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Monday, February 5, 2018

Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo (1977)





The made for television madness continues with this gem from 1977. Originally airing on CBS Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo taps into the fear that most of us have about spiders. I mean they are creepy as hell. It features a great cast and has decent production values. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Things open up with a couple of industrious pilots south of the border. They have an old cargo plane full of coffee that they want to fly to the US. It is worthless down there but apparently fetches a lot on the West Coast. We see that some creepy ass spiders are in the bags of coffee and loaded onto the plane without anyone noticing. They contribute to the plane crashing and while it is being cleaned up the spiders wander off without anyone noticing. When the bodies start to pile up the local country doctor thinks it might be a plague, but soon they catch one and figure out they have a bigger issue. Some drama with the local Orange crop happens and we get an attempted arson. This movie delivers the goods!

Tarantulas doesn’t get nearly the credit that is should. The story is solid and if you accept the fact that for a while no one notices the big hairy spiders crawling out of the plane it is believable. They cleverly keep the first couple victims who survive from being able to tell anyone what happened to them. Either they were knocked out like the pilot or are delirious with a fever. Strangely enough after the first couple attacks anyone who is bitten dies. Speaking of that I need to warn you guys that there is a spoiler coming. Okay if you proceed it is on you! They kill the little brother of the female lead! They never kill the kid, especially when they are related to one of the lead characters. Put them in danger sure, but not off them! This made me sit up and pay attention since no one was safe.

Tom Atkins is the bomb!
Tarantulas has a great cast. The two pilots are Howard Hessman and Tom Atkins! These aren’t even our lead characters and they are both legends! Maybe this is early in both careers but it is still cool. Claude Akins has a major role as the head of the volunteer fire department and is excellent as always. There are many other familiar faces that I won’t spend a ton of time boring you with. I mean who wants to read lists?

The real stars of the movie have eight legs and fangs! We get lots of real spiders crawling around the sets and over the cast. This was the ‘70s so there wasn’t any of that CGI nonsense! There are some fake spiders for the scenes where they smash or drown the immobilized ones, but for the most part you get to see the real thing. I hate spiders so that makes this movie all that much creepier and fun to watch. Seriously spiders creep me out.

This is a solidly written, excellently acted, and generally well-made movie that I can recommend without hesitation. When I was thinking about the different marathons or themes for the reviews here at the blog and I came up with made for television Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo popped right into my mind. It is one of the better ones. As with most of the other made for television gems that I’ve reviewed this one can also be watched on YouTube. Check out the link above.

© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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