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Tarantula (film): Wikis


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1955 Movie Poster by Reynold Brown[1]
Directed by Jack Arnold
Produced by William Alland
Written by Robert M. Fresco
Martin Berkeley
from a story by Ray Bradbury uncredited.
Starring John Agar
Mara Corday
Leo G. Carroll
Music by Herman Stein
Cinematography George Robinson
Editing by William Morgan
Distributed by Universal International Pictures
Release date(s) December 14, 1955
Running time 81 min.
Language English

Tarantula is a 1955 science fiction film directed by Jack Arnold, and starring Leo G. Carroll, John Agar, and Mara Corday. Among other things, the film is notable for the appearance of a 25-year-old Clint Eastwood in an uncredited role as a jet pilot at the end of the film.


Plot summary

The plot concerns a biological researcher, Professor Gerald Deemer who is trying to prevent the food shortages which will result from the world's expanding population. With the help of atomic science, he invents a special nutrient on which animals can live exclusively, but which causes them to grow to many times their normal size. In his laboratory, he houses several oversized rodents and, inexplicably, a tarantula.

When his researchers try the nutrient, they develop runaway acromegaly and one of them is driven mad, half destroys the lab (freeing the animals) and attacks Deemer and injects him with the solution. As a result, Deemer gradually becomes more and more deformed while the now-gigantic tarantula ravages the countryside. A sympathetic doctor and Deemer's female assistant investigate the mystery of the clean-picked cattle bones and the eight-foot pools of arachnid venom, and the spider is eventually destroyed, after several failed attempts, by a napalm attack launched from a fighter squadron.

The film's poster, featuring a spider with two eyes instead of the normal eight, and carrying a woman in its fangs, does not represent any actual scene in the film.



The special effects for both the giant animals and the unfortunate scientist's deformity are fairly advanced for the time, with real animals (including a rabbit and a guinea pig in Professor Deemer's lab) being used to represent the giant creatures. A real spider was also used for shots where the whole monster was shown, with models reserved for close-ups (and its skyscraper-sized version), resulting in a rather more convincing monster than the giant ants in the previous year's big-bug film, Them!.[2]

The movie was filmed in and around the rock formations of "Dead Man's Point" Lucerne Valley CA, a frequently used movie location for many early western films. Like Them!, Tarantula makes atmospheric use of its desert locations; and although a radioactive isotope does make an appearance, it differs from most big-bug films in having the mutation caused by the peaceful research of a well-intentioned scientist rather than nuclear weapons and/or a mad genius. Arnold was to use matte effects again two years later to show miniaturisation rather than gigantism in The Incredible Shrinking Man, which also featured an encounter with a spider.


  1. ^ The poster shows the spider (inaccurately depicted with only two eyes instead of eight) carrying a woman in its fangs, à la Fay Wray in King Kong, though such a scene does not appear in the film.
  2. ^ Searles B (1988). Films of Science Fiction and Fantasy. New York: Harry N. Abrams. pp. 165–67. ISBN 0-8109-0922-7.  

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