Tarantula (1955)

Tarantula (1955)





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

A man with a strangely misshapen face wanders out of the desert near a small town and falls to the ground dead. The county sheriff (Nestor Paiva) tentatively identifies the dead man as Eric Jacobs, a laboratory assistant to Professor Deemer (Leo G. Carroll), a research scientist living a few miles out in the desert. But there's something strange about Jacobs; his facial features and bodily extremities are distorted to a point where he's barely recognizable. The sheriff calls in Dr. Matt Hastings … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Horror
Directed By:
Written By: Jack Arnold, Robert M. Fresco, Martin Berkeley
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jun 30, 1993
Universal Pictures

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as Dr. Matt Hastings

as Stephanie "Steve" Cl...

as Prof. Gerald Deemer

as John Burch

as Sheriff Jack Andrews

as Lt. John Nolan

as Barney Russell

as Andy Anderson

as Andy Anderson

as Paul Lund

as 1st Pilot

as Coed Secretary

as Telephone Operator

as Miner

as Trooper Grayson

as Warehouseman

as Trooper

as Trooper

as Deputy

as Warehouseman

as Jim Bagney

as Bus Driver
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Tarantula

All Critics (16) | Top Critics (2)

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The tongue-in-cheek tone would foreshadow another monster movie set in the desert, the nearly unsurpassed 1990 throwback Tremors.

Full Review… | October 21, 2011

... the evil unleashed on human society is the deliberate product of scientific hubris rather than atomic radiation gone astray.

Full Review… | June 30, 2011

Back in the 1950s when it was OK to call a woman 'Steve' . . .

Full Review… | April 22, 2010
Sci-Fi Movie Page

An easeful appreciation for the image of the poet as spider

Full Review… | April 19, 2010

Audience Reviews for Tarantula


Back in the 1950's there was a new type of horror science fiction genre created, giant bug movies. This pretty much came to the forefront with the giant ant thriller 'Them!', a movie about ants affected by radiation, nuclear mutants, and 50's America just loved nuclear stuff. A year later this aptly titled movie came along...and it pretty much speaks for itself really doesn't it.

Yep, so this movie is about a tarantula, and umm...it becomes giant and stuff. Well there is a little bit more to it than that, just a bit. A scientist is working on a super nutrient food, a replacement for actual food when the world eventually becomes overcrowded and food sources run out. Bare in mind this was the 50's! if people thought the world was overcrowded then...do I need to finish that sentence? sheesh! So this super nutrient is tested on various animals, some die, but some survive and live on, sometimes growing to huge proportions. Alas this nutrient does not work on humans so far, it results in death via acromegaly, gigantism. So guess what, this scientist happened to be testing this nutrient on a tarantula, not sure why, odd choice of creature for this experiment, but nevertheless he was and it escapes, unsurprisingly.

I think we all know how these type of movies play out. The main smartly dressed male hero travels around trying to work out what's going on, pretty much a detective movie for the most part. There are various local characters, usually farmers, that report unusual happenings or deaths on their land. The local police are usually baffled, often a few outsider experts are brought in, usually military or some foreign scientists, and here and there the odd faceless hillbilly is eaten alive by the giant creature. One thing is for sure, everyone is smartly dressed in the proper attire and well spoken.

Lets face it though, the plot is meaningless here, in most of these creature features the plot is redundant. Bottom line, everyone is waiting for the giant bug to eat people and the big finale showdown. This movie doesn't disappoint, sure it starts off slow as they all do, the plodding plot must introduce the various stereotypical characters, backstory and the incredible reasons why someone is trying some ludicrously dangerous experiment involving atomic power/energy. Once the eight legged monster is on the loose things do become enjoyable, you don't see anything nasty of course, its the atmosphere generated that's thrilling. The constant eerie chirping/humming sound that the tarantula makes for example, like its calling card as it approaches, highly effective and creepy.

Its the special effects that stand out in this flick, believe it or not they actually still hold up today. The use of a real tarantula is the reason it works so well, they actually had miniature landscapes which a real tarantula would creep across, controlling it with air jets. For the most part footage of the real tarantula was matted against live action footage of the actors, occasionally a real object would be knocked over in real time to simulate the tarantula brushing against it (nice touch). This effect is pretty crude of course but it works wonders here, helped largely by the fact the film is black and white so you can't really see the joins or matte lines. At other points when people were attacked at close quarters, large models were used. One of the most effective and eerie moments has to be when Stephanie (Mara Corday) is being watched by the huge arachnid through a window in true 'King Kong' style. Those massive eyes surrounded by hundreds of coarse bristles, peering in, its actually quite scary.

