Endless days with no word, no news, no contact from the outside world! Only now have I come to realise how much I rely on these films to give some meaning to my existence.
In the absence of any external stimulation I have taken to debating with myself in the mirror. Lately, these debates have become increasingly bad tempered and have actually ended in a mass brawl on 2 separate occasions. I regret to say that the index finger on my right hand was bitten off during the last one. This can't go on.
Why have the films stopped? What has happened to the person sending them through? Is he ill? Has he got bored with it? Or did he go on holiday up to Scotland with his wife and baby for a couple of weeks and has only just returned? I don't suppose I shall ever know...
But hallo! What is this? A sound and a glimmer of light from the TV! Dare I hope?
Tarantula is on my second list of favourite films. This second list is the REAL list - namely, the films that I would actually watch If I found myself on Death Row (again) and had one day left to live, and a DVD player. And the DVDs in question. Other films on this list include Escape To Victory, Kelly's Heroes and The Three Amigos.
The first list of my favourite films is my 'dinner party' list i.e. the films that I say are my favourites to try and impress in company, but have never actually watched. This list includes Citizen Kane, Battleship Potemkin and There Will Be Blood.
Obviously the first list is pretty much redundant in my present situation. But maybe one day this ordeal will all be over... maybe the force-field will open and I'll be allowed back into society... and maybe my next dinner party won't end up in a blood-bath where all the guests are slaughtered with fondue forks, and the host of the dinner party mysteriously missing. As a matter of interest, the long-forgotten proto-slasher flick "Blood-bath at the Dinner Party of Death (U.S. title 'The Fondue Massacre!') was based on this incident at my, sorry, that dinner party.
All of which leads rather neatly onto 'Tarantula', one of my favourite 50s Monster Movies. 'Tarantula' has absolutely everything a self-respecting 50's Creature Feature should have. Nowadays, we call these things cliches, but back in the 50s before cliches were invented, these were just things that happened in Monster Movies. I'm talking about:
1) A scientist playing 'God' by making animals bigger than they should be.
2) The beautiful female assistant with a bloke's name.
3) A beautiful but deadly desert landscape.
4) Some hobos being the first to get killed.
5) A wise-cracking hero who isn't a police or army officer but seems to be able to over-ride them and make decisions that everyone obeys.
6) A huge tarantula.
'Tarantula' has all these. Plus, it's directed by Jack Arnold, legend of 50s Sci-fi. Plus+, it has the finest actors possible in the lead roles. I'm talking about the sultry and sassy Mara Corday...
... also a welcome presence in The Giant Claw and The Black Scorpion.
And the wonderful, wonderful John Agar.
John Agar is right at the top of my second (i.e. my 'proper') list of favourite actors (this list also includes Chevy Chase). Something in him reminds me of Steve McQueen - perhaps its the way he overacts when explaining something perhaps (apologies to Steve McQueen fans that don't think he overacts). Sure, he's got the cheesiest of cheesy grins and he might not be the greatest actor in the world but I love the guy - not least because of the films he's been in; Attack of the Puppet People, Invisible Invaders, Brain from Planet Arous, Revenge of the Creature... I could go on. Only John Agar can deliver lines like "Giant freaks of any kind give me the willies!", and actually sound like the mere mention of him mentioning giant freaks is giving him a flashback of the willies. A legend, and he was a damn nice guy as well by all accounts.
And so to the remote Arizona desert town where John Agar - a local doctor - has been called in to investigate the mysterious death of a young man who just happened to work out at Professor Deemer's research laboratory. By lucky chance, just before driving out there he has a chance to give a lift to Professor Deemer's new assistant, Stefanie 'Steve' Clayton (Mara Corday). It's not long until they hook up to investigate the strange goings on that are... going on.
Which leads to Steve being startled by Professor Deemer one night, when he creeps up behind her in the lab and gives her a ticking off about showing unqualified people (John Agar of course) around the lab. Not an unreasonable request really. To which Steve replies by screaming "Oh my God, your FACE!" and runs off. This really is a great response to being told off by your boss. If you don't believe me, try it next time you get called into an office to discuss your attendance. It works every time!
But look! While we were distracted, a giant tarantula has escaped from the lab and is now wreaking havoc around the local desert, creeping around menacingly in the distance before we see great POV shots of it's fangs bearing down on hapless hobos. Hobos in the desert always get it in 50s sci-fi movies I'm afraid. In fact, only soldiers guarding downed UFOs fare worse.
This type of behaviour really can't be allowed to continue, and so its not long until John Agar puts his hippocratical oath to one side momentarily and calls in an air-strike. Remember that this was the 50's, long before conservation and environmental issues were in vogue - and long before the Vietnam War had given napalm and assorted defoliants a bad press...
... so the ending that we get to cheer and applaud is Clint Eastwood napalming the tarantula to death!
That'll teach it! Barbecued spider anyone?
Here's the trailer for your viewing pleasure:
"KEY OF LIFE" Available on DVD Jan. 7 From Film Movement - *Mistaken-identity comedy from acclaimed director Kenji Uchida* *Played Toronto Int'l Film Festival* *"A chessboard of ingenious subplots!" -Maggie Lee, V...
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