When Tarantula took to the hills"
The quintessential Giant Spider movie.
Near a small Arizonan town, Professor Gerald Deemer (Leo G. Carroll), suspecting burgeoning global food shortage problems due to an increasing world population, has been attempting to develop a serum which people can feed off exclusively. Alas, when trying it on rats, rabbits and a tarantula, all it does is cause them to grow to enormous proportions, and when humans take it, it causes them to develop acromegaly, go mad, and die. Deemer's two lab assistants take the serum when he is gone one day, causing one to die, and the other to go mad and attack Deemer, injecting him with the serum himself. During their fight, the cage of the tarantula, which is already about the size of a large dog, is shattered, and it escapes into the desert. Shortly afterwards, local doctor Matt Hastings (John Agar) brings in Deemer's new assistant Stephanie "Steve" Clayton (B-Movie scream queen Mara Corday). As Deemer's condition deteriorates due to the serum, Hastings romances Clayton. But then the livestock of local farmers start turning up dead. The escaped tarantula, sure enough, has grown to even bigger proportions; now those of a large building. It is now up to Deemer, Hastings, Clayton and the local sheriff to stop it.
The film is honestly one of the better 1950s B giant monster movies. While it could potentially have been a narm-fest characterized by a cheap stop-motion puppet, like The Giant Claw, instead the special effects, though dated today, were actually pretty fair for their day.
Among other things, the film is notable for the appearance of a 25-year-old Clint Eastwood in an uncredited role as a fighter pilot at the end of the film.
This film provides examples of:
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever
- Developing Doomed Characters: We don't really see the spider in its fully-grown, people-eating, building-destroying glory until about 47 minutes into the film. Until then, there's just a few shots of it escaping the lab and wandering around in the desert.
- Failed a Spot Check: Steve is apparently unable to see the giant tarantula filling her entire window whilst wandering around her bedroom. That could be justified in that it was in the middle of the night, and she was getting ready for bed. She was too tired to be looking for a giant spider.
- Gender-Blender Name: "Steve" Clayton. Short for Stephanie.
- Giant Spider: Ummmm, duh.
- Gratuitous Laboratory Flasks: Deemer's at-home laboratory has an impressive array of big retorts and curly glass tubes.
- Hot Scientist: Stephanie "Steve" Clayton.
- Kaiju: Take a wild guess.
- Karmic Transformation: Deemer gets turned into the same kind of malformed mutant as one of the men he kills early on.
- Karmic Death: Deemer ends up killed by the same tarantula he created.
- Kill It with Fire: The giant tarantula finally bites it when the Air Force drops a ton of napalm on it.
- Mad Scientist: Deemer. He's Affably Evil enough, but making a serum to make animals grow to huge sizes is definitely Mad Science.
- My Car Hates Me: Two policemen attempt to flee the tarantula in a car that was working fine not two minutes before. Naturally, it won't start.
- Professor Guinea Pig: Revealed to be the fate of Deemer's fellow researchers, who tested the growth nutrient on themselves despite failed animal testings.
- Rodents of Unusual Size: Deemer's lab has couple of blown up rats, rabbits and guinea pigs.
- Screaming Woman: Steve
- Spiders Are Scary: Especially the 100 foot high ones. But this one was scary enough when only the size of the aforementioned large dog.
- Touch of the Monster: Of the Rape of the Sabine Women variety, see above.
- Covers Always Lie: There is no scene of the tarantula holding a woman in its jaws in the film.
- Weird Science