Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Tarantula


Here's another one from Svengoolie that I missed somehow growing up. TARANTULA is a pretty good entry from the giant creature genre. Nuclear biologist Leo G. Carroll (best known as either Cosmo Topper or Alexander Waverly, depending on your age, I guess; I remember him as both of them) is working on a formula that will solve the world's hunger problem. Unfortunately it has a couple of side effects: it makes animals grow incredibly big, and it turns human subjects into acromegalic freaks. Naturally, one of the test subjects is a tarantula that gets loose, grows to 100 times its normal size, and terrorizes the nearby desert community. John Agar is the local doctor (when I was a kid I had a good friend who was a huge John Agar fan), Mara Corday is a gorgeous graduate student, Raymond Bailey (Milburn Drysdale from THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES) is another scientist, and a very young Clint Eastwood is a fighter pilot who has three or four lines and is on-screen maybe 30 seconds. Despite the occasional lapse of logic in the screenplay, TARANTULA is a well-made film directed by Jack Arnold and watching it was a considerable amount of fun.

One thing struck me, though, during the opening scene where one of the human victims of the formula dies in the desert (a pretty effective opening, by the way): a lot of these movies were shot in the same locations where many Western movies were made. Then later, during the town scenes where there are lots of guys in cowboy hats walking around, the thought crystalized. They should have made one of these giant creature movies with Roy Rogers. Just imagine Roy, backed up by Andy Devine, Foy Willing, and the Riders of the Purple Sage (since it's the Fifties and Gabby Hayes and the Sons of the Pioneers have moved on by then) fighting some giant grasshopper or such, in a movie directed by William Witney and written by Sloan Nibley. I'd watch that!

8 comments:

Bill Crider said...

That Roy Rogers idea should be a story in OTHERVERSE.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Let's just say John Agar's career went way, way downhill after this (the drinking, presumably, had at least something to do with that, though it might have been the result of the bad movies), with such nearly unwatchable trash as Larry Buchanan's Curse of the Swamp Creature yet to come.

Jeff M.

James Reasoner said...

Bill,
You're right. Maybe if there's a Volume 2.

Jeff,
I like John Agar in those early movies he did with John Wayne but never saw most of his other work. My friend was a big fan of the Fifties SF/monster movies and knew him mostly from those. Drinking's certainly ruined plenty of Hollywood careers (and other kinds, too, I expect).

Charles Gramlich said...

I've either seen it or seen parts of it. But these old monster films kind of run together in memory for me.

Fred Blosser said...

John Agar had a small but memorable role in Clive Barker's NIGHT BREED, of all movies.

Daniel Stumpf said...

Closest they came to your dream-movie was BEAST OF HOLLOW MOUNTAIN (1956) with western star Guy Madison fighting a T-rex.

Cap'n Bob said...

How about Mighty Joe Young? Or was it The Monster of Gila Flats or something like that? I should research before I yammer.

Daniel Stumpf said...

Back in the late 60s, Bob Dylan came out with a book called TARANTULA, and I remember when one of my college buddies asked if I rad it, I said, "No, but I've seen the movie."

No one got it then, either.