• Tarantula (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: April 23rd, 2019.
    Director: Jack Arnold
    Cast: John Agar, Mara Corday, Leo G. Carroll, Nestor Paiva, Ross Elliott, Edwin Rand
    Year: 1955
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    Tarantula – Movie Review:

    Jack Arnold’s 1955 killer spider movie Tarantula introduces us to Professor Gerald Deemer (Leo G. Carroll), an industrious man with big brains and a strong work ethic. He’s the genius behind a newly developed growth formula, the kind of growth formula that he naively hopes will be used for good and never cause unexpected results when being tested on a tarantula in an otherwise perfectly safe laboratory setting.

    Oops. Soon, Professor Deemer finds himself over a barrel (sorry) when said spider doesn’t just double in size as he had figured it would… no, this thing keeps growing and growing and growing and before you know it, this thing has escaped into the deserts of Arizona and goes rampaging across the landscape. When young Dr. Matt Hastings (John Agar) gets word of this, he hopes to do what he can with a bit of help from Deemer’s foxy ‘assistant’ Stephanie 'Steve' Clayton (Mara Corday) and a spunky town sheriff (Nestor Paiva) the race is on to stop this beast before it lays waste to everyone and everything in its path.

    Jack Arnold gave us a lot of kick-ass B-movies in his day, having directed legitimate classics like The Creature From The Black Lagoon and its first sequel and The Incredible Shrinking Man to fun B—movies like It Came From Outer Space and High School Confidential. Tarantula falls somewhere in the middle, not his best but not his worst. If it lacks the awesomeness of something like the Creature films, its still a seriously entertaining vintage sci-fi picture made on a modest budget. If you’re not feeling too picky, it is a really enjoyable way to kill some time!

    Like a lot of monster movies, the film is at its best when the creature itself is on screen. For this particular film, Arnold and company used an actual tarantula and some air jets to manipulate its movements on various sets. It works quite well, and the spider moves like an actual spider rather than an animatronic or stop-motion creation (not that there’s anything wrong with those effects tactics!). While it’s fair to criticize the movie for not featuring enough giant spider mayhem, anytime or titular eight-legged behemoth shows up, the movie is gold. We also get some cool makeup effects and a giant guinea pig thrown into the mix for good measure.

    Thankfully, even when the spider isn’t on screen, we’ve got a pretty cool cast to keep us entertained. Carroll makes for a fine scientist, he looks like a ‘smart guy’ and plays the role well. John Agar is fine in his part as well, while Mara Corday is a stone-cold fox through and through. The cast do a nice job of bringing this all together, and hey, check out a young Clint Eastwood in an uncredited early role as a fighter pilot.

    Tarantula – Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory brings Tarantula to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen taken from a ‘new 2k scan of original film elements.’ Whatever those elements were, they were in pretty nice shape. The black and white image looks really good, showing nice detail and texture and remaining filmic throughout. There are no problems with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression problems. This is a solid transfer with inky blacks, clean whites, nice grey scale and great contrast.

    The only audio option provided for the feature is an English language DTS-HD Mono track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. No problems here. The no frills single channel mix gets the job done with no problems whatsoever.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary featuring Film Historians Tom Weaver, Dr. Robert J. Kiss and David Schecter. It's a fun track with some great info about where the studio was at when this was made as well as some facts and figures about Arnold's career to this point. They talk up the cast and crew a lot, discuss the use of stock footage and effects and compare it to other monster/giant bug movies from the era. Good stuff.

    Rounding out the extras are a theatrical trailer for the feature, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    Tarantula – The Final Word:

    Tarantula is a pretty fun way to kill eighty-minutes or so. The movie is nicely paced and feature some pretty enjoyable performances. It isn’t deep and it shows its age, but there’s plenty of entertainment value here. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray looks and sounds quite nice and the commentary is quite interesting as well. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Tarantula screen caps!