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Written by / 9/26/2016 / No comments / , , , , , , , , , ,

AGAR & ALLAND DOUBLE FEATURES 'TARANTULA' & 'MOLE PEOPLE'

The man who shoots the TARANTULA is pictured below YEAR: 1955
TARANTULA: The now obsolete special-effects method of superimposing insects or critters to make them seen giant, menacing and formidable only works since they're something we humans can easily otherwise hunt, shoot or step on – and now it's their turn to turn us into roadkill, or dinner...

But, using the enlarging-of-nature device for a contrived short-cut, producer William Alland's THE LAND UNKNOWN had footage of Gila Monsters to seem like dinosaurs, which didn't work since turning something naturally (relatively) small into what's supposed to be gigantic is just plain cheap – a possible one of several reasons his most capable and talented stock director, Jack Arnold, backed out of the project. But a year earlier, not only did Arnold direct TARANTULA, one of the best 1950's b-movie creature features, it's derived from a story he himself co-created.

Clint Eastwood's famous non-facial cameo in TARANTULA
With the title, it's obvious what the movie's about, and even though it takes time before the creature goes on its inevitable rampage, the audience doesn't have to wait for a chill – starting right out with a freaky looking human wandering through the desert where craggy hills and mountains paint each corner of a highway, stretching from the one horse town to a makeshift mountain laboratory...

By the time leading man John Agar's humble country doctor takes pretty brunette ingenue Mara Corday (as a lab intern with the nickname "Steve") from point A to B, we've already learned and seen plenty – the scientists are being accidentally exposed by a residual of the serum that, to possibly save myriads from worldwide starvation, quickens the growth-rate of experimental subjects ranging from bunnies to insects, and turns the men into deformed madmen, as occurred in the prelude. Meanwhile, our title TARANTULA gets loose and, a few scenes later, we experience random deaths of local residents unlucky enough  to be roaming the middle of nowhere without a bazooka of Raid (which still wouldn't help).

Jack Arnold's TARANTULA Rates: ****
Jack Arnold takes time to build a sense of palpable terror by having the first killing take place at night – by the time our eyes have adjusted to what might look silly if thrown right in our face, in the daylight the giant spider seems genuine enough, keeping TARANTULA from being too much of a dated howler for the CGI generation: But it's not all perfect. The relationship between Agar and Corday is rushed as they hold hands after knowing each other half a day, and their dialogue's painted in corny Norman Rockwell strokes. Thankfully, because of the situation at hand, the pretty people aren't relaxed for very long...

At one point, when the movie veers from the second to third act, veteran actor Leo G. Carroll, the lead scientist, provides a ton of exposition as he becomes more and more grouchy – that can happen when your face turns into a Picasso painting.

The movie remains intriguing but eventually there's a dire need to cut to the main "chase," which follows the template of a sparse Showdown style Western that (ironically) includes a helmeted, face-covered young actor named Clint Eastwood (who first appeared in Jack Arnold's REVENE OF THE CREATURE) as the main jet-fighter pilot in one of several monster attacking planes ala KING KONG – man's machine against the beast "he" created in this neatly-balanced genre-hybrid of suspense, horror and, with the two leads going back and forth along that dangerous highway terrain, adventure.

Otherwise neat looking interior effects of MOLE PEOPLE Year: 1956
THE MOLE PEOPLE: Well they all can't be good, or even bad i.e. So Bad It's Good. Some b-movies are just plain dull and awful. Like this one, also (and surprisingly, given his resume) by creature-feature producer William Alland – beginning with a lecture by the film's writer, moving his hands nervously while spinning a "What If" yarn about particular theories of the Earth's Core – far more interesting than the movie itself as three explorers find ancient ruins in the Himalayans and, once inside, discover a world of the title MOLE PEOPLE, who enslave a horde of bonafide monstrous beings, necessary to fulfill the Creature-Feature genre: Hunchbacked with insect-like faces dotted with horrible welts, looking and acting vicious and lethal after their prey fall through quicksand from the upper layer into the doomed depths – where no one returns: Yet these are mere pawns to the weakest villains in science-fiction history: Pale, conceited, gentlemanly jerks dressed like Christmas Tree Ornament Elves along with their bearded philosophical chiefs.

SCORE: *
Alland's regular leading man, John Agar, along with a nervous old scientist (born to buy the farm) and future LEAVE IT TO BEAVER patriarch Hugh Beaumont are lazily trapped in this underworld that, within the main area, has a sweeping arc of miniature sandcastle-like structures, which is an otherwise effective matte-painted canvas compared to the other dull elements including a bland blond ingenue thrown in for our hero to crush on, and for there to be a reason to help the victims since the slaves are so horrible looking...

She's also a captive but more a "house slave," and her chemistry with Agar is liken to Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux's Eve-inspired "Weena" in THE TIME MACHINE a few years later – Cynthia Patrick stares lovestruck into the eyes of the man mistaken as their king: Nothing can touch the strangers since they wield the "Fire of Ishtar," which is only a flashlight to these banal bottom-dwellers in this junk mail of lousy, preposterously boring, unsatisfactory b-movie garbage.
TARANTULA in HDX showcasing that perfect bottom lip of scream queen Mara Corday
Mara Corday with her lovely lips, and the Tarantula about to visit her King Kong style
Why did the Tarantula cross the road?
Mara Corday and her luscious lips w/ abchinny John Agar and below, Leo G. Carroll & an epic gerbil in TARANTULA
Mara Corday and John Agar... he the chin, and she the lips: the most beautiful ever on film: TARANTULA
The perfect girl smokes, and Mara Corday is that with John Agar lighting up in TARANTULA
Go ahead, make Mara Corday... TARANTULA: Clint Eastwood cast her as the "Make My Day" scene waitress
Those beautiful, amazing lips of repose: Mara Corday and John Agar, TARANTULA
The Bigsy Igsy Spider, walked up the mountaintop... Two shots of TARANTULA
The Tarantula crosses the peak in TARANTULA directed by Jack Arnold, Effects by Wah Chang
Mara Corday with Leo G. Carroll in TARANTULA
Tarantula Mara Corday Tarantula Mara Corday oh those lips of Mara Corday Tarantula rules, always
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