The 1950’s had lots of atomic testing causing giant monsters movies. One of the best was the 1954 movie Them! about giant ants from Warner Brothers. Not to be outdone Universal Studios decided to put their own giant monster movie Tarantula out a year later.
A neanderthal looking man wanders out the desert and promptly dies. The local doctor (John Agar) recognizes the man as a research assistant who was working for Leo G. Carroll. Ager drives out to Carroll’s lab. There Carroll explains that Carroll and the assistant were working on a super food nutrient using atomic isotopes because eventually the world’s food supply won’t sustain the ever growing population of the Earth. The nutrient hasn’t worked entirely. It’s killed most of the animals but in some of them it has resulted in turning the animals into giants.
Carroll reveals that his assistant tried the nutrient on himself resulting in his deformity and death. After Ager leaves Carroll injects his other assistant with the nutrient. The assistant goes on a rampage destroying some of the cages and releasing a giant tarantula before dying. Carroll covers everything up and sends for a new assistant in the form of the lovely Mara Corday. Soon the tarantula has grown to gigantic proportions and starts attacking live stock and towns. The military is eventually called in to help.
Universal Studios had Jack Arnold direct this film. Arnold had previous directed The Creature of the Black Lagoon for Universal. Instead of using a giant puppet like Warner Brothers did in Them! for the monster, Arnold used a real Tarantula for several scenes and superimposed it into the film creating a more realistic look for the film. Clint Eastwood made an uncredited appearance in one of his early roles as a fighter jet pilot. Arnold stated “We decided to do this film because generally, people are very afraid of spiders”. And he was right.