The Reprobate Movie Night: Carquake And The Giant Spider Invasion

Recreating a classic – if unlikely – theatrical double bill from the 1970s.

It’s time for another Reprobate Movie Night and this time we’re going for real quality in the form of a recreation of a classic double bill from the 1970s.
The Giant Spider Invasion was a 1975 film with a storyline that came straight out of the 1950s but was spiced up with Seventies obsessions – gratuitous nudity, rednecks and eco-horror – admittedly on a ‘grand’ scale here. Oddly, the film was passed with an ‘A’ (PG) certificate in the UK at the time, showing what a different world the 1970s was, and played cinemas in 1976 as part of an unmissable double bill with Cannonball, which was rather brilliantly retitled Carquake for its UK release. This pairing was heavily advertised on TV and radio, pushing Carquake‘s connection to the hugely popular Death Race 2000, which had just been a bit box office hit – the X-rating of that film had stopped the kids from seeing it and the ads for Carquake did their best to make the film sound like a sequel of sorts (the films did have the same star and director in David Carradine and Paul Bartel, so it wasn’t entirely misleading). Only the radio trailer seems to have survived and here it is:

 Cannonball is a pretty interesting film that is a lot more thoughtful than the excitable poster and ads imply, perhaps having more in common with Vanishing Point and Two-Lane Blacktop than Death Race 2000. Nevertheless, it certainly delivers on the carquaking action. And watch out for small, sometimes uncredited appearances from Sylvester Stallone, Martin Scorsese, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Allan Arkush, Jonathan Kaplan, Carl Gottlieb and Bartel himself, making this perhaps the film with the most director cameos ever made.

For monster movie-fixated kids at the time, however, The Giant Spider Invasion was the main attraction, even if it was officially at the bottom of the bill. Even at the time, though, kids quickly picked up on the fact that this was low-rent stuff with hilariously bad special effects. But shoddy giant spiders are still giant spiders, and with the addition of more gruesomeness than was usually found in ‘A’ certificate films (though this was the era of Jaws, Grizzly and Tentacles all having a similar rating, suggesting a strange blind spot from the censors when it came to oversized monsters) and the brief nudity, all of which would not pass as family entertainment now.

Online video allowing, we’ll seek out more classic double bills to share with you in the future.

