Daniel DiManna
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“The Giant Spider Invasion”: When Spider Met Beetle

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The Giant Spider Invasion
Imagine this, but older, covered in fake hair, and with eight goofy-looking legs…
Photo: Volkswagen

It takes a unique perspective to enjoy the art of “so-bad-its-good” cinema. There’s an undeniable appeal in watching movies made with greater ambition than talent. This appeal is often most apparent in the execution of special effects. Even though the film in question may be a hot mess, it’s still entertaining to see the creative ways the filmmakers created explosions, makeup, and monsters on a tight budget. Take, for instance, a little 1970s cheese-fest called The Giant Spider Invasion. When the crew needed a giant spider for said invasion, they turned to the one thing they knew would save them: Volkswagen.

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The Beetle behind “The Giant Spider Invasion”

In 1975, low-budget director Bill Rebane set out to make his next film. That film was The Giant Spider Invasion and was an intentional throwback to the giant-bug-on-the-loose movies of the 1950s. The film told the story of a small southern town that’s besieged by an army of extraterrestrial spiders, including a particularly large one with an appetite for humans. It all sounded good on paper, but creating the giant spider of the title proved to be a tricky challenge for the cheaply-produced flick.

This is where Volkswagen comes into the story. Rebane’s solution was to transform a mid-70s VW Beetle into his movie monster. After acquiring the vehicle, Rebane’s team covered it in faux fur. Large metal structures were welded to the vehicle’s roof, and covered in fur to become the legs. Each leg was given a pole that could be used by passengers to puppeteer the legs through the Beetle’s windows. To give the spider its freaky red eyes, the car was driven in reverse with its tail lights on.

The result of this effort is a delightfully cheesy monster.

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No matter how silly Bill Rebane’s giant spider may look, it’s still an impressive and creative solution to budgetary limitations. The Giant Spider Invasion ended up being a surprise box office success in 1975, and remains a cult classic to this day.