Director: Jack Arnold
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?
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!