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One comment

  1. ‘They’re called bweasts and everybody’s got them …’ Early trouser-stirrings courtesy of daytime screening of Carry On England, buxom recruits following ‘trousers-only’ edict to the letter! Oddly, this scene CUT from the 2-on-1 (fnaar?) late ’90s videotape – though surely by careless error rather than zealous mammary suppression … ‘PG’ rated ‘knockers’ source of much delight in ‘Airplane!’ – (‘thought’ – the disaster movie was not parodied, ‘Airplane!’ is a natural progression of the cycle. It was beyond parody already. ‘Airplane!’ is yer actual genre disaster movie, ergo). Likewise, The Giant Spider, ‘Nature Runs Amok!’ Looking forard to finally seeing Cannonball!!! This double-bill is the stuff of dreams … And back to the car – the treacherous VolksWagen BEETLE, I ask you, pressed into service as a Spider (tho’ where would the crew find a Porsche, anyway) providing the thematic webbing twixt the two and, indeed, the wider catastrophic genre of the Road/Carpocalypse … roads bring everything to everyone afer all, even … what’s that trembling??? It’s Ballard, dressed as a kind of Doctor Who, hat and frills, motoring frantically from station to station … sites of fictional crack-ups – i.e. M. Faithfull’s leather clad thighs project from windscreen … slo-mo glass shattering to ‘air on a G string’ – hi-speed film to capture breaking glass in near-liquidity- the ‘zen’ of Peter Stringfellow – parking lots of corpse filled cars a la (Lala) La Cabina (in daylight, if you please, nightmares that just won’t know their place) … car park unease, places where bins are kept, the underside (the ‘upsy-downsey’ they say, in spooky-twee fashion (spooky owl in spooky-twee)) … Drive-in in daytime, echoing soundtrack … ‘Dead-end Drive-in’ it’s an island of a kind, flypaper flotsam (revenge of the Big heads) … New Films, zip-me-up, kwik, cars, leather, breasts … got to get there quick … Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean school-of-motoring, Quiff and fast crack up – stock footage reused – Fall Guy for Dirty Mary (Hail Dirty Mary) C Heston down the storm drain (virgin birth/death?) … Gabrielle Drake as ‘Angora’ … Victoria Principal/Richard Roundtree – strangely absent on pre-cert – Giant Spider crucifixion … At risk of sounding quaintly pro-VRA, Horror films was thought of as PG fodder, or teetering thereabouts, what with it’s Fantastic content, tie-in with ice-lollies, etc, this is why the surprise appearance of films concerned with impalement-via-stake-up-the-jacksy and related matters caused such consternation among some (yes I know this is a gross generalisation). The moral panics usually really get going when normally unaligned ends of the political spectrum find common ground – claims of defence of children works as a kind of lowes common denominator argument (and slanders opposition as irresponsible or evil by implication) … a pet theory I amuse myself with is the idea that they allowed a window in which uncut, hardcore stuff could be sold, as a marketing gimmick, something TV couldn’t get, and as an experiment, to test public attitudes to such. Indie companies shoulder most of the development costs (I don’t think the studios were being shortsighted not getting into the game sooner, I think it was a strategic move). The irony is, it was recordng off the TV that proved to be the real driver in terms of sales, but it didn’t hurt to have a touch of danger attached to the product (full-page free advertising in the Mail ‘Kids commune with Daemons on your very own Fergusson Pentagram’). Thats not all! Why was the Nasties list kept deliberately vague? Simply because the intent was to instill a chilling effect on the industry. If everyone was in the dark as to what was ‘Nasty’, they would have to wind their necks in on all fronts to be on the safe side. Fewer pesky indies hard-selling. A lame criteria was sketched on a fag-packet as a late-in-the-day rationale: no use of household, everyday items as instruments of violence – hence, the innocuous (violent, but not much more so than, say, a soap opera today) Dead & Buried and Visiting Hours show up on so-called ‘DPP’ ‘Lists’. They were never Nasties! (‘Even owning, looking at the packaging of, or thinking about these films could cause a previously reasonable, well-loved family pet to turn-on you’ ‘these children have become so desensitized by Nasties, they are hallucinating that a harmless Postman Pet cartoon is actually a hardcore shocker called Budgie Disembowellment 6’ ‘I never even thought about having sex until I saw it done in a film’ – actual extracts from Clifford Hill’s notebooks – his eyes agog, ‘yes, this one is VERY depraving and corrupting, phew! Better order 6 more copies, just to make sure’). Imagine determining to the frame how much to cut from a poor special effect, in order to preserve the illusion of versimilitude. Lewis Carrol had it rite! Forgive me, I beg, if you can, but it IS that time of night, therefore … As a sign-off, they left us a puzzle with which to tax our minds in perpetuity, which was good of them – provided it doesn’t first drive us mad, the unsolvable conundrum can provide a lifetime of stimulatiion. The question is: why was Tobe Hooper’s Fun House anywhere near the Nasties list? Usual suspects: confusion with the abortive release of the same-titled Roger Watkins film, the fact that it could be mistaken for a kids film (and probably was, hahaha), or, a long shot, a few underperforming titles from the majors were thrown under the bus to make it look like the whole affair wasn’t simply a persecution of indie dealers. Maybe option ‘B’ is most likely? Because there’s no misuse of household implements that I can recall – in fact, if ever there was a case for a latterday ‘PG’ rated horror fim, this surely would be it! (circularity, see?) Less gory than ‘Raiders …’! They wanted a PG for Chain Saw!

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