Yesterday's mention of a tarantula reminded me of a better-than-average "giant bug" movie called "Tarantula" (1955). Set in the fictional town of Desert Rock, Arizona, the movie starts off with the discovery of the body of a mysteriously deformed man named Eric Jacobs. Jacobs was an assistant to Professor Gerald Deemer (Leo G. Carroll), a scientist doing research in his home just outside of town. The local doctor, Dr. Matt Hastings (John Agar), is baffled as to how this man died. He appeared to have suffered from an advanced case of acromegaly, but since this disease takes years to progress and Jacobs was known to be completely normal only a few weeks before his death, Dr. Hastings cannot believe this to be the case. The doctor and the town sheriff, Jack Andrews (Nestor Paiva), ask Deemer for more information. Deemer insists that Jacobs did suffer from acromegaly and refuses to consent to an autopsy.
Deemer returns to his lab, where the exact nature of his experiments is revealed. In an attempt to create a efficient food source that will support the growing world population, the professor is injecting animals with a nutrient that causes them to grow to huge sizes at an accelerated rate. Unfortunately, the substance also caused Jacobs' deformity and has affected Paul Lund, Deemer's second assistant, as well. Lund suddenly enters the lab and goes berserk, attempting to destroy the lab. He knocks out the professor, sets the lab on fire, injects the unconscious Deemer with the nutrient, and then dies. Deemer recovers in time to put out the fire and bury Lund's body, but unfortunately one of his test subjects, a giant tarantula, has escaped.
The next day a new research assistant hired by the now deceased Jacobs, Stephanie ("Steve") Clayton (Mara Corday), arrives in Desert Rock. Dr. Hastings gives her a ride out to Professor Deemer's house, and Deemer invites her to stay and assist him, explaining the damage to the lab as an accident. She agrees, and they set to work, but she begins to notice that the professor's features are changing, and she fears for his health. Meanwhile, livestock and even humans are dying mysteriously in the desert, their bones picked clean and surrounded by large pools of a fluid that Dr. Hastings identifies as spider venom. The escaped tarantula has continued to grow and it is only a matter of time before the residents of Desert Rock find themselves fighting for their lives as they attempt to destroy the giant rampaging creature.
This is one of the better giant bug movies -- the story line is interesting, the actors play their roles well, and even the special effects are believable. If you are not familiar with this subset of the genre, "Tarantula" is an excellent introduction.
Interesting Fact: A very young Clint Eastwood has an uncredited role as a fighter jet pilot near the end of the movie.
Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 0
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