Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo

Above: the house from the original Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1972).

In a recent interview promoting his remake of the 1972 made-for-TV film Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Guillermo Del Toro revealed the true depth of his love for the original by sharing that he hoped to someday purchase the actual house where the Farnham family encountered those mischievous little gremlins.

Well, if Del Toro ever DOES finally realize that dream, he'd better make sure to have the house thoroughly inspected by an exterminator, because that property has had a little trouble with spiders as well.

This occurred a few years after the Farnham family presumably vacated the place due to problems with a defective fireplace. By 1977, the private residence had been repurposed as a school for autistic children.

Here's an alternate angle of the Finley Ranch School for Autistic Children.

When a cargo plane loaded with Colombian coffee beans (and a few dozen deadly South American tarantulas) crash lands in a field just outside doesn't-really-exist Finleyville, California, the furry little stowaways migrate into town, lured no doubt by the promise of sinking their fangs into some of those delicious oranges advertised on billboards.

Finley Ranch lies right in the critters path, and ends up getting some unwelcome visitors who didn't bother to sign in at the front office. Here's a friendly student generously sharing her tennis racket with one of them, oblivious to the danger.

Eventually the spiders find their way to the orange groves, where the townspeople have set up a booby-trapped welcome buffet.

The whole incident was captured in the 1977 made-for-TV turkey Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo. Think of it as a less entertaining, less scary Arachnophobia, which aspires to nothing grander than to exploit the inherent discomfort of seeing live tarantulas crawling on naked hands and feet for a few cheap scares.

Like its arachnid namesake, Tarantula... kind of plods along slowly until its predictable finale. In fact, the biggest surprise in this film is the high-caliber cast that shows up (among them Claude Akins, Howard Hesseman, Tom Atkins, Pat Hingle, and pre-Whiz Kids kid Matthew Labyorteaux), only to have their collective talent left to waste like so many spoiled orange slices.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010) is in theaters now.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1973) has been remastered and reissued on a Warners Archive burn-on-demand DVD with commentary track and a sharp new transfer that is a big improvement over the previous release.
Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo is out of print on DVD as of this writing, but available cheap on the used market.

No comments: