it would seem that every other reviewer rates this at 8 or 10 stars..... just what exactly am I missing here..... After looking through some of these reviews, I can quickly deduce that many of you are prone to over-rating and over-hyping this movie. Please, it's not THAT good.
Released in December of 1955 "Tarantula" is a capable, though fairly modest effort in the Sci-FiHorror genre and though it's far from being a great film, it's still one of the better "Big Bug Movies" Hollywood's churned out over the decades. The film stars John Agar in the lead role of Dr. Matt Hastings, who has many a dilemma to solve out in the arid wastes of the Arizona desert. Along for the ride comes a young and lovely Mara Corday as well as the great British character actor and Hitchcock favorite Leo G. Carroll, as scientists who are hard at work in developing a super-growth serum. But, as always, "something went terrible wrong" and trouble brews. Tarantula is well-acted, paced, photographed and it's effects, for the time, are about as good as to be expected, and yet unfortunately this film registers at only a very marginal level of entertainment.
On the plus-side many of same the people who where behind the iconic horror film "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" just the previous year, are also involved in Tarantula - only this time with far less memorable results. I might as well go ahead and say it, as if it's title isn't a total give-away in the first place, the film is centered around a massive, scientifically enhanced, Tarantula - which only gets bigger in size and ferocity as the movies goes. The last 10 to 15 minutes, when the spider attains it's maximum "house-wrecking" size of at least 100 tall, by 100 feet across, is when the movies at it's best. Also for a compliment I find that the end of Tarantula projects a similar vibe that King Kong's grand finale does (though in a much more modest way and on vastly less-inspired level), because ultimately Tarantula never really does get THAT exciting.
Judging by the looks of things the monster (ie giant tarantula) was brought to life solely through the use of photographic effects, primarily from the method of super-imposing footage of the subject, over the master-shot, that establishes the setting; which in this case is the mountainous deserts of Arizona and it's endless stretches of high-way that disappear into the horizon. In another sequence, a - house-wrecking affair - the monster is thrust front and center onto the screen and beautifully rendered, in the form of an extreme close-up, that which depicts the spiders head and multiple sets of eyes with an impressive level of detail, as it peers through a window - perhaps in admiration of Mara Corday. By this time the giant, mutated Tarantula is bigger then a house and it only getting bigger and BIGGER, as it rumbles towards it's inevitable demise.
As exciting as it might sound, I urge you to temper any enthusiasm and keep your expectations to a modest level, because like virtually all monster movies of the era Tarantula comes off as quite dated and modest in it's ability to entertain. Now had this been done using stop-motion photography, well then, undoubtedly, Tarantula would have been a more memorable picture; but as it stands the movies photographic effects are still vivid and feature some very effective, sharply detailed, close-ups. Musically Tarantula is impressive, featuring the dual compositional threat of both Henry Mancini and Herman Stein, their musical endeavors effectively lifts Tarantula above and beyond most of it's competition. The films striking score primarily alternates from string-filled moments of subtle serenity, to harsh, brass-driven moments of monstrous angst.
In the end Tarantula does provide the audience with a very satisfying death scene, as the monster is consumed in a raging firestorm. But for me, once was enough, as I find the movie lacks the necessary verve and excitement to warrant my attention, again. There's no doubt of it that had more moneyinspiration been splashed it's way, this would have been a grand classic of the genre, unfortunately that's not the case here and Tarantula is merely a good movie, rather than a great one. There's one other thing that has come to my attention, which is the fact that Mara Corday had a habit of showing up in monster movies of the 50's. But as far as Tarantula is concerned, when compared to the likes of "The Black Scorpion" or the infamously terrible (and riotously hilarious) "The Giant Claw" it's the first and easily the best of Mara's monster movies.
Conclusion: Tarantula offers little in the way of replay value, but it's certainly worth watching once.
On a side-note, if you further want to explore the films of director Jack Arnold, I highly recommend that you see "The Incredible Shrinking Man", it's a more entertaining movie and also a much better example of his talent as a film director.
Review by Idiot-Deluxe from the Internet Movie Database.