Universal Pictures’ classic 1950s creature features are among some of the greatest cinematic works in Hollywood’s rich history. During their original theatrical runs, they were considered scary. By today’s standards, they are anything but. That’s okay though. That is because they are examples of moviemakers doing so much more with so much less. They are examples of movie making done right, and later this month, Shout! Factory and its horror arm Scream Factory will resurrect yet another of the studio’s classic creature features in the form of the 1995 classic Tarantula. The latest of the studio’s movies to be re-issued by Shout! Factory, it is set for re-issue on Blu-ray on April 30. It is another great addition to any true movie’s buff’s collection. This is proven in part through the movie’s story, which will be discussed shortly. The bonus content featured in the movie’s forthcoming re-issue supports that statement even more, and will be addressed a little bit later. The movie’s average price point proves to be money well-spent considering the re-issue’s combined primary and secondary content. When it is considered with those noted elements, all three elements make the movie yet another of this year’s top new DVD and BD re-issues.
Shout! Factory/Scream Factory’s upcoming Blu-ray re-issue of Universal Pictures’ 1955 creature feature is a must have for any true movie buff. It is one more of this year’s top new DVD and BD re-issues. That is thanks in part to the movie’s story. The story at the center of Tarantula actually somewhat defies the movie’s title. As a close watch will reveal, the real core of the movie was Professor Deemer’s misguided efforts to create a solution that will create super-sized animals and other foods to feed the world’s exploding population. The result of Deemer’s tests are shown right in the story’s opening scene. Of course, this is not fully realized until later in the story. It would be wrong to call Deemer a mad scientist, but he is clearly misguided, as he wants to keep the findings and results of his work secret. It is because of those efforts to hide what he is doing that the story’s titular character escapes from its enclosure in his home laboratory and wreaks havoc on a nearby town. The majority of the story is spent with lead character Dr. Matt Hastings (John Agar – The Mole People, The Brain From Planet Arous, Night Breed) investigating a series of deaths around the unnamed town that slowly leads him to the killer spider. During the course of that investigation, the spider is rarely shown. When it is shown, it is barely presented. This is both good and bad. It is good in that it builds the suspense in the story. The bad side is that the buildup leads to some noticeable pacing problems. The pacing problems are not so bad that they make the movie unwatchable, but are problematic enough that they lead one to get the urge to fast forward every now and then. Luckily, the story does eventually find its footing, and when it does so, finally starts moving forward much more easily. One can’t help but wonder if this approach played a role in how famed author Peter Benchley approached his book Jaws when he wrote that novel. Its big screen adaptation followed a similar approach, not really fully introducing the movie’s killer title creature until late in the movie. Getting back on the subject at hand, once the story finally finds its footing, it does well keeping the action moving, and in turn keeping viewers engaged and entertained. The ending seems a bit abrupt, but still works, regardless. Keeping this in mind along with the entertainment offered throughout the rest of the story, there is no question that the script, despite some minor bumps, is still an enjoyable work that will gives audiences plenty to appreciate. The enjoyment created by the movie’s story is enhanced even more by the movie’s bonus feature-length audio commentary.
The commentary, presented once again by film historians Tom Weaver and David Schecter, adds its own share of enjoyment to the movie. The pair has previously provided commentary for Shout! Factory/Scream Factory’s Blu-ray re-issues of The Deadly Mantis and The Mole People. Weaver also previously provided commentary for The Man From Planet X with Dr. Robert J. Kiss, who joins Weaver and Schecter for this outing. The trio’s commentary offers lots of insight about the movie’s casting, its connection to other sci-fi and horror flicks of the time and trivia directly connected to the movie. One of the most interesting revelations presented in the audio commentary comes from Schecter as he reveals that famed composer, conductor and musician Henry Mancini played a role in the movie’s soundtrack. It’s not the first time that Mancini’s role in the movie industry has been noted. Schecter reveals in the audio commentary for The Deadly Mantis, that Mancini played a key role in that movie’s soundtrack, too. Weaver, meanwhile reveals late in the commentary, that allegedly Agar was not entirely happy being cast just in the studio’s creature features, while his more well-known counterparts, such as Tony Curtis and others were receiving more high-profile roles. Weaver reveals in this anecdote, that Agar was so unhappy that he freelanced for other companies, but sadly was typecast because of his work with Universal. Kiss meanwhile, reveals that when Tarantula originally debuted in theaters, it actually ran as part of a double feature in many U.S. theaters alongside the cop action/drama Running Wild. The movie starred Mamie Van Doren (Teacher’s Pet, Voyage To The Planet of the Prehistoric Women, The Navy Vs. The Night Monsters) in one of its lead roles. The revelation that the movie did not run by itself in many theaters is important because it shows some theater owners might have thought at the time that it was not strong enough to run solo. As if everything noted here as to the movie’s commentary is not enough, there are also notes of possible link between Them! and Tarantula, between This Island Earth and Tarantula (the prior of which Shout! Factory/Scream Factory is set to re-issue on June 25 along with Monster on the Campus) and even info on at least one goof and some background on how the tarantulas used in the movie were chosen. Between all of this and so much more shared throughout the course of the movie’s audio commentary, the breadth and width of material shared throughout the movie is more than enough for audiences to take in. Given, it once again sounds and feels entirely scripted by all involved, which does detract from the presentation once more. However, the commentary’s clear scripting is not so bad that it makes the commentary a loss. It just would be nice to have commentary shared naturally rather than scripted. Either way, when the commentary couples with the movie’s story, the two elements go a long way toward making the movie enjoyable for all audiences. Keeping that in mind, the movie’s average price point proves to be money well-spent.
The movie’s average price point, using price listings from Shout! Factory’s own store, Books-A-Million and Target, is $26.22. The movie’s previous DVD release is listed at Walmart, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble Booksellers, but not its upcoming Blu-ray re-issue. Shout! Factory’s listing of $22.99 is the least expensive listing at the time of this review’s posting while the most expensive listing — $27.99 – is at Books-A-Million’s store. Regardless of which outlet movie buffs use, the prices will not break anyone’s bank, and as already noted, the movie’s upcoming re-issue offers plenty for audiences to enjoy. When all of this is considered together, it becomes easy to see why this flick’s re-issue is a welcome addition to any purist movie buff’s library and why it is one more of the year’s top new DVD and BD re-issues. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online at:
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