(1975, Horror-Giant Critter, color)
You hittin’ the BOOZE again, huh?
In a nutshell:
Extra-dimensional spiders of varying sizes invade rural Wisconsin.
A preacher rolls into town for a “revival,” defined here as a multi-day tirade that passes for religion. The eponymous arachnids arrive via meteor, sort of, which streaks from the sky during the first of many theological wails. The preacher’s fervent screams weave in and out of the rest of the film, though as far as I can tell, he has no connection to the invading spiders. The rest of the movie seems to be divided by social class, as the invasion is portrayed from both scientist and redneck points of view, with very little overlap. Thus, we will go into Multiple Plot Mode.
Plot #1: “Drunken Adulterous Backwoods Dirt Farmers.” The fateful meteor crashes in the pasture of one Dan Kester, an unwashed, scruffy-bearded gentleman with a penchant for wandering around clad solely in a back brace and long underwear. He’s just arrived from an adulterous tryst with a prideless waitress in town, and is thus too exhausted to head out into the field to investigate. He ignores his alcoholic wife Ev’s remonstrances and goes to bed. During the night, a random motorcyclist skids off the road. An implied spider eats him.
Next day, Dan and Ev wander the pasture to find mutilated cattle everywhere. While Dan determines to strip the remaining meat and sell it despite its partially digested state, Ev discovers a number of round rocks. Back at the family garbage house, Dan is unable to open one with the biggest hammer he can find. The others split of their own accord while they’re not looking, releasing hairy, normal-sized tarantulas. The insides of their eggs are coated with diamonds. Ev and Dan argue and celebrate while the spiders infiltrate the sink, the refrigerator, and a smoothie. Later, Dan finds the motorcyclist’s partially digested corpse and buries it, so that no one will find his secret diamond field.
Dan leaves to spend the night with his prideless waitress mistress, while Ev gets drunk and strips down to her underwear. She finds a large sock-puppet spider in her pajama drawer and runs screaming into the barn, where a giant marionette spider eats her. Next morning, Dan takes his find down to his even less washed, even scruffier-bearded cousin Billy, who runs the local rock shop. Billy examines a diamond and determines it to be of low quality. Frustrated, Dan returns to the field to search for more. A giant Volkswagen-mounted spider eats him.
Plot #2: “Obligatory Titillation Teens.” Not much of a plot here. Basically, the curly-haired son of the local newspaper owner is in love with Ev’s shapely teenage sister. When they’re not making out, Dave (the boy) runs expository errands for the scientists while Terry (the girl) avoids physical discipline from her predatory brother-in-law. After the giant spider finishes munching on Dan, it attacks the underwear-clad Terry, who screams and defends herself with an iron. She survives by remaining inside the collapsed house until Dave can come rescue her.
Plot #3: “Goofy Mobs and Even Goofier Law Enforcement.” Sheriff Jones (played by Alan Hale, Jr. of Gilligan’s Isle fame) loafs in his office and puts off various plaintants so he can read his conspiracy theory books. Later, the giant spider(s) invade the town, breaking up a county fair and a little league game. Sheriff Jones tries to hold back the mobs of armed rednecks, “hell-bent” on destroying the creature(s). He fails, and the spider(s) feast(s) on redneck juices. Later, Sheriff Jones sacrifices his own life (I think) to delay the monster long enough for the NASA helicopter to destroy it.
Plot #4: “Sexist New-Age Scientists.” Observatory director, planetarium performer, and prominent scientist Dr. Langer sees the meteor crash amid alarming atmospheric readings (whatever that means). NASA sends fellow scientist Dr. Vance to straighten things out. He arrives to discover that Dr. Langer is a woman. Mild gender confusion ensues.
They work on the problem in a high school laboratory over some Bunsen burner tea, and then head out into the Wisconsin countryside with their native guide Dave. Numerous diner, laboratory, and roadside meetings later, they happen across the only possible explanation—the meteor has opened a miniature black hole, which acts as a portal for giant, man-eating spiders from another dimension. They order a neutron bomb (I think) from NASA, and after a nearly fatal encounter with the giant Volkswagen spider and a brief subplot about a forgotten flare gun, they have it dropped on the portal/crater. The giant spider melts into a gooey disgusting mess, while far away, the sweat-drenched preacher shrieks out another hate-drenched sermon.
Tom dons a pleated miniskirt to lead his Satellite cohabitants in a cheer. He requests the various letters that make up the word “satellite,” but is refused. “You’ve got to give me something,” says Tom. “Technically, we don’t,” Crow replies. After some negotiation, Mike and Crow provide Tom with the letters M, R, x, and L. Tom resumes his cheer. “The Satellite of Love has got MRxL, MRxL, MRxL!”
