October Countdown: Tarantula (1955)

Are you afraid of spiders?  What about nuclear mutation?  How about both!

Tarantula (1955)

Cast and Crew

Directed: Jack Arnold
Writing Credits: Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley

John Agar and Dr. Matt Hastings
Mara Corday and Stephanie ‘Steve’ Clayton
Leo G. Carroll and Prof. Gerald Deemer
Nestor Paiva and Sheriff Jack Andrews
Ross Elliott and Joe Burch
Edwin Rand and Lt. John Nolan
Raymond Bailey and Townsend
Hank Patterson and Josh
Bert Holland and Barney Russell
Steve Darrell and Andy Andersen


A spider escapes from an isolated Arizona desert laboratory experimenting in giantism and grows to tremendous size as it wreaks havoc on the local inhabitants. (From IMDB)

High Point

Seeing a female scientist be treated as you would expect any person to be treated was great.  This is typically an era where a female’s part is just to go make coffee.

Low Point

The technobabble and science jargon made up for the movie doesn’t hold up, especially in today’s age when the average person knows what an atom is.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 Giant monsters have been a staple of monster movies, but untrustworthy science producing monsters alone isn’t original, either.

Effects: 5/6 These are practical effects.  The slight resolution change between the enlarged creatures and the rest of the film is the only real indicator that we are looking at an effect.  To viewers of the fifties who are used to lower resolutions than views of today, these effects were even more convincing.  A minor quibble: the sound the tarantula seems to make comes off as the generic glowing sci-fi thing, not an tarantula.

Acting: 4/6 Everyone plays their parks very convincingly, and each character feels well developed and real.

Emotional Response: 5/6 Because of the solid acting and the character’s believability, the movie does cause some concern for their well-being, even without relying on arachnophobia.  The arachnophobia viewers are likely to have an even stronger response.

Story: 5/6 The pacing is not as slow as other pictures from the decade, and pseudoscience aside, it seems very believable.

Production: 6/6 Everything has been put together well.

Overall: 6/6 If viewed as a period piece, it works just as well today as it did when it debuted.

In total, Tarantula (1955) receive 33/42​.

October Countdown

Oct. 1: Tales of Halloween (2015)

Weekend of Oct. 7/8: Tomb of Ligeia (1964)

Weekend of Oct. 14/15: Hell Baby (2013)
Satan Wants You (2023)

Weekend of Oct. 21/22: Last Night in Soho (2021)

Weekend of Oct. 28/29: Anime Explorations: Vampire Hunter D (1985)

October 31: Renfield (2023)
Haunted House (2023)
Tarantula (1955)

1At first I suspected that this could be early enough to be the inspiration for others, but Godzilla dropped the year before.

One reply

  1. It’s a fun movie.
    A couple of points:
    The Beast from 20 000 Fathoms dropped even earlier, and is an acknowledged influence on Godzilla. Them! appeared the same year as Godzilla, and also gives us a fairly serious treatment of giant arthropods. I believe all of these have been reviewed here at some point or other, for interested parties.
    -While the film does well with its practical effects, there’s one brief moment where a corner of the spider disappears into the sky. It’s clear the “spider” footage was out of frame with the background footage into which it was matted.

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