|Directed by||Jack Arnold|
|Produced by||William Alland|
|Written by||Robert M. Fresco
From a story by Ray Bradbury (uncredited).
|Music by||Herman Stein|
|Editing by||William Morgan|
|Distributed by||Universal Studios|
|Release date(s)||December 14, 1955|
|Running time||81 min.|
Tarantula is a 1955 science fiction film directed by Jack Arnold, and starring Leo G. Carroll, John Agar, and Mara Corday.
The plot concerns a biological researcher, Professor Gerald Deemer, who is trying to prevent the food shortages which will result from the world's expanding population. With the help of atomic science, he invents a special nutrient on which animals can live exclusively, but which causes them to grow to many times their normal size. In his laboratory, he houses several over-sized rodents and, inexplicably, a Mexican red rumped tarantula.
When his researchers try the nutrient, they develop runaway acromegaly. One of them is driven mad, half destroys the lab (freeing the animals), and attacks Deemer, injecting him with the solution. The tarantula is one of the creatures freed. As a result, Deemer gradually becomes more and more deformed while the now-gigantic tarantula ravages the countryside. A sympathetic doctor, Matt Hastings, and Deemer's female assistant, Stephanie Clayton, investigate the mystery of the clean-picked animal bones and eight-foot pools of arachnid venom, which the spider leaves behind: it also wrecks the Deemer lab. The spider is eventually destroyed, after several failed attempts, by a napalm attack launched from a jet fighter squadron.
The film's poster, featuring a spider with two eyes instead of the normal eight, and carrying a woman in its fangs, does not represent any actual scene in the film.
- Leo G. Carroll as Prof. Gerald Deemer
- John Agar as Dr. Matt Hastings
- Mara Corday as Stephanie Clayton
- Nestor Paiva as Sheriff Jack Andrews
- Ross Elliott as Joe Burch
- Edwin Rand as Lt. John Nolan
- Raymond Bailey as Townsend
- Hank Patterson as Josh
- Bert Holland as Barney Russell
- Steve Darrell as Andy Andersen
The special effects for both the giant animals and the unfortunate scientist's deformity are fairly advanced for the time, with real animals (including a rabbit and a guinea pig in Professor Deemer's lab) being used to represent the giant creatures. A real spider was also used for shots where the whole monster was shown, with models reserved for close-ups (and its skyscraper-sized version), resulting in a rather more convincing monster than the giant ants in the earlier big-bug film Them! (1954).
The movie was filmed in and around the rock formations of "Dead Man's Point" in Lucerne Valley California, a frequently used movie location for many early western films. It takes place in the fictional town of Desert Rock, Arizona.
Like Them!, Tarantula makes atmospheric use of its desert locations; and although a radioactive isotope does make an appearance, it differs from most big-bug films in having the mutation caused by the peaceful research of a well-intentioned scientist rather than nuclear weapons and/or a mad genius. Director Jack Arnold was to use matte effects again two years later to show miniaturization rather than gigantism in The Incredible Shrinking Man, which also featured an encounter with a spider.
The film also features Clint Eastwood's first onscreen appearance, as a jet pilot commander.