Sunday, October 19, 2014

TARANTULA is a 1955 B-movie from Universal Studios directed by Jack Arnold and starring Leo G. Carroll, Mara Corday, and John Agar.

The screenplay was written by Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley. It was based on Fresco's teleplay for the TV series "Science Fiction Theatre", an episode titled "No Food for Thought". (Oddly, "No Food for Thought" did not air until 1955!)

The film opens with a horribly disfigured man in pajamas, wandering the desert. He collapses, dead...

Dr. Matt Hastings (the pleasant Agar) is a physician who does an autopsy on the body of Dr. Eric Jacobs, a local biochemist working at a ranch owned by Dr. Gerald Deemer (Leo G. Carroll). Jacobs is the man found in the desert. He's horribly disfigured, but Deemer says it is acromegalia -- a form of disfiguring gigantism (and a real disease). Hastings doesn't believe him, as acromegalia takes years to affect a person and Jacobs was fine just a few weeks ago. But Hastings has no grounds to contest the cause of death.

Later, Hastings visits Deemer, who reveals he is working on project where he irradiates nutrients with atomic minerals in an attempt to develop a formula that will allow plants and food animals to grow faster and to enormous size. Deemer admits that Jacobs probably injected himself with the formula, causing his deformity and death. Hastings leaves... Suddenly, a wildly deformed Paul Lund (Deemer's research assistant) attacks Deemer, injects him with the formula, and tries to burn down the research lab. Lund escapes into the desert, as does a tarantula injected with the formula. Deemer wakes in time to put out the fire.

But the tarantula is loose... !!!

Deemer slowly begins to deform as well. And soon, the bodies of dead cows begin appearing all over the place. And then, one night, drawn by the lights at the Deemer ranch, the monstrous tarantula approaches......... !!!

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Robert M. Fresco, the Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker who began his career as a writer of sci fi pictures, died on February 14, 2014, in Manhattan at the age of 83 from cancer.

Among Fresco's writing credits are those for the monster movie Tarantula (1955), the sci fi film The Monolith Monsters (1957), and the monster movie The Alligator People (1959).

With co-producer, co-writer, and co-director, Denis Sanders, Fresco won an Oscar in 1969 for the documentary short Czechoslovakia 1968. The film chronicled the last half-century of Czech history, culminating in the Prague Spring uprising of 1968. Most of the footage they used had been smuggled out of Communist Czechoslovakia.

Fresco and Denis also co-created the PBS documentary Trial: The City and County of Denver vs. Lauren R. Watson in 1970. The film followed the criminal proceedings against Watson, a Black Panther Party member charged with resisting arrest and interfering with a police officer after a Denver patrolman stopped his speeding car in 1968.

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By the way, if you look closely, you can see an uncredited Clint Eastwood as the fighter-bomber pilot who tries to drop napalm on the tarantula at the end of the film.

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