January 31st, 2011: Tarantula (1955)

Cast and Crew:  Jack Arnold (Director)

What It’s About: Desert Rock, Arizona doctor Matthew Hastings (John Agar) finds local scientist Eric Jacobs (Eddie Parker) dead of advanced acromegalia (uncontrolled growth).  The problem is, the man didn’t show any signs of the conditions just a few days earlier.  Jacobs’ employer, Professor Gerald Deemer (Leo G. Carroll) is working on a new formula to grow animals to enormous sizes to end food shortages.  Together with Deemer’s beautiful new assistant “Steve” Clayton (Mara Corday), Hastings must first find out what happened-and then warn the town when one of Deemer’s test subjects, a tarantula, escapes and grows to enormous size, threatening the entire community.

Why Watch it Today?: Star John Agar, one of the patron saints of bad movies, was born today in 1921.  Agar’s first break in Hollywood came the old-fashioned way:  he married into it.  The wife in question was none other than an all-grown-up Shirley Temple.  Agar started at the top, appearing in the first two John Ford “Cavalry” pictures and The Sands of Iwo Jima in supporting roles, but quickly found himself playing the leads in sci-fi and horror films before finally fading into character parts.  Agar’s wooden acting and sub-matinee idol looks kept Agar from the A-list, but in his better B-films, Agar is an acceptable, if goofy, lead, while in the worst his terrible acting actually adds to the proceedings.  Tarantula belongs in the former category, one of the best monster films Universal put out in the 1950s, with tight effects, a reasonably fast-moving plot with likable characters, and the beautiful Corday to pick up Agar’s slack.  Look for Clint Eastwood in a bit part as a jet pilot.

Where to Get It:  Netflix (Rental only) or Amazon

The Trailer:

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