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Tarantula! (Blu-ray Review)

Creepy crawling its way to Blu-ray from Scream Factory is yet another big radioactive monster movie classic from the 1950s. Tarantula is finally making its debut on the wonderful high definition format when it arrives at the end of the month on April 30th. The film itself is receiving a new 2K scan from original film elements for its presentation and Scream Factory has also put together a brand new commentary track with a couple film historians. For this releases of way back when in the Hollywood yesteryear with most involved long past, that’s about all you can ask for in a sold release in terms of new features. Pre-order you copy by clicking on the Amazon link below.

Film 

Biochemist Gerald Deemer (Leo G. Carroll, North by Northwest) has a plan to feed the world by using a growth formula on plants and animals. Instead he creates terror beyond imagining when his work spawns a spider of mammoth proportions! Feeding on cattle and humans, this towering tarantula has the people of Desert Rock, Arizona running for their lives. Can this horrifying creature be stopped or will the world succumb to its giant claws?

Since its a giant bug movie from the 1950s, Tarantula! lumps in with the radioactive giant monster films that were overtaking the horror cinema-going by storm in that era. However, a closer look proves its in the giant bug/monster realm, but its origins are not that of a nuclear fallout. Tarantula! is primarily a mad scientist or experiment gone wrong kind of film. I hesitate to say “mad” scientist as he’ s not really a villain and his intentions are for the understandable good of mankind. He’s just ignoring massive side effects to his research that should have probably put a halt on things.

Tarantula! is also a cut above many of its brethren. From its special effects to even the poster design, it was quite the breakthrough and trend setter for the era. These types of effects for showing the increasing size of the animals and tarantula were new at the time and work well if you’re watching the film with the times in mind. To add, the poster for the film was the first of many “giant monster holding a beautiful woman in peril” posters that would become a staple of the genre.

Today, Tarantula! really is a pretty fun throwback watch. While not completely full of monster carnage, it manages to entertain pretty well in the in-between. There are sort of mini-monster sequences featuring mutated humans that amuse as well as fun dialogue and conversation between the actors to fill in the time. Everybody buys into this film and it works for the best whether its in the serious or ironic sense. Plus, with a small runtime, its a breeze to get through.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Tarantula’s Scream Factory Blu-ray debut features a new 2K scan of the original film elements. And the film looks absolutely fresh and wonderful. Good work has been done to restore it, plus it appears to have been in good condition to begin with. Everything is pretty sharp with plenty of detail abound.

Depth:  Movements are natural and cinematic with no real issues concerning motion distortion within rapidly moving scenes. Spacing is well done with some good distance and pushback appear in many sequences.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty deep and contrasts well with the other shades in the mix here. Details are retained and no crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: N/A

Flesh Tones: Skin tones keep a consistent white/gray look throughout and there are no issues with flickering or anything. Facial features are rock solid, proving very good in close ups and solid in medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Tarantula! arrives on Blu-ray with a fine mono track that sounds rather well kept and polished. There is a complimentary analog hiss, present in the source, that comforts throughout the backing layer of the mix. Its well balanced and the sound effects are pretty well layered and intricate given the age.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With film historians Tom Weaver, Dr. Robert J. Kiss and David Schecter

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:52)

Still Gallery (HD, 4:15)

Poster and Lobby Card Gallery (HD, 4:55)

Summary 

If you’re reaching for a giant bug or monster movie from the radioactive yesteryears of Hollywood, one of the best ones to grab for is Tarantula! It can be both impressive and goofy at the same time, making the film a nice treat if you’re able to watch movies with the understanding of when its made and are an individual that isn’t opposed to suspension of disbelief and still has somewhat of an imagination left. Scream Factory has put out a beautiful looking Blu-ray release of the film that includes some nice marketing and pictoral memorabilia to go along with a solid commentary. Those wanting these old Universal movies should be happy with the release if premium pricing isn’t something too bothersome.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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