The Giant Spider Invasion

The flowers are listening
★★★
☆☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1975
Director: 
Bill Rebane
Starring: 
Steve Brodie, Barbara Hale, Alan Hale Jr., Robert Easton
The Setup: 
Meteorite creates to mini black hole through which a giant spider comes.
Discussion: 

A friend of mine sent me the trailer for this, and in seconds it was at the top of my Netflix list. There isn’t much with the words “Giant Spider” in it that I’m not going to give top priority to.

This was part of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 set. My understanding was that their discs usually contained both the original movie and the movie with the MST3K commentary. This is not true—you can only watch it with the commentary. And while I’d seen them briefly on TV, this is the first time I had ever sat down and watched an MST3K episode all the way through, so many a first for me.

We begin by being introduced to all the hicks, I mean people, in this small Wisconsin town. There’s the sheriff, played by Alan Hale, better known as the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island! You can imagine how much commentary this generated from the MST3K folks. There’s also Dan, this ignorant bearded redneck [not remotely hot, as the phrase “ignorant bearded redneck” might lead you to believe] and his daughter, whom I believe is seriously named Cherry. Then there’s this alcoholic woman who is screwing Dan, some Peter Brady-lookin’ kid in unfortunately printed shirts, and various others. Listen to the alcoholic begging Dan to bring her some booze when he comes by. There’s also a funny moment when the Skipper [let’s just go ahead and calls him that] picks up a phone and the MST3K guys say “Professor made a toaster out of coconuts?” In here we have very quick shots of a comet-like thing approaching Earth.

Now it’s later and Dan is leaving the woman he was screwing, and she takes time to remind him to take his back brace. He returns home and his daughter is slinging some sass at him when the meteorite—looks like a common flare—lands in their backyard, creating a huge explosion and massive wind. Dan doesn’t think it’s worth checking out, but his daughter persuades him, and they go to this relatively small area of dug-up dirt that is supposed to be a crater. Dan says something like “What’s that?” and the MST3K guys say “It’s befuddlin’ my dumbcracker mind!” They find a bunch of perfectly spherical rocks and take them home. There Dan, clad in red long johns with his white back brace around his waist, cracks the rocks open to discover what appear to be diamonds. They’re gonna be rich!

Meanwhile at some space institute, Pat, this somewhat mannish woman who sports a variety of pantsuits, is lecturing on space and whatnot. There’s a funny moment when there’s an insert of a homely woman and the MST3K guys say “I will grow into my beauty!” Then middle-aged Dr. Vance shows up. He doesn’t believe that a woman could possibly be a scientist, so he tells Pat he must be here to see her husband… father… brother… cousin? She tells him it’s her, SHE’S a doctor, and another stinging blow for feminism is delivered.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Dan and his daughter are out in the field when the daughter falls right next to this partially-digested cow head. It seems that nine cows were slaughtered the previous night, and Dan is going to sell the meat! Suffice to say I am going to skip any lower-end diners should I be in Wisconsin. There’s a hilarious moment when the camera moves down and a bunch of flowers creep into the foreground, and the MST3K guys say “Shhh! The flowers are listening!” The daughter wonders if the diamonds might have come from the meteorite. No sweetie, diamonds often just spontaneously appear in pastures all the time, and there is NO REASON to connect them to the meteorite that just landed the night before. Pure coinkidink!

Meanwhile Dan’s mistress has noticed a bunch of spiders around. Now, it’s true that a tarantula is a spider, but should I see one I doubt I would say something as casual as “There’s a bunch of spiders around.” I think they merit a bit more emphasis. A similar thing happened in the awesome Sisters of Death. Anyway, she’s not going to let a little tarantula infestation interfere with her drinking, and she just sits right down in the middle of them with her cocktail. She mixes a new drink in the blender, not noticing that there’s a tarantula in there. The MST3K guys call this out by saying “I am not, repeat, NOT looking at the blender,” which is funny, because she is really pointedly looking away. She doesn’t seem to be enjoying her strawberry daiquiri with pureed tarantula bits very much.

SPOILERS > > > Meanwhile, Dan’s daughter is relaxing at home when she is menaced by a tarantula. The first thing she does, obviously, is run to open her top dresser drawer, only to discover a basketball-sized spider in there. I always wonder why spiders favor drawers so much in movies, and one also has to wonder how something that big got in there in the first place, if it wasn’t specifically looking for a creepy place to jump out of. She runs outside to discover a giant [car-sized] spider with two big white eyes on the roof! It is so ludicrous they cut away from it VERY quickly. Meanwhile Dan is on his way home when he drives his car straight into a massive spider, whose arms try to get at his through the roof. He gets out and runs and is soon eaten whole by the thing! It was a surprise—he was such a major character I was expecting him to last a little longer.

Meanwhile Pat and Dr. Vance are out in the field. Pat speculates that the meteorite created a mini black hole in the field. I don’t mean a little hole that is really dark, but an actual black hole as in the Disney Black Hole sense of the word. Why it is not consuming the matter around it or drawing in light is left unexplained, but it DOES seem reasonable to them that the giant spiders are coming in through this dimensional portal, and if they don’t close it up other “monsters” will come through. I must point out again that these people are supposedly scientists. You know, it occurs to me now that the menace of giant spiders was conspicuously left out of Disney’s Black Hole. Anyway, soon Vance and Pat are menaced by a giant spider, and roll clumsily over each other down the hill in a manner that does NOT appear to be planned.

Gosh, I hope none of this interferes with the Gleason county fair! Not a chance, but soon revelers are being chased in a mob by a giant spider. This particular spider is a VW Bug with fuzzy legs attached, and apparently you CAN see tire tracks in its wake. The populous forms an angry mob and Skipper is doing his best just to keep order. “They’re hell-bent on destroying that beast!” he says. “You ever see the movie Jaws? It makes that shark look like a goldfish!” Please avoid calling attention to much better movies whilst in a movie where Volkswagens are playing giant spiders. Thank you.

So after the spider devours some random cop that I don’t think we’ve seen before—and who pretty much runs up and jumps into its mouth—it’s in position for them to drop a grenade on it. They do, and it explodes, but you will notice that the explosion footage is run backwards. It was only upon reading the IMDb that I learned that this is supposed to represent the black hole closing. That’s right, the most destructive force in the universe, closed for good with a simple hand grenade. Then the giant spider, so some unbeknownst reason, starts melting and there’s a ton of lovingly-captured spider-glop. Why? I don’t know.

Now, since it is not immediately apparent that the black hole was closed, one can be forgiven for thinking “Uh, what about the rip in the fabric of space and time that they have a’goin’ on in that field there? Isn’t that kind of a problem, too?” But even if one accepts that it’s closed, what about all the other spiders of varying sizes that are still all over town? Can we consider the situation truly “resolved?” Maybe they were all eradicated with such ease that it’s just not worth even seeing. Plus, the movie can’t go on forever; this isn’t War and Peace, you know.
< < < SPOILERS END

Overall, definitely a worthwhile slab of fun giant monster b-movie bang for your buck. It’s so ludicrously silly all the way through, with outrageous characters like our saucy female drunk, stupid ideas like the black hole in the middle of a field, and, of course, giant spiders, which it’s nearly impossible to go wrong with. I would have liked to have been able to watch it without the commentary of the MST3K guys, as one doesn’t really get a sense of the atmosphere of the movie with them yakking the whole time, but they were very, very funny and did have me cutting up quite a few times.

Ah, so that’s it. If you like 70s movies about rednecks and giant man-eating monsters from space, well, here you go.

Should you watch it: 

I suspect you probably should, if the whole idea appeals to you at all.