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Monday, August 18, 2014

Tarantula (1955)

I know Leo G Carroll was over a barrel when Tarantula took to the hills…everybody sing!  Yet another Sci-Fi classic immortalized by the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and this one is worth singing about!  Tarantula is a fine example of those fun “creature features” from the 1950’s that were adored by kiddies as well as their parents.  It’s simply good, clean family fun that gets it right at every turn.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s right up there with my favorite from this era Them! (1954).

Director Jack Arnold [Creature From the Black Lagoon, It Came From Outerspace] and producer William Alland [Creature From the Black Lagoon, Revenge of the Creature] know their stuff and give the movie a nice look and pace.  A beautiful musical score by Henri Mancini [The Pink Panther] only enhances the action and helps to heighten the tension.

The basic story involves a not-so-mad scientist, played by the wonderful Leo G. Carroll [North by Northwest, Strangers on a Train], whose experiments with growth hormones have unintended consequences.  Along for the ride are his gorgeous new research assistant Stephanie and a colleague named Dr. Hastings.  Mara Corday [The Black Scorpion] smashes a few 1950’s stereotypes with this role.  She’s smart and is taken seriously in the lab.  She only screams slightly, never faints, and rescues her own damn self!  Way to go, sister!  John Agar [The Virginian] is also great as the “leading man” and gives a great performance through and through.

Tarantula is helped by a smart screenplay whose science sounds believable, as well as Bud Westmore’s make-up that would make the legendary Jack Pierce smile.  As an added bonus, watch the final scene carefully and you’ll spot a young Clint Eastwood as a military pilot.  While he has an air mask on, you simply can’t mistake those eyes for anyone else’s!

The giant tarantula that terrorizes everyone is…well…a tarantula that is clearly magnified to epic proportions.  The handlers of the arachnid in question used air jets to make it move in the direction they wanted over a  well-built miniature landscape.  The effect is pretty good for 1950’s standards.  An uncredited Wah Chang [The Time Machine, Planet of the Apes] also designed a tarantula puppet that is used for close-ups.  It is very well made which also helps the monster to look convincing.

You can’t go wrong with Tarantula.  It’s a joy to watch from start to finish. 

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

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