Tarantula (1955)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 6/7/15
Cast: John Agar, Mara Corday

More hysteria from the atomic age, as a brilliant scientist works on a synthetic nutrient in an attempt to solve the coming global food shortage due to overpopulation. Unfortunately, the use of a radioactive isotope makes the formula unstable, which yields unexpected results in the test subjects. One of the test subjects is a tarantula that manages to escape into the desert during an accident at the lab, and it grows to enormous size. It starts feeding on cattle, horses, and human beings, leaving behind only bones and strange pools of venom. Dr. Matt Hastings (John Agar) is the first to deduce the existence of the giant spider, and he has to convince the local police to help him take it out before it makes its way into town. Mara Corday is the requisite scientist babe and love interest. Like many horror actresses in the 1950's, she's a good screamer and quite lovely to look at.

As far as "giant creature" films go, this is one of the better ones, and the miniature photography and optical effects are quite impressive. It's a typical cautionary tale about the risks and consequences of meddling with Mother Nature, with some pseudo-science thrown in for good measure. What's interesting is that in 1955 they predicted world population to be 3.5 billion by the year 2000, when the real horror is twice that. The characters are attractive and likable, and the sexual tension between the two leads is uncomfortably awkward. A fun horror outing from a bygone era, unless you're afraid of spiders.