Blu-ray Review: Tarantula (1955)

April 11, 2019

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Professor Gerald Deemer (Leo G. Carroll) is doing the dodgy science bag down Arizona way with the plan of increasing the world’s food supply via making shit large AF. Naturally being a reasonable and sane individual, one of the things the good doc has enlarged is a tarantula, because…well who the fuck knows really…I mean if I was trying to cure world hunger I’d enlarge like a steak or a banana or some shit, not a poisonous as balls eight legged killing machine, but I’m admittedly no doctor…unless it’s a doctor of love because then I got the PHd! So, where the hell was I? Oh yeah…

Of course that tarantula gets loose and goes on a bovine based murder spree and soon it’s up to small town doctor Matt Hastings (John Agar), and Deemer’s comely assistant, Stephanie Clayton (Mara Corday), to attempt to save the town from that rapidly growing arachnid. Also a young Clint Eastwood takes pot shots at the creature in a jet plane…just another Tuesday around here…

Look, Tarantula is a picture about a giant-ass spider terrorizing a desert town. If that doesn’t put your ass in a seat I’m not sure we can be friends (but even if we aren’t keep reading my column, ‘kay?) Anyway, this is pure ’50’s era sci-fi/horror goodness served up just the way you like it; where science is king, nature is perverted and becomes outlandishly dangerous, and a square-jawed, straight-laced, hero has to team up with a spunky female professional to defeat the monster at hand…it’s classic drive-in cinema tropes galore, and they are still as entertaining today as I’m sure they were decades ago.

Also on hand to increase the fun are some impressive optical effects (in most creature sequences an actual spider was enlarged through photographic trickery, though some rather well made props were used as well), especially in the scenes of the giant menace roaming the night searching for prey, as well as some rad make-up designs by Bud Westmore (Night Gallery, The Munsters, and literally hundreds more) that depict the effects of  the rapid-forming acromegaly that is a nasty result of Deemer’s experimentation!

As for extras on this Blu-ray release from Scream Factory we get the film’s theatrical trailer, a still gallery, and a selection of poster and lobby card images. Of course the best special feature is another ultra-informative audio commentary courtesy of Film Historian Tom Weaver (with additional material by Dr. Robert J. Kiss and David Schecter as well as Larry Blamire and Jennifer Blaire providing their usual excellent re-enactments of the actors at hand) that examines the production history of the film in scholarly detail, while still being entertaining and not afraid to discuss the film’s shortcomings.

Tarantula is one of the greatest of the giant creatures on the loose films of the 1950’s (with only 1954’s Them! topping it in my opinion, and 1957’s The Monster That Challenged the World coming in third if you are keeping score at home), and it deserves a place on the shelf of every horror hound that digs on Atomic Age creature features!





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