Update (6/13/2015): The original post continues below – received the Blu-ray on Wednesday and wanted to share some quick thoughts. Firstly, I really wanted to love this release. The film is a bona fide household favorite, and there was the potential, at least, to really knock the socks off the so-so presentations of the past. Unfortunately, VCI’s The Giant Spider Invasion is pretty terrible, at least in so far as the feature presentation is concerned. People will bellyache about the Mpeg-2 video encode, but that’s an utterly inconsequential technicality in this case – the transfer on-disc would look terrible regardless. The problem here is processing, processing, and still more processing. The grainy, scratch-riddled source elements have been practically sand-blasted, with much of the already modest detail the picture possessed carelessly scrubbed away in the process. Artificial sharpening and motion errors (a stuttered ghosting effect that appears from time to time) just add to the troubles – for all the improvements in color and framing over past editions, the disc just looks bad.
Samples are included below, in uncompressed PNG. The trailers on-disc hint at what might have been. The damage is there in the form of vertical scratches and plenty of dust and speckles, but the unprocessed image is miles in advance of what can be seen in the feature presentation. Unless you’re really, really itching to shell out nearly $30 for the newly-produced extras (the HD galleries, trailers, and Rebane interview that accompany the Blu-ray are neat, but only add up to maybe half an hour of material) then this disc is a complete pass. I never thought I’d prefer an early ’80s VHS to a modern Blu-ray release, but I suppose them’s the breaks. What a disappointment.
Does this film even need an introduction? Bill Rebane’s Midwestern big-bug epic is pretty infamous these days (the lampooning from cult program MST3K is, admittedly, hilarious), but was a significant drive-in hit in its own time. I remember seeing it on television as a kid in the late ’80s and thinking it was pretty much the best thing I had ever seen – the gangly spider mock-ups and trashy atmosphere creeped me out in the best of ways back then.
Long available only in editions culled from masters dating at least as far back as my first experience with the film, The Giant Spider Invasion is set to make an unlikely comeback next week courtesy of VCI. The label will be releasing a fresh DVD of the film (with tasty supplemental accompaniment) in wide distribution, but the big news is their web-exclusive (it appears to be available from their webstore only at present) Blu-ray, a loaded deluxe edition that’s set to present The Giant Spider Invasion in widescreen and HD for the first time in its lengthy home video history.
Supplements for the Blu-ray are stacked. Quoting from the VCI site:
- New 2015 Documentary by Daniel Griffith – “Size Does Matter! Making The Giant Spider Invasion”
- Bonus CD from “The Giant Spider Invasion the Musical” – 14 Rockin’ Tracks from the forth-coming Live Musical-Stage Play
- Mini ‘TGSI’ Collectible Comic Book
- The SUPER-8 Version (the original home media format!)
- The SUPER-8 Version re-edited in HD!
- Archival Interviews with cult-film director Bill Rebane and other members of the cast, crew and Super-fans
- Archival Interview with actor Robert Easton (Kester)
- Bill Rebane introduction by Kevin Murphy and Mike Nelson (of Mystery Science Theater fame)
- Extensive Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery
- Original Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots
- Archival TV News Reports
- Liner Notes written by Tom Stockman, WeAreMovieGeeks.com
VCI are set to present The Giant Spider Invasion at its theatrical 1.85:1 ratio with LPCM audio (VCI say Dolby Digital, but the DVDDrive-In review disputes this) and optional English subtitles. No complaints here. I’m fascinated to see how it all shakes out, and all the more so given VCI’s spotty track record (in so far as feature presentation is concerned at least). So long as this Blu-ray plays better than my 25-plus-year-old Japanese VHS I suspect I’ll be happy enough.
VCI’s less expensive (and less loaded) The Giant Spider Invasion DVD edition is available for pre-order through Amazon and other online retailers. For now the Blu-ray edition is available only through VCI directly. Both editions are set for release on June 9th.