Tag Archives: Mara Corday

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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The Gauntlet (1977, Clint Eastwood)

I think I watched The Gauntlet for masochistic reasons, namely screenwriters Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack, the late 1970s, early 1980s version of Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner–incompetent Hollywood writers. Even so, the film’s not wholly terrible. It’s rarely exciting, just because the action sequences are so poorly written, and Clint approaches the whole thing with a sense of boredom. His character’s real shallow and the film would barely work if it weren’t for Sondra Locke and Eastwood’s chemistry. Locke’s actually got some really good moments–which is hard, considering how bad her character is written for the first half or so–including a great monologue comparing hookers and cops. In the later half of the film, once the two of them improbably fall in love, there’s even a neat idea of a scene, but again the writing kills it.

About fifteen minutes into The Gauntlet, I realized it was not dissimilar to Clint’s earlier, Coogan’s Bluff, but the greatest difference between the two is that lack of interest I mentioned before. Clint shoots this one in lots of long shots, concentrating on the physicality of the situations and not the characters, as though if he did, the characters might have to realize the absurdity of their situation. So it isn’t just the script making the character shallow, it’s also Clint’s direction of himself–those long shots make the character empty. His performance is sort of broad. When he’s interested, he acts; when he’s not, he’s on autopilot.

The supporting cast is fantastic–William Prince, Pat Hingle, and Michael Cavanaugh are all good. The names in the movie are some of the most absurd I’ve heard: Blakelock, Feyderspiel, Shockley. The actors stumble over them with a lot of trouble–audible trouble, which sometimes makes the more boring scenes funny. An interesting, IMDb-fueled note: this film reunites Clint with Mara Corday. They both appeared in Tarantula twenty-two years earlier, though they didn’t have any scenes together (and Clint wasn’t credited). That bit of trivia–and the possibility of a story behind it–is more interesting than anything in The Gauntlet, except, I suppose, my newfound regard for Sondra Locke’s acting ability.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Clint Eastwood; screenplay by Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack; director of photography, Rexford Metz; edited by Ferris Webster and Joel Cox; music by Jerry Fielding; produced by Robert Daley; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Clint Eastwood (Ben Shockley), Sondra Locke (Gus Mally), Pat Hingle (Josephson), William Prince (Blakelock), Bill McKinney (Constable), Michael Cavanaugh (Feyderspiel), Carole Cock (Waitress), Mara Corday (Jail matron), Douglas McGrath (Bookie) and Jeff Morris (Desk Sergeant).


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