4 July 2017 | Wuchakk
Two acts out of three ain't bad, plus cuties Deborah Winters & Noelle North
Released to TV 1977 and directed by Stuart Hagmann, "Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo" stars Deborah Winters, Charles Frank (her fiancé) and Claude Akins as citizens of a small orange-producing town in Southern California who have to deal with an invasion of deadly banana spiders, which are unleashed when a cargo plane from Ecuador crash lands in the fields. Pat Hingle plays the doctor, Bert Remsen the mayor and Sandy McPeak the police chief. Howard Hesseman & Tom Atkins appear in the opening act as pilots of the doomed plane. Cutie Noelle North is also on hand.
I'm sure the filmmakers used tarantulas in replace of the similar-looking banana Spider (aka phoneutria or armed spiders), but they're close enough and, besides, this was the pre-CGI era and the producers had no other choice.
In any case, the first hour or so is surprisingly good, considering this is a TV-budgeted nature-runs-amok flick. The cinematography features numerous aerial shots of the shooting area, which is in the semi-arid sticks 20-25 miles NW of Los Angeles. Claude Akins is surprisingly effective as one of the protagonists while Deborah Winters and Noelle North shine on the female front, both in form-fitting jeans from beginning to end. While Noelle's character may seem to be around 16 she was actually 27 during filming. The movie works as a 70's period piece, showcasing a nice cross-selection of the demographics & styles of any Southern California town of that era. Also, there's a nigh-shocking death scene considering this was made in the mid-70s, which I wasn't expecting in a TV flick.
Unfortunately, the last act that revolves around extinguishing the spiders at an orange factory is decidedly dull compared to the first two acts. This portion is packed with filler to complete the overlong runtime. But at least Winters & North are there to somewhat hold the male viewer's attention, lol.
The film runs 95 minutes and was shot in Piru & Moorpark, California. WRITERS: Guerdon Trueblood & John Groves.
GRADE: C+ (5.5/10)