HoliDANGER! #3: Tarantula (1955)
The DANGER: A tarantula the size of an aircraft hangar, grown by synthetic super nutrients! Leaves only skeletons of its prey behind! Gallons of venom at its disposal! As described by a scientist: "Fiercer; more cruel and deadly than anything that ever walked the Earth."
A lone figure stumbles into the desolate desert expanse. Disoriented, he turns to reveal his monstrous visage, marred by swellings and deformities. He collapses. Thus Jack Arnold's Tarantula begins, with one of the most striking opening moments in monster movie history. The poor soul featured was a scientist, suffering from his own experiment, a super nutrient formula meant to compensate for food scarcity, but capable of so much more. It's a potent and unusual creative choice, to show such a visceral human consequence of an experiment that also yields the title creature. The thumbnail I used for the introduction to this series features one of the stricken.
Tarantula has a notably sharp script, with particularly distinct characters. The cast serves the smart dialogue perfectly, and are likeable all around. Mara Corday, who was also in The Black Scorpion, plays a scientist with the endearing gender swapped nickname of Steve. I believe one of the fighter pilots, obscured by an oxygen mask, is none other than Clint Eastwood, who was also in Jack Arnold's Revenge Of The Creature. The monster itself is portrayed by an actual tarantula (or multiple tarantulas), combined with actual location footage, or miniatures. While I generally don't care for this technique of simply using actual animal footage as a monster, it is employed here to pretty good effect. There is a terrific moment of coordination between the two planes of footage, wherein the giant arachnid knocks over a telephone pole, as it walks over a desert road. This actually results in characters losing communication, which is brilliant. Further, the film captures the sheer scale of the creature, which is memorable in itself.