he can not manage to break a window and get free. Seriously, this takes way too much time and makes the whole scene ever funnier!
Next poor nubile little Terry in her undies with the crack of her ass showing is terrorized by the giant spider who has crawled up onto the house! Does she die? Not sure, I had to take a potty break at this point and since this flick was on broadcast TV I could not pause it. Ah well - here is a great reason for you to hunt down this movie!
The giant spiders get sick of picking off individuals and hoof it over to the Gleason Days festival for some serious chow! We see the good folks of Gleason playing games and eating corn on the cob and BBQ chicken in a wonderfully obvious bit of stock fair footage. Then the spiders strike and people scream and run and get caught in webs and eaten and stepped on and run over by panic stricken drivers who's cars eventually crash and burst into flames. The the spiders move on down the road back toward the black hole.
Sheriff Jones calls in the National Guard (can a small town sheriff do that?) and we see some townsfolk get accidentally shot by guardsmen. This was 1975. Kent State was only five years ago at the time. All this and political commentary too! Hot damn! No wonder this flick was ignored at the Oscars! Fight the power!
Dr. Vance and Dr. Langer, who seem to have some sort of awkward romance starting (ugh!) realize that if a neutron bomb could be dropped on the black hole, it might destroy it! Huh? I said go with it! Right before that happens a deputy empties his gun into a giant spider and when that does nothing...yep! he throws the gun at the spider! Then we all cheer as the spider eats him.
Well Dr. Vance gets on the phone and gets a helicopter to drop a small neutron bomb on the crater on the Kester farm. Damn, them NASA guys got power! I did not even know helicopters could drop nuclear weapons. Live and learn.
We get more great effects as the black hole goes boom! To be exact, we see an explosion in reverse. Then all the spiders turn into melting ice cream, Dr. Langer kisses Dr. Vance, the end.
Babeage: Leslie Parrish! Yummy! She was Daisy Mae in Lil' Abner, on Star Trek and Batman, The Wild Wild West, and too many others to count. A true cult hottie. Diane Lee Hart was in a few exploitation flicks in the 70s.
Sleazeploitation: No nudity, but the lecherous misogynist incest implications are stronger than spider silk!
Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Tarantulas (kind of cute really), a goofy giant spider VW contraption, and of course Alan Hale Jr.
Violence: Not much shown.
Gore and F/X: One blended tarantula, a lot o' fake blood and a few unnecessary explosions. Plus the lava lamp black hole thing.
Ev to Dan - "Sometimes the only way I know you are alive is when I hear you on the toilet!"
Dan to Ev - "You're so dumb you wouldn't know rabbit turds from Rice Krispies!"
Dr. Langer talks about a, "gamma ray shower." Say what? Also, "An amazingly potent ground level x-ray source!" Huh!? And, "The x-ray shower came from the ground up!" I give up.
Sheriff Jones - "I used to take physics, but I find prunes do a better job for me."
Dr. Langer: - "Looks like our black hole just turned into a doorway to Hell!"
Sheriff Jones - "Ever see the movie Jaws? This thing makes that shark look like a goldfish!" Oh good move! Mention a vastly better giant critter flick!
Moral: Black holes striking the earth equals diamonds aplenty! - or - Giant spiders from space are attracted to cheese producing regions.
Giant Spider Invasion is cheap and dumb and a little sleazy. And gobs of fun! The giant spider prop looks silly, but you have got to give them credit for trying! The best part of the flick? Simple, the flesh on display! As I noted above, no actual nudity but the tease factor is high and none to subtle! What could have made this a better movie? Replace everyone except Alan Hale Jr. and Leslie Parrish with the rest of the cast from Gilligan's Island! Think of it! The scientists could be Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer (Mr. and Mrs. Howell), Russell Johnson (The Professor) could be Dan, Bob Denver (Gilligan) could be Billy and the deputy - so we could see him die twice!, Tina Louise (Ginger) could be Ev - wouldn't you pay big money to see Ginger puke up a Tarantula Mary?, and of course Dawn Wells (Mary Ann Summers) could be Terry - Mary Ann running around in her undies with the crack of her ass hanging out! Leslie Parrish could replace the less attractive actress who played the bimbo Dan was fooling around with. The best part is, several of these actors are dead! So we could just use computer imaging from their old stuff to morph them into the film and not have to pay anyone! It would be a monster blockbuster I tell you! Hollywood is already doing remakes of 70s cult flicks and old TV shows! Get Roland Emmerich on the phone! He'll jump at this shit in a minute!
I'm goin' back ta Brooklyn...
And now for something completely different! Well, not really. The Duh Spot's first ever book review! Thank you! Thank you! You're beautiful! I love you all! And I mean that!
The Brewmaster's Table, Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food.
Harper Collins, 2003, 372 pages, color and black and white photos, ISBN #: 0-06-000570-X
Taxonomy: Great entry level beer primer.
