Crawlin’ Around This Town on the Corner

Bring out the “nature run amok TV movie” bingo cards to play along with Tarantulas: Deadly Cargo. It’s a certain victory.

Post-Jaws, the poisonous arachnids bring Finleyville, California’s main economy – oranges – to a halt, much to the protests of the factory owner. These critters arrived via plane, echoing the worries toward a global economy and invasive species. Drought adds an environmental angle, and careless South American workers cause the whole thing in the first place. The fault for this catastrophe intentionally lies with them, plus the shrewd men shipping the coffee.

Tarantulas sustains its entertainment value

A plane crash sets the bugs loose, picking off a few townsfolk, and to Tarantulas credit, keeps open the possibility that anyone is doomed through some true ‘70s era fatalism. Made entirely for TV, the script wanders aimlessly, finding pointless domestic drama and painfully contrived danger to make up for the weak budget.

Tarantulas generates excitement though. A couple kills make for chilling viewing. The same year brought the theatrical release, Kingdom of the Spiders, and Tarantulas can hold its own in terms of on-screen spider-caused deaths. For the finale, there’s a clever method to instill tension, raise stakes, and sell scale without hampering the financial side.

No question this Saturday night time slot filler lacks nuance and depth. The copycat methods and meager social commentary come off as crass. Using an autistic student for a stressful moment looks especially exploitative now. However, the factory manager makes for a balanced human villain, pushing his immigrant workers to continue sorting oranges, wholly unconcerned for their welfare. Much as Tarantulas lays blame on Ecuadorian labor for this fiasco, it’s cognizant of their own challenges.

When not sluggishly moving this plot forward in every derivative direction (including the cliché scientist meeting to discuss the danger), Tarantulas sustains its entertainment value. It’s perfect to have on in the background while chatting since little of the dialog matters. Anyone even remotely familiar with similar movies can casually watch too, poking fun as need be to liven up a party.

Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo Blu-ray screen shot

Video

Kino’s new master shows a few signs of its late ’70s origins. First is the duller color, lacking in both saturation and density. It’s fine, just bland. Second is print damage, the routine scrapes and dings minuscule if intrusive at times. Vertical banding happens in a few spots. Generally, Tarantulas stays spot free.

Pleasing definition indicates a modern scan, peppered with clean detail and minimal grain. Encoding remains error free, wholly transparent to the film stock. Facial texture shows in close, and wider shots certainly better any previous home presentation.

Bland black levels can’t sell the depth. While dark, they lack bite. Contrast performs well though. Tarantulas’ brightness holds things together, that and the detail the only things defying the age.

Audio

An Emmy winner for its audio, the suitable mono track handles the stock sound effects like lightning fairly. There’s definite strain in the upper registers and no low-end to speak of as per the norm for something this vintage. Clear dialog doesn’t leave any line unintelligible against the music or action.

Extras

Kino includes a commentary from the Made for TV Mayhem podcast crew that includes Amanda Reyes, Dan Budnik, and Nate Johnson.

Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo
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  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

By-the-numbers TV horror, Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo is passable horror with no surprises and a few creature attacks worth remembering.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 36 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: