Blu-ray Review: Tarantula

A lot of people are afraid of spiders. They’re creepy and crawly on their four legs. But do you need to really fear them? There’s only two reason to be truly fearful of a spider. First is if they are poisonous. There’s no need to mock someone for not wanting to let a black widow or brown recluse wander on the back of their neck. The second is if the spider is bigger than the size of your house. Director Jack Arnold startled audiences in 1955 when he brought both of those true fears into a single black and white science fiction nightmare called Tarantula.

Deep in the desert a scientist (The Man from U.N.C.L.E‘s Leo G. Carroll) is doing his best to create a break through in livestock growth. He’s got a new serum that might be the solution for humanity. However there might be quite a few issues with the professor’s experiments. First there’s the mystery of what happened to his partner. Dr. Matt Hastings (The Mole People‘s John Agar) is the local medical guy who has to figure out what went wrong. He gets a bit distracted at the professor’s lab with the arrival of the new research assistant Stephanie “Steve” Clayton (The Black Scorpion‘s Mara Corday). This budding romance has a lot of bumps because it turns out the scientist’s growth formula was received by a Tarantula that’s not roaming the desert look for food and town to terrorize. Will anyone survive this science project gone wrong?

Tarantula was one of the kings of the giant bug movies that took over movie theaters in the ’50s. Audiences screamed at the nightmare of a spider that couldn’t be slapped flat with a slipper. The effects in the film hold up as the Tarantula wanders the landscape. Jack Arnold was hot coming off of Creature from the Black Lagoon and Revenge of the Creature. He’d revisit the man versus the spider battle in The Incredible Shrinking Man. Arnold and his effects crew make his first eight-legged monster convincing enough for a crowd eager to be thrilled. The film has been popular over the decades. The trivia of it having an early performance from Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry kept its profile high. Raymond Bailey also shows up, but doesn’t quite look like Mr. Drysdale from The Beverly Hillbillies. Tarantula was a must see as part of the Creature Double Feature across the country. Even recently it proved popular when it ran on METV’s Svengoolie. This is a must have for anyone who likes their insects bigger than a VW Bug.

The video has both a 1.85:1 anamorphic and 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers for both look astounding and don’t take away from the fearful spider. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track. You’ll hear all the screams of terror as the Tarantula shows up in town. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentary by film historians Tom Weaver, Dr. Robert J. Kiss, and David Schecter. They really go deep on Jack Arnold and how he basically adapted the film out of an episode of Science Fiction Theater that he directed. There was a lot of drama as Arnold didn’t want to give credit to the place

Theatrical Trailer (1:52) promises 8 hairy legs of fear on the big screen.

Still Gallery (4:15) has a lot of pictures of Agar and Corday screaming.

Poster and Lobby Card Gallery (4:55) promises a spider like no other. The films was “Suitable Only For Adults” according to some posters.

Scream Factory presents Tarantula. Directed by Jack Arnold. Screenplay by: Robert M. Fresco & Martin Berkeley. Starring: Leo G. Carroll, John Agar, Mara Corday, Nestor Paiva and Raymond Bailey. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 80 minutes. Released: April 30, 2019.

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