Although The Giant Spider Invasion is made and set in the 1970s, this is a film that really wishes it was a 1950s monster movie.
The film is set in a small Wisconsin community into which crashes a meteorite. The worst place for something like this to land is the farm belonging to the utterly dysfunctional Kester couple (Robert Easton and Leslie Parrish). Of course, this is exactly where it lands.
As the meteor crashes, it also manages to knock out the electricity in the area and causes a B-52 to crash. This, combined with some technobabble about gamma ray activity, attracts the attention of NASA who sends Dr. Vance (Steve Brodie) to join local scientist Dr. Jenny Langer (Barbara Hale) to investigate.
When the Kesters finally decide to investigate the explosion on their farm, they discover that all of their cattle has been partially eaten, and that there are geodes all over the place, so they take the geodes home with them. When they finally crack open one of these geodes they discover that it’s full of what looks a lot like diamonds. And spiders, of course, but who notices spiders when there are diamonds to drool over?
This provides the crux of the film. A pair of scientists are trying do discover the source of several strange occurrences, and the stereotypical rednecks are unwittingly hiding this source in the hope of becoming rich.
The Giant Spider Invasion is a very uneven film. When it works, it works quite well. Initially, director Bill Rebane uses large terrestrial spiders as stand-ins for the alien arachnids and these are surprisingly effective. This, combined with the increasingly obvious webs emerging all over the place, does make for quite an tense atmosphere.
The film also has plenty of comic touches, not all of which are deliberately so.
It all falls apart, though, when the giant spider finally emerges. This large, and largely static, puppet really doesn’t work at all. Not only is it transparently fake, it also looks as cheap as it probably is and is far more funny than frightening.
Looking various review sites online, The Giant Spider Invasion has gone down very badly. I’m not sure that this is entirely fair, though.
While I wouldn’t try to claim that this is a good film, I don’t agree that it’s as bad as some of its critics suggest. It’s more the case that this film was made 20 years too late.