Host Segment One:
Pearl tells heavily idealized tales of fishing in the planetary wilderness while Brain Guy prepares mind-harvested trout. Bobo interrupts to tell about his simultaneous encounters with ticks, bears, and various other outdoor hazards. Enthused by the camping stories, Tom lectures about portaging while wildly swinging a canoe. Down on the planet, zombie-esque pod-clones of Pearl and Brain Guy press the Satellite crew with pod-like zucchini throw pillows.
Host Segment Two:
Pod-clone Gypsy has hidden the zucchini throw pillows. She encourages Mike and the ‘Bots to sleep. Mike tries to convince the ‘Bots that the pods have abducted the real Gypsy, but her clone is several verses into a lullaby urging them to surrender to an evil superconsciousness before Crow and Tom concede the point.
Host Segment Three:
Mike and Tom struggle to stay awake, while Crow has overdosed on Vivarin, French Roast, Mountain Dew, Jolt, and various other concentrated sources of caffeine. Down on the planet, Bobo hasn’t noticed that Pearl and Brain Guy have been replaced with pod-clones. It takes a point blank question (Are those evil pods, and are you trying to take over the galaxy? Yes and yes) and some alien squeals to convince him. They’ve tied him quite securely by that time. Up on the Satellite, Crow suffers a caffeine-induced breakdown. “SURGE!”
Host Segment Four:
Tom and his pod-clone show up at the same time. Mike and Crow ask a number of questions to discover which one is real. Both Toms know about the ketchup Crow poured in his sneakers, and that he has no confirmation name, but only the real Tom can detail the contents of his extensive underwear collection.
Host Segment Five:
Mike discovers he is the only non-pod-clone left on the satellite. Bobo refuses to help him. He’s miffed at being passed over for replacement by an evil pod-clone. He speculates he was rejected because of his red butt, and offers to show it to Mike. Mike declines and appeals to his great ape lineage. Thus inspired, Bobo breaks his bonds and battles the mother pod, saving the galaxy. The real Pearl returns, realizes pod-Pearl sent the movie without her, and sends the movie again.
Unwashed, scruffy-bearded Billy shows us his tongue.
This movie has buckets filled with disgusting, most of it provided by the various members of the Kester family. Between their impressive lack of personal hygiene and the incredible filth in which they live, they’re among the most appalling human beings ever committed to film. The bubbling ooziness of the melting spider at the end contributes as well. It surpasses even the gooey effects of The Incredible Melting Man, though that film still wins for overall continuous grossness.
The movie also possesses several steamer trunks filled with incoherent. It’s not nearly as bad as auteur Bill Rebane’s maiden voyage into the waters of MST3K, Monster A-Go-Go, but you still get the sense that it’s not one, but several adjacent films, connected only by shared population of minor characters and oversized arachnids. How many spiders are there, anyway? The end seems to imply there’s just one, but by that time we’ve seen numerous spiders with varying levels of size and convincingness all the way through. Also, did Sheriff Jones die heroically at the end or didn’t he? Either someone thought it would be a good idea to shoot Alan Hale’s stunt double from the front in close-up, or his character disappears near the end to be replaced by a nameless, mustached character of his same approximate size and taste in clothing.
The host segments feature a running story about evil alien pod creatures, with a pair of very funny host segments where Mike tries to convince the ‘Bots (segment two) and Bobo (segment three) about their dire predicament. Tom’s question and answer session with his pod-clone works well too. My favorite segment is when Crow loads up on caffeine and then shakes until his little golden body rattles. You can still hear his elevated heartbeat when he goes back into the theater.
The film segments have a number of good lines, many of them poking fun at the movie’s failed attempts at levity. When Sheriff Jones smiles broadly while quoting a phone book ad, Crow says, “Not a joke, but an incredible simulation.” When Dr. Vance continuously and repeatedly embarrasses himself by asking Dr. Langer if his appointment is with her father, husband, or brother, Tom calls it, “Humor of the 1840s.” When Dan Kester tells his wife, “You couldn’t tell rabbit turds from Rice Crispies,” Crow replies, “Snap, Crackle, Poop.” When, approximately two-thirds of the way through the film, we still haven’t seen any spiders of greater than normal size, Mike calls it, “The Minor Spider Unrest.” Also, the satellite crew shouts, “Packers!” at the screen whenever large crowds of Wisconsin residents run screaming through the streets. As a film, it has enough disgusting and incoherent to cure you of any desire to ever visit Wisconsin. As an episode, there’s also enough funny in it to make it worth at least one viewing.
(1975, Horror-Giant Critter, color)