Plot: Professor Deemer (Leo G. Carroll) is certain that mankind’s future is bleak, as the population skyrockets and food production stagnates, which signals that at some point, starvation is inevitable. Deemer and his colleagues are desperate to find a solution, so they explore the concept of a growth serum, as that could take current food yields and grow the harvest. The pursuit is a noble one, but the radiation involved winds up killing one scientist and infecting Deemer, much to the horror of Stephanie (Mara Corday), who stumbles upon the tragic results of the research. In the wake of the tragic events, she notices that one of the test subjects has managed to escape, which means a rather large tarantula is now the loose. As the massive arachnid prowls the area, can even the military bring down such an imposing foe?
Entertainment Value: Sometimes you just want to see an overgrown spider run roughshod over mankind and in those moments, you want to lean on a classic like Tarantula. The movie delivers on the title, giving us numerous shots of the spider and while dated by today’s standards, some of the special effects hold up and had to be quite an experience at the time. The giant tarantula, lumbering toward the camera with bad intentions, still holds some b movie magic. This one has immense camp value of course, with the focus on special effects, some odd moments, and an overly serious vibe that makes things all the more fun. Tarantula has less b movie science than most, which is kind of a let down, but it compensates by giving us so much footage of the spider, in all kinds of situations. The scene where the beast peeks into a window, King Kong style, is a big highlight. So while some of these monster movies just tease, Tarantula is never shy about letting the big guy loose.
A seasoned veteran of the b movie realm, John Agar is always a welcome presence in these kind of movies and here is no exception. I’ve always liked Agar’s work, as he seems like a natural for these kind of genre hero roles and turns in earnest work, which helps the movies a lot. His performance here is rock solid, perhaps not flashy or overly memorable, but he is fun to watch. Of course, when he has to compete for attention with the beautiful Mara Corday, being memorable is a tough assignment. She does what the role asks, which is stand there and look gorgeous, so while she isn’t given much to do, she nails the role. Leo G. Carroll is good as our intrepid scientist, while Nestor Paiva is a lot of fun as the no nonsense local law enforcement. The serious, sincere performances work wonders for Tarantula, as it either adds drama or offers camp value, depending on your view, but in both cases, it is a positive result. This is one of the true classics of the giant creature genre, a brisk picture that lets us bask in the massive arachnid and soak up the b movie fun.
The Disc: Scream Factory brings this old school monster movie to Blu-ray, in a solid looking treatment that improves on previous releases. The print looks quite clean and clear, allowing good detail levels to shine through and while fine detail isn’t that remarkable, it is a step up. The image looks sharp and consistent, with deep, inky contrast that never wavers. The extras include a film historian audio commentary led by Tom Weaver, which looks at the career of director Jack Arnold and the film’s special effects, among other topics. You can also check out some still photos and the film’s theatrical trailer.