There’s a lot of independent filmmakers out there, even ones that worked for decades, continuingly cranking out feature after feature. But there’s a selected few that went past that and actually created their own functioning movie studio way outside of Hollywood. There were people like Larry Buchanan in Texas or Earl Owensby in North Carolina. Then was Bill Rebane, who created the Shooting Ranch in Gleason, Wisconsin, which was a complete movie studio, from a post-production, recording studios, to even having lodging for the actors to stay, not to mention its own restaurant. This was Rebane’s way of keeping production costs down for his movies, if he could keep all the expenses low by providing them all within the studio. Smart man.
Now before you scoff at the name Rebane, just remember that while The Giant Spider Invasion (1975) might be a wee bit cheesy, it was one of the top 50 grossing pictures that year. But he did just make that title, but quite a few more, such as titles like The Alpha Incident (1978), The Capture of Bigfoot (1979), Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake (1980), and The Demons of Ludlow (1983). Sure, some might call them cheesy or turkeys, but remember, at the end of the day, if you’re entertained by them, they can’t be considered a bad movie.
So, fans of Rebane and his work now will have a chance to gather and appreciate the work this man did throughout his career, thanks to the fine folks at The Merrill Historical Society, located at 100 E. Third St., Merrill, WI. The grand opening is on October 22nd, they will be having an exhibit celebrating Mr. Rebane and his movies, called Bill Rebane’s Hollywood Midwest – A Retrospective on Wisconsin’s First Feature Film Studio.
The website for the Historical Society is HERE, but they haven’t updated their site just yet to included anything about this event. YET. They are planning to have Mr. Rebane in attendance that first day, as well as others that worked on his films have been invited as well. Keep in mind though, these people are not the youngest, and with Covid still active, nothing in guaranteed as far as any of them showing up. But this is still a few months away, so you never know.
But one thing they are hoping to have there is the frame from the “eating spider” from Rebane’s most famous film, The Giant Spider Invasion. The main spider frame had been lost, then found, stolen, and all sorts of other crazy stuff. But this one is still around and has been moved to Merrill for the exhibit. Yes people, that is part of movie history. Plus, if you are a big fan of Rebane’s film, there are many shooting locations close by, such as the Cosmo Theater that you can see in Giant Spider as well as Twisters Revenge, as well as the church from Blood Harvest, starring Tiny Tim!
I know I plan on being up there for the Grand Opening because this just seems like a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Hopefully they will see a good turnout.