Starring: Leo G. Carroll, Jack Arnold, John Agar, Mara Corday, Nestor Paiva, Clint Eastwood
Written by: Robert M. Fresco (screenplay), Martin Berkeley(screenplay)
Directed by: Jack Arnold
Distributor: Scream Factory
Original Year of Release: 1955
Run Time: 1h 20min
I won't lie to you, I was super excited to see Tarantula, again, and on Blu-ray for the very first time. The last time I saw it was at Blobfest in Phoenixville, PA and it was paired with The Blob. What's strange is my memory of that screening was sugar coated because I was bored out of my mind this time around. It has been at least 3 years since I saw this real tarantula terrorize numerous desert towns. The trick photography is, obviously, part of the appeal, however, this time I noticed just how little we see of the giant spider. It wasn't all a letdown, and I did love and appreciate a few other things that dwell inside the cinematic treasure that is Tarantula.
I'll cut to the chase on the plot. A tarantula is experimented on with a new nutrient that a scientist, Prof. Gerald Deemer (Leo G. Carroll), has developed. His hope is to create a nutrient that humans will be able to live on. He breaks down, in an all too scary scenario, how the world's population will grow. Eventually, we will run out of food. Prof. Deemer is injecting the serum into a variety of animals and it is causing growth spurts on an epic proportion. Of course, a human being has already been experimented on which leads to the destruction of a lab where our title character escapes. What is funny is that we don't see a giant rat or a giant guinea pig, but it is the spider that we are forced to deal with. Obviously, an eight-legged monster is more terrifying than a giant guinea pig, so it is easy to see why they picked this terror. Prof. Deemer has also been injected with the experimental serum and thus we are all on edge because we know that the beautiful lab assistant, Stephanie (Mara Corday), and her new doctor boyfriend, Matt Hastings (John Agar), are at risk.
What really got me this time around was how bad I felt for John Agar, our hero. Lately, a lot of his Sci-Fi B-Movies have been given the Blu-ray treatment. Recently, Scream Factory even released his turn in The Mole People (see our review HERE). The special features there revealed that Agar was under contract with Universal to play parts like this. This is a huge departure from starring opposite of John Wayne in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), and Fort Apache (1948). He was still a leading man, only now he had been reduced to battling monsters without the perils of a solid antagonist. He makes the best of what he is given, but the look on his face for this film and The Mole of People is that of an unsatisfied actor.
Another delight, if not eye-opening performance, is Nestor Paiva, who plays Sheriff Jack Andrews. Paiva, who also stars in The Mole People, is one of the unsung heroes of Universal Studios Monster Movies. Clearly, the likes of Tarantula and the aforementioned Mole People don't garner the same level respect as Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman, but Paiva co-stars in two of The Creature from the Black Lagoon movies. A little more research will have to be done to see what other gems he appears in.
The helping of special features is a tad shy on this release. Thankfully, the transfer is top notch, which helps all the more to notice Clint Eastwood's cameo in the final minutes of the film. I am surprised that Scream Factory has not released all the giant bug movies in one colossal set. Perhaps this is something that will happen down the road. Watch Tarantula for the trick photography, the horrific foreshadowing of overpopulation, the Eastwood cameo, and to know what the lips in The Rocky Horror Picture Show's opening song are singing about. After that, it's best to give it a decade or two before viewing it again.