Blog of the Darned plays host to this weekend’s blogathon: BLOGATHON FROM ANOTHER WORLD where bloggers explore their favorite science fiction films. You’ll see some loftier choices by clicking onto the banner on the left. My choice? Oh I’m going the Schlock route. This is NOT a put-down. I LOVE Schlock! I find these B films loads of fun. They’re like eating a bag of potato chips or Twizzlers. It may not be nutritious, but it fills you up. My contribution to the blogathon is a triple header starring 1950’s beauty Mara Corday. No, her film career was not very distinguished, but she was a gorgeous gal, married to actor Richard Long from 1957 until his death in 1974 ( having three children with him ) and acquits herself very nicely in the movies and television she did do. She’s believable. This is Mara Corday. And she looks a darned sight better than the monsters in these sci-fi films I’ll talk about.
I’ve seen “THE BLACK SCORPION” “TARANTULA” “THE GIANT CLAW” countless times. This blogathon gives me a chance to share ( or inflict ) my love of “B” films with you. 0f all the brunettes that came through these sci-fi films, Mara Corday is my favorite sci-fi lady scientist heroine. First up “Tarantula.”
* * * * * * * * *
This is the one about the giant tarantula. It’s on the loose because an angry assistant scientist:
- injects himself with Leo G. Carroll’s crazy serum
- brawls with Carroll in the laboratory
- smashes a tarantula’s container.
While the two men duke it out in the lab, ( the most strenuous activity I’ve ever seen the slow-talking Carroll do in movies ), the Tarantula ( also having been injected with this serum ) moseys out the door into the desert air. The Tarantula’s already pretty big, but you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.
Mara Corday plays lady scientist, Stephanie Clayton, who goes by the nickname Steve. I find her believable as the scientist. ( She reminds me of actress Gina Gershon of “BOUND” fame and “SHOWGIRLS” infamy. ) Mara doesn’t trip over any big ol’ science words…but when she has to bring a mouse out of its cage, we never actually see the mouse. ( I suspect Mara wasn’t going to touch a mouse. )
Enter John Agar as Dr. Matt Hastings. He meets Mara and of course, they hit it off. Presto! Instant love match. He drives her out to her job at Leo G. Carroll’s lab. The desert scenery they drive through is beautiful but the music score underneath is a bit too dramatic. As the car goes out of frame, into frame we see a now giantic tarantula. I’m a little shocked Mr. Shirley Temple didn’t spot the spider in his car’s rear-view mirror. ( Or get a clue from the BIG music from the film’s composer. )
“Science is science but a girl must get her hair done.”
Yeah, well, when you sort of look like Ava Gardner, I suppose you have to keep up your appearance. When you’re an Old Maid Lady Scientist like “Miss Branding” in “BLOOD OF DRACULA” ( read: here ) well… you’ve got to make sure your Science makes sense and you don’t mix up your Isotoners with your Isotopes.
The couple stop a moment and sit on some rocks to take in the desert view. The tarantula is on top and behind this rock formation the couple sit under. Rocks rain down on them and they scamper away. She’s skeptical about what caused the rocks to move. She’s a scientist. She has questions. But Agar blows it off:
“Rocks that have stayed for a thousand years…they just move. There’s no figuring it,” he says.
When Mara gets a gander at the change in Leo G., ( remember…he’d been injected with his own whacked serum, so he begins to show signs of acromegaly ) this was her window of opportunity to hightail it outta there. Leo’s starting to look gamey. But she stays. She and Agar investigate the site where horses/cattle and rancher alike are found dead; nothing but skin and bones…well, bones. The flesh was picked clean. Agar takes a lick of the evidence, a white milky substance left near the bones. What kind of doctor IS this guy?
“There’s more venom in this test tube than there are in a hundred tarantulas.”
VENOM?! And this is the stuff Agar put in his mouth??!! Aye yi yi!
Later when Mara gets ready for bed, she doesn’t see the giant tarantula-ed Peeping Tom looking into her bedroom window. Jumping Jupiter, the Tarantula now is as big as a house. Mara manages to run out but Leo G. Carroll can’t escape, being so totally deformed he can’t see his hands in front of his mis-shapened face. That hairy eight-legged thing does look kind of terrifying but when it lumbers across the highway knocking down power lines and being unstoppable, funny it leaves no shadow on the desert floor.
The Tarantula wreaks havoc and destruction in the town. Screaming, running and bullets can’t stop it. The cavalry comes to the rescue in the form of napalm and fighter pilot Clint Eastwood, who finally does in the Tarantula where bullets and dynamite failed. I ultimately feel sorry for the insects in these sci-fi films. None of ’em are safe, for through no fault of their own, are tampered with by man-made experiments.
Here’s a cute bit of movie trivia…Eastwood used Mara Corday in a small part as a waitress in his film “Sudden Impact” ( 1984 ). I love that Clint remembered her.
Next on ↓ Page 2: “THE BLACK SCORPION”