Tarantula (1955)

Tarantula PosterThis is the very best of all the giant tarantula movies. Where the pretenders rely on cheap gimmicks, overexposed spiders, and dippy teens, Tarantula treats its subject matter with a serious, adult viewpoint. Which is good since I might have otherwise thought the scheme by the mad doctor to help feed Earth’s exploding population by developing a nutrient that grows things to super size was executed only in a fashion that would benefit a cheesy 1950s horror movie.

I can understand wanting to raise cattle or hogs the size of houses – that would provide food for everyone including the undocumented workers we’d have to get to work at the ginormous meat packing plants. What struck me a bit as fuzzy science though was the point of testing this out on a tarantula.

Sure, the tarantula was only the size of large dog when the crazy lab assistant who’d injected himself with the serum busted up the joint and let Tarantula loose into the desert, but why would we need them even that big? Were we going to start ranching our mega-cattle while cowpokes sat majestically astride their eight-legged steeds?


Then there’s the whole “trying it out on humans” phase of the experiment that made even less sense. If we’re trying to combat a food shortage problem, should we really be inventing stuff to make us grow into the 50 Foot Woman in a week?

Tarantula 1

John Agar (The Mole People, Invisible Invaders) is country doctor Matt Hastings. He’s an affable chap kept busy by all the medical needs of his small desert community though he doesn’t really get on with the local mad scientist, Dr. Deemer, who has a lab at his house 20 miles outside of town.

Dr. Matt complains to the sheriff that when he first met the doctor, he just didn’t feel very welcome. Well, you ought to see how welcome he suddenly makes himself once the sexy lab assistant named Stephanie (she goes by Steve) moves in out there! Dr. Matt also finds the bizarre death of Deemer’s research partner from acromegaly (it causes deformities) to be a good excuse to harass Deemer.

Shortly thereafter, the old rancher Andy is having himself a whole mess a trouble down on the back forty!

Dr. Matt and the sheriff arrive on the scene to discover the bones of some cattle and a mysterious pool of white liquid nearby. No one has any answers until another similar incident occurs and Dr. Matt takes a sample of the white goo to analyze. Only after tasting some for himself of course! And who could blame him? Dang stuff looked like cream! But why was it so icky then? Because it was tarantula cream!

Tarantula 2

A quick plane ride to the university at Phoenix to consult with their mysterious liquid expert reveals the slop to be venom thus setting the stage for a confrontation of staggering proportions between Dr. Matt and Tarantula!

Dr. Matt gets himself ready for his upcoming bout with Tarantula by watching an informational film at the university about tarantulas. See, he’s not just going to get up in Tarantula’s multi-eyed face chucking dynamite at him, he’s going to learn everything he can about Tarantula and then chuck dynamite at him!

What we get is Tarantula’s highlight reel. There he is fighting off his only predator, the super evil spider-wasp. And then you’ve got him punching a rattlesnake in the face! The big finish is when he eats some kind of desert beetle. It’s clear he’s sending a message to Dr. Matt and that message is “I like the taste of desert beetles!”

For his part, Tarantula gives an excellent, nuanced performance in this one. While Giant Spider from Earth vs. the Spider was all about gimmicks like spinning giant webs, playing possum in the school gym, and hogging as much camera time as he could, Tarantula smartly subscribes to the less is more philosophy of acting.

Tarantula 3

Tarantula keeps his screen time limited and when he’s on screen, he owns it. He knows the value of striking fearsome pose on top of a mountain a night, of pulling sneak attacks on humans like trying to bury Dr. Matt and Steve in a surprise landslide and peeping Steve in Deemer’s house as she was getting ready for bed! Can you imagine how big the pool of white venom was he left that time?

As capable as Dr. Matt is, when you see Tarantula striding down the highway directly toward everyone, you have no doubt that it’s going to take more than a wad of dynamite to make Tarantula back down. And when Tarantula walks nonplussed through the smoke from the explosion, you realize that when Tarantula was staring down Dr. Matt, his millions of scary eyes were seeing only thing – desert beetle on hind legs!

So with all appearing to be lost, who do you go to for back up? Tarantula, allow me to introduce you to the United States Air Force and their jets which are loaded with napalm. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The lead pilot? Some guy named Clint Eastwood. And he just started his own giant bug dead pool and put you on it.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *