Monday, October 12, 2009

Tarantula (1955)

Director: Jack Arnold
USA 1955
80 min
Starring: John Agar, Mara Corday, Leo G. Carroll and Nestor Paiva, among others.

See it on YouTube: link

I don't like spiders.
Eight-legged freaks. And this is a film about one hell of a spider, big as the Empire State Building. Creeps me out.

The introduction scene is spectacular: The camera sweeps over a windy desert. We see a man stumbling towards us, a close-up reveals his deformed face and hands. Then he falls and dies. Bam-bada-bah-bah! Pompous music and the title Tarantula take over the screen, and the film begins. Brilliant-
The musical score for this film is amazing, by the way.

The first person we get acquainted with is "Doc" Hastings (Agar), receiving a phone call about a strange body found in the desert. After a quick look, Doc comes to the conclusion that the man had suffered from acromegaly, a rare disease that causes excessive growth on parts of the body. The problem is that acromegaly takes several years to develop, and according to testimony the man had looked normal only four days before.

The dead man shows to be a scientist by the name of Eric, who worked at an isolated laboratory in the desert. His colleage Professor Deemer (Carroll) refuses to admit that anything other than acromegaly could have been the cause of Eric's death, but when we get to follow him into his laboratory and get to see abnormally large rabbits and guinea pigs (and a tarantula...) we start to suspect that there is another explaination.

Soon we also get to see another deformed assistant, Paul, starting a fight with Prof. Deemer. Expensive equipment is destroyed, animal cages break and a fire breaks out. Paul manages to knock out Prof. Deemer, and while he is unconcious Paul injects him with something. Then Paul dies, and we see a gigantic tarantula escape into the desert.

Before the first assistant Eric died, he had sent for a science student by the name of Stephanie "Steve" Clayton (Corday). Our leading man Doc encounters her, and since he has decided to investigate the secret desert experiments he offers to driver her there. Need I say that they develop a romantic interest for each other?
Steve is a smart, independent woman, and Prof. Deemer decides to employ her as an assistent since her original employer died so mysteriously.

While the mystery surrounding the experiments slowly are revealed to us, we witness the escaped tarantula growing even larger, until it has to eat both cattle and humans to satisfy its hunger.

Tarantula is in no way near the brilliance of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers [post] and other movies like it, but it sure is entertaining. The giant spider looks marvelous, and probably because the film makers chose to use a real spider instead of coming up with some stop motion solution. The makeup for the deformed humans is spectacular, it's almost uncomfortable to look at.
The actors are fairly good, but how frustrating they were towards the climax of the film! I should probably blame the script for that and not the actors, but Jesus suffering Christ... If I were to have a conversation with this film, it would probably go something like this:

Actors: Oh no! The giant tarantula is coming after us!
Lolita: Luckily enough, you have a car. Just drive off.
Actors: Aaaah! We must get into the car!
Lolita: Like I just said!
Actors: We drive 15 meters, then we stop the car and look if the tarantula is still going after us!
Lolita: Ehm... what? No - keep driving!
Actors: Okay, let's jump out of the car!
Lolita: No! Don't do it, you dumbass motherfuckers!
Actors: Oh no!!! It's still after us! What are we going to do?!
Lolita: Do nothing, just die. I hate you.

Now, what do you think of Prof. Deemer's estimation of the world population? Quote:

The disease of hunger, like most diseases, well, it spreads. There are 2 billion people in the world today. In 1975 there'll be 3 billion. In the year 2000, there'll be 3,625,000,000.
Real numbers: In 1955 there were 2.8 billion people in the world. In 1975: 4 billion. In the year 2000 there were no less than 6 billion people on earth! That poor old man would have had a heart attack if he had known.

I also love how the movie ends. What were they thinking?
- Well, all the town's dynamite supply didn't have any effect at all on the tarantula. We have to find another solution.
- Hmm... How about... more explosives?
- Yay!

So, Clint Eastwood drops napalm on the spider. I bet that this movie was the American government's main inspiration when dealing with foreign countries - Napalm solves anything!
(Okay, my American readers get the permission to physically abuse me, now.)

I'll let Mara Corday comfort you for my unscrupulous attacks on The Land of the Brave!


Courtney said...

Why would us American readers abuse you? We love things that go BOOM! Of course, that means we like any excuse we can have to make things go BOOM! So, I guess, abusing you could be an excuse to make the BOOM stuff go BOOM!! Muahahahahahahahaha

*skips off towards the napalm stash* (My brother actually did try to make this stuff when we were kids.) *eyeroll & sigh*

k5psb said...

Obviously, we'll just napalm you. No problem! :)

Lolita said...

Hahaha! If you are so badass that you have a personal napalm stash I would enjoy being napalmed! ;)
Why do brothers always suffer from penis comlex? By brother did "bombs" with baking powder and water, I remember. Haha.

As I said - it's the solution to any problem! :D

Mykal said...

Lolita: Love this review and your "conversation" made me laugh. I think as you make your way through these atomic age, sci fi films, you will find that the characters in them normally have some piss-poor escape skills. They nearly always fall, forget how to run, or become paralyzed with fear when being chased. And, as you have observed, cars are always a problem. Normally they simply won't start or are driven off the road very quickly into trees.

I loved this film, though, and thought the special effects and make-up were amazing (particularly when the tarantula crushes the house).

Did you know that Eastwood and Mara Corday became lifelong friends after this film? He even cast her in many of his films (The Gauntlet, Sudden Impact, The Rookie)?

Christopher said...

reeaaally miss Lolita!..The Tarantula?..
heh heh..Its a good un tho..That big house in the desert has been used in several Universal mongster mewvies...In Creature Walks among us,its by the ocean!..Big Spider comin' to town!too bad the rabbits and Guinea pigs didn't get out and join the rampage..
love the smell of napalm in the morning...smells like ...victory

Lolita said...

Haha, glad I could entertain! Oh, I adored the movie - I just had to make fun of the cheesy bits ;) I thought the makeup was wonderful, they didn't overdo it. Really freaky.
I did not know about their friendship! Since he had such a small part in the film it seems like they couldn't have had the time to get acquainted! But maybe he was a real ladies' man? Haha.

Are you disappointment in my non-girly film reviews? I'll just have to go with Judy Garland next! ;)
Oh, you must be the role model for every American! Haha.

Mykal said...


"But maybe he was a real ladies' man?"

I think, if anything, she was a real gentleman's woman ;-) --Mykal

Christopher said...

oh I'm just being silly!..Why don't you do The Guns of Navarone next!

Anonymous said...

If Roger Corman was the King of cinema for the people that goes to the drive -in classics, so Jack Arnold was the soldier. I don't like spiders also but the review was excellent. The film is in my list of lovely B- movies.
For Napalm theme Apocalypse Noe had the smell, the real smell.

Lolita said...

Haha, you're probably right!
Another film I need to see with Mara Corday is The Giant Claw (1957) - it looks hilarious! Just watch the "monster"!

What awful English I write when I'm tired! "Are you disappointment?" I hope you know I understand the grammar better than that!
t was years since I saw Guns of Navarone, I liked it a lot! I don't have it on DVD though, so I can't re-watch it. (That's the trouble when dumping boyfriends that have big DVD collections!)

Don Corleone:
Thank you! Apocalypse Now is awesome!

MrJeffery said...

Great film and funny post!

Christopher said...

miss lolita..I AM the zenith of Dissapointment! :o))..... "Guns"is a good BEER and Pimple pinching movie!

faust116 said...

i like this movie..i have writting about this film..

this language turkish :)