This movie also displayed some highly effective makeup and prosthetic work for some character suffering from gigantism. Back in the day these effects were pretty shocking and very impressive, and honestly, they still are. Admittedly not all of what we see is brilliant, but the close up shots of Leo G. Carroll as the professor with a bad case of gigantism in the face, is really solid. If you think along the lines of 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' (1939), then you get a good idea...but this is much better.

As with all movies of this genre there is of course much hilarity to be had, acting ability aside. I just love the sequences where the characters are driving around in cars (obviously a prop car with footage playing in the background), yet their hair remains motionless. Everyone refers to Corday's character of Stephanie as Steve, which is weird. When our hero Matt Hastings (John Agar) discovers the large pools of arachnid venom, he tastes it! like yeah...that's what you do. Plus wouldn't it kill him? seeing as its venom. Its bizarre that no one sees or hears this humongous tarantula runnin' around the countryside, its not something you tend to miss really, a mega sized black tarantula the size of sports stadium. Why don't missiles from fighter jets harm it? sure its a big spider...but those are fighter jet missiles! Why are these giant mutant bug occurrences always in a desert?

To add to that, the movies poster...oh boy. What was it with these posters back then, who designed them and more importantly, who allowed them to go ahead?? Once again the poster is completely inaccurate, at no point does the tarantula carry a helpless female in its pincers, and the tarantula doesn't have two eyes likes a regular mammal. I understand it was to generate excitement for the movie but come on!

I like me some old cheese, and this movie wins, it wins big. If you're after one of the best examples of the big bug genre from the 1950's, then this is it. This flick has everything you would expect and want from such a movie, plus it actually has really good effects to boot. Hell its probably the best big bug flick around if you ask me, science fiction legend Jack Arnold does it again. Oh and look out for the Clint Eastwood cameo towards the...ah everyone knows about that.

Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

Tarantula is yet another terrific monster film from the golden era of giant monsters. The film is a bit slow, but the payoff is exciting and thrilling. The cast do a good job in their performances, but like every other film dealing with giant creatures, the special effects steal away the show. Tarantula is sure to delight genre fans looking for an entertaining monster film. Tarantula delivers some memorable B movie moments, and you come to admire how well this film looks considering the fact that this was made in the 50's. Nowadays, we don't get films like this anymore, and it's always good to revisit the classics. Tarantula is very much in the same category as Them! a giant Ant movie of the same era. Tarantula is a wonderful monster film, one that every genre fan should check out, and it ranks among the finest horror films of the 50's. With a well thought out script, good acting and great effects, Tarantula captivates the viewer with stunning moments of monster mayhem. There are better monster films, and that's including Them! And the Blob, but Tarantula is nonetheless another great addition to the plateau of 1950's monster movies. Using a simple idea, the filmmakers were able to pull off something great with a basic idea. If you enjoy the genre, then give Tarantula shot. This ranks among the best of the decade, and in terms of mutated creature films, this one succeeds at being quite entertaining and is memorable from start to finish. With great acting, a simple, yet engaging story and awesome special effects, Tarantula is an impressive monster film that is sure to appeal to genre fans. Tarantula is yet another great 1950's era monster film that won't disappoint. The film may be a bit slow, but the payoff is worth it.

Alex roy

Super Reviewer


An enjoyable 50's creature feature in which the effects have aged rather well for the most part. A real tarantula was used in the scenes were the title creature crawls across a miniature desert landscape. There is also a scene where we see a lab full of enlarged animals that looks pretty cool. Despite some entertaining effects, the makeup used for the facial deformities of the professor guy look a bit laughable at times. The movie also boasts from some good acting from the cast, a good dose of atmosphere, and a welcome tongue-in-cheek nature. It is not mind-blowing, but it is a nice little creature feature that does not easily fall into the goofy self-seriousness that plagued some other 50's B-movies. Be on the look out for a young Clint Eastwood, who plays an ariel squad leader that attacks the giant tarantula in the film's blazing climax.

Christopher Heim
Christopher Heim

Super Reviewer

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