Film Title: Tarantula
Release Date: 1955
Rating: NOT RATED
Runtime: 81 minutes
Region Coding: Region A
Studio: Scream Factory (Shout! Factory)
Audio Format: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Formats Available: Blu-ray
Version Reviewed: Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Release Date: 04/30/19
Director: Jack Arnold
Cast: John Agar, Mara Corday, Leo G. Carroll, Nestor Paiva, Clint Eastwood
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Full Blu-ray Tech Specs can be found at the very bottom.
“Tarantula” was a 1955 Science Fiction / Horror film directed by Jack Arnold. Arnold is best known for directing other science fiction and horror films such as “It Came from Outer Space“ (1953), “Creature from the Black Lagoon“ (1954), “Revenge of the Creature” (1955), “The Incredible Shrinking Man“ (1957), and “Monster on the Campus“ (1958). The story to the film was written by the film’s director Jack Arnold and Robert M. Fresco, with the screenplay written by Fresco and Martin Berkeley. Berkeley would go on to write a similar film with “The Deadly Mantis“ (1957) and Fresco also would write “The Monolith Monsters“ (1957).
The story here starts out in the deserts of Arizona, where the rest of the film takes place in a nearby town. An oddly disfigured man stumbles throughout the desert and, it’s no spoiler to say this, he drops dead. Then, after the opening credits, we find ourselves meeting the film’s protagonist “Dr. Matt Hastings” (John Agar). Matt has just arrived home to town only to be immediately notified by the town’s “Sheriff Jack Andrews” (Nestor Paiva) that something strange has occurred that requires his immediate attention.
The doctor rushes over to see the sheriff and is then told that they’ve found the body of a man, one that resembles someone they know, but something seems really strange. That’s when the professor “Gerald Deemer” (Leo G. Carroll) arrives, and just as expected, identifies the body as his former lab assistant. Eventually, a new lab assistant “Stephanie ‘Steve’ Clayton” (Mara Corday) comes along and our protagonist escorts her to the professor who explains a few things after even more mishaps occur.
The professor had been doing some rather suspicious and obviously illegal research that involved both human and animal test subjects. The animal test subjects, unlike the human subjects, all grew larger and larger gradually in size. One of the largest of the test subjects the professor was keeping happened to be none other than a tarantula. That’s where things get chaotic and creepy when a giant spider, and growing more and more, comes crawling through this Arizona town. It’s eventually wreaking havoc and they have to call in the military. Be sure to pay close attention to the jet pilot during the near end of the film: that’s a young Clint Eastwood flying.
All and all, “Tarantula” is a fun and at times even funny giant creature feature. It’s for sure a cult-classic in terms of these type of science fiction films from the 1950s. This movie was made when this type of special effect was considered pretty “advanced” for its time. When looking back at this, especially from a historical sense, you’ll find that for the time it was pretty terrifying to audiences (especially kids). It’s not a film with a strong plot but it does have some good actors and visual effects that involve the giant spider, something that does tend to creep most people out. It’s funny that giant insects (again with “The Deadly Mantis“) seem to be what scare us so much.
Lastly, this seems silly to mention but it’s watching films like this that brings to mind an episode of an animated show (“South Park”) that used a live-action giant hamster on the screen moving around wreaking havoc much similar to this spider – only much cuter. It’s obvious that this film has made some influence on pop culture and is appreciated by a group of filmgoers.
Movie Rating: 3.25 (out of 5)
“Tarantula” on Blu-ray is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, just as it was originally shot in. However the film was originally shown during its theatrical run in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, according to IMDb. This movie was shot on 35mm film and has received a new 2K scan of the original film elements.
The first thing here is for certain: the old black and white film looks really good (for its age) and film grain is intact and mostly in uniform throughout with the small exceptions of some stock footage that was used, obviously. The original footage, shot for the film itself, holds a pretty sharp image quality with a bold amount of detail accentuated even further in high definition. Older films like this really can look impressive when they get the right treatment on their Blu-ray release. The black level here is very solid with some of those darker scenes and then the brighter daytime scenes really being great examples of showing that off.
These old giant creature features from Universal International from the 50s have a cult following, so it’s great to see this film looking this good. Fans will definitely want to upgrade their inferior DVD of this film and finally get to experience it in some HD glory. It brings to mind how cool this must have looked originally to have seen in theaters, although the film print has been slightly cleaned up since then.
“Tarantula” in its debut to Blu-ray earns itself a 4.5 (out of 5) rating for video quality here, as the movie’s original footage looks relatively impressive and pretty sharp while the stock footage can at times look a tad bit rough and softer. All and all, its source materials blend together rather nicely and makes for a certainly enjoyable and amiable viewing experience. The new 2K scan Scream Factory brings us really looks great here.
Video Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Audio here is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono. The first thing that I honestly noticed was that there is a tiny amount of hiss here, which I had expected, but it’s not at all bothersome nor does it at any time lead to any distortion. In fact, I found this did not need to be amplified past my typical reference level volume and sounds pretty crisp and clear. It is old, sure, being a film from 1955, but it sounds pretty good and it uses the music nicely in this mix. Sound effects come across pretty intense here at times, for an old Universal International giant creature feature. Let’s say it’s enough to get your attention: that’s for sure. Dialogue is delivered distinctly here all throughout.
There are really no complaints at all about this in terms of audio, as “Tarantula” earns itself a somewhat impressive 4.25 (out of 5) rating. To just be Mono in a 2.0 configuration, and a film of this age, this comes with an above solid audio presentation. This seems to do the film itself justice in terms of audio quality, in my honest opinion. That being said, the sound mix is yet another reason that fans should want to make the upgrade from an older DVD to this new Blu-ray.
Audio Quality Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)
Bonus materials on this release are presented in HD (high definition) video with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo sound. They include the following:
- NEW Audio Commentary with Film Historians Tom Weaver, Dr. Robert J. Kiss, and David Schecter
- Theatrical Trailer (1:52 – HD)
- Still Gallery (4:15 – HD) plays like a slideshow.
- Poster and Lobby Card Gallery (4:55 – HD) also plays like a slideshow.
Overall the bonus materials here don’t offer any major extras aside from a new audio commentary featuring film historians discussing the film. Still, that’s enough to leave fans of the film somewhat happy as well as the original theatrical trailer and two still galleries of images in HD.
Bonus Materials Rating: 1.25 (out of 5)
“Tarantula” still proves to be an enjoyable giant creature feature, as I like to call these, and it makes a pretty impressive debut to Blu-ray Disc format in high definition. The video quality is really sharp for a 1955 black & white film and the audio is pretty clean, with only a minimal amount of hiss. The bonus materials are a tad bit slim here and really are the weakest part of this release. Still, it’s nice to get the new audio commentary from film historians and some archived promotional materials in terms of extras. This is a release that I can certainly say is recommended for fans.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
4.5 (out of 5) for video quality
4.25 (out of 5) for audio quality
1.25 (out of 5) for bonus materials
Recommend for Fans
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