Plot: Real Beer - what is it and how to pair it with food.
Bluntly: READ THIS BOOK!
The Brewmaster's Table is a wonderful introduction to the history and appreciation of beer. The author is a brewmaster at one of America's best craft breweries. He labels himself a great drinker and a great eater, and stresses that the emphasis should be on quality in both cases.
The book is presented in three parts. Part One: The Basics answers the question, 'What is beer?' and then goes on to discuss the history and lore of beer and brewing. Part Two: Brewing Traditions covers the major beer styles of: Lambic, Wheat Beer, British Ale, Belgian Ale, Czech-German Lager and American Craft Brewing. Sound familiar? Mr. Oliver covers these styles in language the non-beer snob will understand and throws in plenty of humorous anecdotes about his own beer education. Sure not every beer style is covered - no corn beer or other Latin traditions - but these are the major styles. Part Three: Last Word where things like glassware, storage and the all important beer/food chart are presented.
Learn: What beer, Grapenuts, malt vinegar and scotch have in common! How the art of brewing created the concept of the magic wand! Why beer is vastly better with desserts than wine - especially chocolate! Why so many great brewers were monks!
See: Beautiful pictures of the art and craft of brewing, the people who make beer and the places where they make it!
Understand: Why Real Beer is better and mass market beer is crap!
Conclusion: This is a great book. Mr. Oliver is a fine writer who entertains while he enlightens. I particularly liked the accounts of his many conflicts with sommeliers! If you want to learn more about beer and how to enjoy it to it's best with food, then give this book a try. You will not be disappointed!
Oh yeah - he thinks quite highly of The Great Lakes Brewing Company which was founded the same year as The Brooklyn Brewery!
And to drink while you read? Why how about a couple craft brews from The Brooklyn Brewery!
The Brooklyn Brewery, #1 Brewers Row, 79 North 11th Street, Brooklyn, New York, USA
Brooklyn Lager is labeled as 'Pre-Prohibition Beer.' It is a Vienna style lager that has the novelty of being dry hopped for added zing! Brooklyn Brown Ale is labeled as 'The All American Beer.' This reflects the fact that prior to the 20th century American Brown Ales, based on English Brown Ales, were the most popular style of beer in the United States.
ABV: 5.20% and 5.60% respectively
Brooklyn Lager is a warm amber in color and the aroma lets you in on the dry hopping. The beer forms a nice persistent white head and is very refreshing with a nice crisp hoppy bitter finish.
Brooklyn Brown Ale is a rich roasty brown color and the roasted malts come thorough in the aroma. The head is a rich nugat color and the beer has a wonderful combination of sweet and bitter flavors with the sweet starting off and moving to the roasty center and finally finishing slightly dry and bitter.
These are the only two Brooklyn Brewery beers I have had the pleasure of tasting. Unfortunately, Brooklyn Brewery beer can be a challenge to find round these parts. I first had these beers at a local bar & grill that prides itself on having a large beer selection. Then when I had a 90 minute layover at Newark Airport, I was able to sample these beers on draft at the Brooklyn Brewery Brewpub. The beer was worth the wait for my flight!
Say it loud, say it proud!
Penn & Teller: Bullshit!
Showtime, 2003 to present. 30 minutes.
Yeah, I know, I am way behind the times as far as this show goes. I had heard that it was a cool show, but I live in an HBO house. We ain't got no Showtime round these here parts! So, I had not seen this fine program. Then, like an angel of mercy there came Google Video.
The show stars the comic/magic team of Penn Jillet and Teller. If you have never seen them before, Penn is the big guy with glasses and a pony-tail who screams alot and Teller is the quiet one. Teller, in fact, does not speak. That's okay because Penn has no problem telling you just what is on his mind. I got hooked on Penn and Teller on Letterman in the 80s.
So, the show is called Bullshit! and what is it about? Well, lets just say that the exclamation point is not superfluous. In this tight, savvy, very unpolitically correct and damn funny half hour show P&T do a better job of ripping apart cultural and political crapola than 60 Minutes ever has! The thing that makes this show so much better than the network newshour shows is that they do not even try to be objective. Fairness is attempted, but they are here to vanquish the stupid and don't take prisoners!
To give you a taste of some of the subjects examined on Bullshit!: UFOs and Alien Abduction, Conspiracy Theories, Creationism, Gun Control, Recycling, 12 Step Programs, PETA and Bottled Water. Quite a variety huh? Just when you think they are leftys, they swing to the right, but mostly they represent people with working brains.
If you have Showtime and have not given this show a chance, please do so. If you do not have Showtime, use the link above.
Remember, if you are not a critical thinker, some cheating bastard wins - again!
Well, that's it folks! Hope you all had a great summer! That reminds me! Halloween will be here before we know it, so give me some suggestions for this year's Halloween movie reviews!
Have fun and drink Real Beer!
Remember: Comments, questions, suggestions and requests always welcome!