Tarantula (1955)

“I didn’t expect to see a biologist that looked like you!”

Synopsis:
After a mysteriously deformed corpse is found in the desert, a local doctor (John Agar) investigates a laboratory where a scientist (Leo G. Carroll) is experimenting with a serum designed to make creatures grow huge — thus hypothetically providing humanity’s exponentially expanding population with enough food. Soon he meets Carroll’s new lab assistant, “Steve” (Mara Corday), and the two help local law enforcement officials in confronting a massive tarantula which has escaped from the lab.

Genres:

Review:
Jack Arnold — best known for directing It Came From Outer Space (1953), Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) — helmed this effective “mutant monster” flick, guaranteed to scare the pants off of anyone remotely afraid of spiders. While mega-geek-fans may quibble over minor details related to matting, shadows, and other special effects inconsistencies, the general film fanatic will simply be creeped out while watching enormous hairy spider legs crawling over the desert landscape. There’s much to be amused by here as well, from the overly lengthy initial sequence showing us in excruciating detail exactly what Carroll is up to dosage-wise in his lab, to Corday’s perfectly made-up appearance and masculine nickname (‘Steve’, rather than, say, ‘Steph’), to the fact that townsfolk can’t see something looming so gigantically in their landscape. But the point here — such as it is — is to show how even the most well-meaning scientists risk terrible havoc when daring to mess around with biology, and

SPOILER

the need for all-hands-on-deck when faced with a menace that can’t be blown away by mere assault rifles. (Clint Eastwood’s face can be seen as one of the fighter pilots who eventually bomb the spider to its fiery death with napalm.)

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Leo G. Carroll as Dr. Deemer
  • Appropriately creepy and convincing special effects

  • Atmospheric cinematography (especially the new Blu-Ray upgrade)

Must See?
Yes, as a well-made B-level “giant creature” flick.

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One Response to “Tarantula (1955)”

  1. First viewing. Agreed; a once-must, as a representative film from the creature genre.

    I don’t honestly recall seeing this as a budding film fanatic years ago (though I have seen clips of it here and there when it was referenced somewhere).

    Those already familiar with films of its type will more or less know what to expect, going into it. Nevertheless, it does become progressively creepy as it continues. A certain “Ewww…’ factor begins when Agar inspects the small pools of venom that the tarantula leaves behind after a kill: why would a medical doctor, of all people, reach into such a substance with his fingers – and then *taste* what’s on them?!

    A highlight comes when the tarantula reaches Carroll’s house and – in what one supposes is a nod to ‘King Kong’ – peers through Corday’s bedroom window.

    Overall, effective and appropriately icky.

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