Blu-ray Review: TARANTULA! (1955)

TARANTULA! was directed by Jack Arnold from a screenplay he co-wrote with Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley and stars John Agar, Mara Corday, Leo G. Carroll, Nestor Paiva and Ross Elliott and features a cameo by Clint Eastwood as a jet squadron leader.

Biochemist Gerald Deemer (Leo G. Carroll) has a plan to feed the world by using a special growth formula on plants and animals. Instead he creates terror beyond imagining when his work spawns a spider of mammoth proportions!Feeding on cattle and humans, this towering tarantula has the people of Desert Rock, Arizona running for their lives. Can this horrifying creature be stopped, or will the world succumb to this oversized arachnid?

This 1955 eight-legged creature feature takes place in Desert Rock, Arizona and follows Gerald Deemer (Leo G. Carroll), a brilliant biochemist who’s been working on a new kind food source and he’s been using small animals and insects as his guinea pigs. No pun intended. Radiation is also a part of his work and we all know something like this never ends well because there’s always side effects. A disaster strikes that leaves the good doctor’s experiments all destroyed, except for the one tarantula that’s able to make its escape from what’s left of the laboratory. This is where Dr. Matt Hastings (John Agar) and Stephanie ‘Steve’ Clayton (Mara Corday) enter the picture. Matt is kind of famliar with the professor and Stephanie has just arrived to be Deemer’s new assistant but neither one knows what has happened.

What happens is, Matt and Stephanie hit it off immediately after they meet and when they arrive at Deemer’s home/lab, they not only discover the aftermath of the disaster but that it has also left Deemer mutated. Deemer is literally melting away right in front of them. Don’t worry, this is explained in the movie but I don’t want to ruin it for you. He’s a good guy but his experiments come back to haunt him. Anyway, it doesn’t take long for Matt and Stephanie to find the tarantula that has now grown into a 100-foot meateating monster so they find themselves on the defensive. The two are on the run from the beast and they end up running into the local law enforcement and military that have a powerful plan to stop the giant spider in its tracks.

The front of the packaging features the artwork you see at the top of the page and the back includes movie details, some images and list of special features. The reverse sleeve features some classic promo art. The Blu-ray disc also features some artwork that matches the front cover. Inserting the disc, the menu screen was simple and easy to navigate. Tarantula! has been given a new 2K scan of the original film elements. The picture and sound quality for this high-definition release were crisp and clear. I didn’t have any issues with the video and audio.

Bottom line is, Tarantula! is one of those fun horror classics that blends post-war nuclear fallout paranoia with the whole mad scientist sub-genre with the end result being an escaped giant creature that is on the loose. Sure, the movie has some cheese to it but it’s a pretty darn cool sci-fi horror movie for its time. These old Universal International movies slowly moved away from the famous monsters and introduced the creature features that included giant animals, massive insects and everything in between. The story for this one is interesting even though I questioned the way the good professor was doing his experiments, but I’m just here to watch the movie, not to ask questions. I thought the cast did a great job with their characters but I kept waiting on the romance to fully kick in between John Agar and Mara Corday who were really fun to follow. Even though Tarantula! stalls a bit in the middle I thought Jack Arnold did a good job with it and there’s some pretty neat old school practical effects and camera tricks to go along with it. Tarantula! will make its Blu-ray debut in the U.S. on April 30th.

Distributor: Scream Factory

Run Time: 81 Minutes

Rated: Not Rated

Blu-ray Video: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.85:1)

Blu-ray Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English

Special Features: The extras include some audio commentary, theatrical trailer, still gallery and poster and lobby card gallery.

  • NEW audio commentary with film historians Tom Weaver, Dr. Robert J. Kiss and David Schecter
  • Theatrical Trailer (01:52)
  • Still Gallery (04:15)
  • Poster and Lobby Card Gallery (04:55)
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