Filmed before he became a tv star via WKRP IN CINCINATTI, TARANTULAS briefly features Howard Hessman and dependable Tom Atkins (NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, THE FOG, HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH) as a couple of gringoes with heads full of get-rich-quick dreams. So when they pour out of a taxi at a South American airport looking drunk and hanging all over some slatterns, the Federales eye them up as easy marks for an “export tax” on their cargo of Ecuadorian coffee beans.
In an unfortunate turn of events, Detective Cameron listens to Johnny Fever and his plan to get the money they need to get back to the States. And that’s the first sign of trouble. Well, that and the tarantulas that have crawled into the bags of beans. Oh, and the three illegals who get on board and promptly fall ill and get bitten by the spiders that spring from the bags during a storm. Other than that it’s a great plan.
After the plane crash lands in a small town filled with orange groves, the tarantulas – actually the Wandering or Banana Spider – make life a living hell in very JAWS-esque fashion, threatening the local industry (oranges instead of tourism) and turning Pat Hingle into Roy Schieder’s character.
Unfortunately, TARANTULAS is as slow moving as the titular characters and nowhere near as much fun as DISASTER ON THE COASTLINER, a 1979 made for tv flick also co-starring Hingle that I caught via Netflix earlier this week.
Oh sure, there are minor moments of hilarity like the woman who mistakes a tarantula for her boyfriend (in her defense his chest was pretty hairy) and lines like “hey you punk kid, get away from there” but most of the 96-minute running time is devoted to watching 70s tv stars wander around a warehouse shoveling up spiders – did I mention they’re motionless spiders – while wasp sounds buzz through the speakers.
If that sounds like your idea of a good flick then by all means run out and grab TARANTULAS from the cheapie DVD rack at your local supermarket. If not, do yourself a favor and watch the genuinely creepy KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS instead. – Dan Taylor
Dan Taylor is the editor and publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and The Hungover Gourmet (where this review originally appeared in a slightly different form). Spiders give him the heebie jeebies, but not as much as eye violence.
Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo is available from Amazon.