TARANTULA! 1955. DIRECTED BY JACK ARNOLD. STARRING LEO G. CARROLL, JOHN AGAR AND MARA CORDAY. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I promised myself that I’d watch some good-quality science fiction B-movies this October in the run-up to Halloween. TARANTULA! was first on the list because it quite literally topped my physical to-watch pile, which is still teetering on an already too-crowded table-top in my living-room even as I write this.
Also, TARANTULA! and Leo G. Carroll are both referenced in another iconic horror film, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, which I re-watched recently and which reminded me to speedily re-acquaint myself with the wonder and the glory of ‘Fifties B-movies.
THE BLOB, IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA, ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES and Ray Harryhausen’s TWENTY MILLION MILES TO EARTH are all still in that to-watch pile. I can’t wait to rewatch ’em!
Anyway, TARANTULA! is a surprisingly good watch. I was expecting a certain amount of hamminess and cheesiness in the film but it’s got so much more to it than just camp value. The simply marvellous Leo G. Carroll plays Professor Gerald Beemer, a scientist whose concern that over-population will cause food shortages in the future leads him to over-inject a bunch of lab rats and hamsters and spiders with a super-nutrient.
Remember when Lisa Simpson in the ‘Is My Brother Dumber Than A Hamster?’ episode of THE SIMPSONS fantasises that her giant tomato will cure world hunger but Bart chucks it at Principal Skinner’s butt instead? (‘Over, under, in and out, that’s what shoe-tying’s all about…!’)
Well, that’s all the poor Professor is trying to do but seriously, when he realises that the tarantula he’s injecting with the growth-hormones is growing bigger than anyone would ever want or need a spider to be, why the devil doesn’t he kill the hideous bloody thing?
Well, that’d be too easy, wouldn’t it? Instead, he accidentally allows it to escape from his lab and start terrorising the people (and cattle!) of Desert Rock in Arizona with its one-hundred-feet of black, hairy repulsive monstrousness.
It’s then up to Deemer’s attractive assistant Steve Clayton and her (yep, Steve, real name Stephanie, is a woman…!) doctor beau Matt Hastings to track the thing down and kill it before it destroys the town of Desert Rock. It sure would be a shame if anything happened to those three shops.
Speaking of Steve, it was so funny during the film when the subtitles would read: ‘Steve panicking’ or ‘Steve screaming.’ It’s funny because Steve’s a woman, see, not a big capable bloke? Well, I thought it was flippin’ hilarious…!
The giant tarantula is amazing. Every time it loomed over the darkened hills towards the peacably grazing poor moo-cows or horses I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, and not just because I’m slightly more than a smidgeon arachnophobic. It’s just incredibly well-done.
The best and most atmospheric scene, in my humble opinion, is when the tarantula pays a terrifying late-night visit to the home of the scientist who so misguidedly decided to give growth hormones to possibly one of nature’s ugliest and most fearsome beasts. Kudos, my dear Professor Beemer. Kudos…
By the way, prepare to learn a new word during the film. That word is acromegalia. It gets thrown around a lot in this movie, which is one of the best and most solid B-movies I’ve personally ever seen.
It’s just great fun and the storyline, while being maybe a tad unbelievable, is still bloody scary because they used a tarantula for the villain and not, say, a duck or a sausage dog. Watch it, watch it, watch it and then watch it again. It’s just that good.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY