A scene from TARANTULA, directed by Jack Arnold for Universal Pictures.

Tarantula (1955, Jack Arnold)

Science may make monsters, but the morale of the story–according to Tarantula anyway–is the Air Force will always be there to bomb such monsters back to the Stone Age.

The problem with Tarantula is fairly simple… it’s not a movie about a giant tarantula. Oh, it might have room for one, but to make the finale all about this giant tarantula is a mistake. While the special effects are good, this ending distracts from all the better things about the film.

As for the better things–first and foremost is the relationship between small town doctor John Agar and sheriff Nestor Paiva. It’s implied the characters are friendly, but their scenes together reveal a very complicated relationship.

But there’s also the romance between Agar and Mara Corday. It’s quiet and gradual and it’s too bad Arnold didn’t have more courting scenes.

The acting in the film is all strong. Agar’s more a likable actor than a good one, but he’s still got some great deliveries. Corday’s surprisingly strong, Paiva is outstanding. Ross Elliot and Hank Patterson do well in small roles.

The acting can almost carry the film. Until the half way mark, there’s no giant tarantula, just Agar and Corday courting. But all of the action happens in the last twenty minutes. The film’s rushed, skipping over important details to finish in a timely manner.

Tarantula is good fifties science fiction. Arnold’s confident direction and the fine performances make up for the misfired ending (and bad music).

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Jack Arnold; screenplay by Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley, based on a story by Arnold and Fresco; director of photography, George Robinson; edited by William Morgan; music by Herman Stein; produced by William Alland; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring John Agar (Dr. Matt Hastings), Mara Corday (Stephanie ‘Steve’ Clayton), Leo G. Carroll (Prof. Gerald Deemer), Nestor Paiva (Sheriff Jack Andrews), Ross Elliott (Joe Burch), Edwin Rand (Lt. John Nolan), Raymond Bailey (Townsend), Hank Patterson (Josh), Bert Holland (Barney Russell) and Steve Darrell (Andy Andersen).

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