horror, movie, movie review, thriller

June 9th, 2019 Movie – Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo

tarantulas the deadly cargo

So I decided to go ahead and continue watching/reviewing some old TV movies from the 70’s this month. Today’s movie is one that I remember watching once as a kid back in the 2nd/3rd grade. The problem is, I kind of mixed portions of this movie with Kingdom Of The Spiders, which came out in theaters the same year and I had seen about the same time. When I obtained my copy of Kingdom Of The Spiders, and realized that some of the scenes I remembered where not in that movie, I considered trying to locate the movie that had those scenes in it, but will admit that I didn’t put much effort into it. Then I came across a couple of old movies on YouTube and realized that one of them was the movie I remembered. That is how I came to find myself watching Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo today.

The plot: At a small airstrip in Ecuador, some farmers are loading sacks of coffee beans onto a plane, not noticing that some tarantulas are getting into the bags with the beans. The two pilots, Buddy and Fred, are discussing how much money they will make selling the coffee back in the states when some Federales show up, telling them that they owe $300 as an export tax. Having no money between them, Buddy and Fred try to bribe the officers with some of the coffee but when the men refuse, they get the money buy agreeing to smuggle some men into the US on their plane. After paying off the officials, they get their plane ready to take off, sneaking the men on board as they move the plane to the runway. As they fly through the night, the fly into a storm, where the turbulence causes the bags to fall over and the tarantulas escape and bite one of the men in the cargo hold. The next day, one of the engines goes out on their plane and Buddy and Fred attempt an emergency landing near the small town of Finleyville, CA, but some of the tarantulas had made it into the cockpit when Fred had gone to check on the men in the hold and begin attacking the two pilots, causing them to lose control of the plane and crash. Cindy Beck and Joe Harmon, who had been in contact with the plane when it crashed, call the town’s emergency services and then head out to see if they can help. As a crowd starts to form in the area, Joe talks with Bert Springer, one of the town leaders and head of the volunteer fire department, and when they notice fuel leaking from the wing, the work on getting a trench built around the plane to contain the fuel. As the trench is finished, a kid riding a dirt bike rides up but loses control of his bike, crashing into the trench and causing the fuel to ignite. The fire department works on getting the fire under control, not noticing that the tarantulas are escaping from the plane. Once the fire is contained, Joe and Bert head inside to check if anyone is inside, finding one survivor, while Doc Hodgins oversees getting Buddy and Fred out of the cockpit, with Fred being the only one still alive. As Mayor Douglas talks with Hodgins to ask what could have caused the crash and the mens deaths, worrying that any negative press or possible plague could have an impact on their orange harvest, a man that had been stealing some of the coffee from the plane is bitten by a spider and goes into convulsions, though nobody saw the spider. The next day, a teacher is bitten by a tarantula and dies and when another teacher finds the spider and takes it to Hodgins, he checks the teacher and compares it’s fangs to the wound he found on her leg. Hodgins contacts Joe, who was riding in the ambulance with the two survivors, and when they find bites on them as well, Joe tells Hodgins to have Cindy pick him up, then has the ambulance pull over so he can get out. Joe and Cindy head to the plane to see if they can find some more spiders there and after finding one, they take it to a friend of Joe’s in L.A., who identifies it as a Banana Spider, one of the most venomous and aggressive spiders in the world. As Hodgins talks with Bert about the spider, Cindy’s brother Matthew attempts to grab one that was in a truck full of oranges that was leaving the packaging plant, and ends up getting bitten and dies. Meanwhile, Mayor Chad Douglas is with an inspector, who approves of the plant’s oranges, and he makes plans to get them shipped out, unaware that all of the spiders have been drawn to the plant due to all of the oranges inside. When Joe and Cindy arrive back in town and learn about Matthew’s death, Joe heads to the plant with a container of strong pesticide so he can kill the spiders but Bert stops him, as it would ruin the crop. As the townsfolk gather at the plant and argue over what they should do, Chad says that they have only 16 hours to before the train arrives to pick up the oranges and if they don’t make it on the train, the town will be monetarily finished. Joe gets the book his friend loaned him about the spiders and learns that they will become paralyzed when they hear the droning of wasps, their mortal enemy, so the townsfolk come up with a plan to get rid of the spiders. Recording the droning of angry bees, they place speakers inside the warehouse, then place some fruit in the middle of an open area to lure in some insects, which will attract the spiders. When a large group of spiders converges on the fruit, they begin playing the recording, causing the spiders to freeze up. After they are sure the spiders are paralyzed, Bert, Joe, Cindy, and some other people head inside and begin grabbing the paralyzed spiders, dropping them in buckets of gasoline and alcohol to kill them. As the people outside watch their progress, Rich, who is part owner of the warehouse, attempts to burn the warehouse down to collect on the insurance money but trips on the roof and falls off, taking out the power lines as he falls. With the power out, the automatic doors close, trapping the people inside the warehouse just as the spiders start moving again. Steve, who had seen Rich head up to the roof, decides to head up the same way and enters the warehouse, then leads the trapped people back outside. As they make it outside, Chad manages to get some people to repair the lines so that they can continue getting rid of the spiders and save the oranges.

You know, sometimes you have to give props to the simplistic approach to movies, especially the made-for-TV variety. This was actually a pretty decent movie, because they went with a more simple, and somewhat realistic approach to it instead of going for a more flashy/showy style like with Kingdom Of The Spiders. The acting was pretty good, with Claude Akins (Bert), Charles Frank (Joe), Deborah Winters (Cindy), and Pat Hingle (Hodgins) doing good jobs in their roles. Even though they had smaller roles, I also liked Tom Atkins (Buddy) and Howard Hesseman (Fred), but I did wish they could have done more in the movie. The story was pretty simplistic in it’s scope, with the idea that the venomous spiders were accidentally scooped into the bags with the coffee, then got free after the crash being pretty believable. Since they had such a simple plot to follow, the actors really had to ramp up the tension and drama to help sell the movie. There wasn’t much in the way of special effects outside of the plane crash, as mostly you had people just interacting with the spiders, which honestly wasn’t too scary unless you suffer from arachnaphobia. A decent TV movie that is worth watching if you are in the mood for a “bug” movie, but not one that is an absolutely must see.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

horror, movie, movie review, sci-fi, thriller

February 1st, 2018 Movie – Tentacles


Yes, I know that the title sounds like some sort of Japanese animated porn movie but I promise you it isn’t. So years ago, I saw the tale end of this movie as a kid and had no idea what was going on, just that there were some killer whales attacking an octopus. This was back in the day before you could easily look up what was being shown on the TV so I had no idea what movie it was that I had seen. Fast forward a couple of decades and I was randomly looking through movies in the sci-fi/horror section of Hulu and saw this movie and after reading the description, I realized I had finally found the movie I was looking for. So I watched it and eventually got around to buying a copy of it on DVD. So let’s sit back and enjoy today’s movie, Tentacles.

The plot: In Solana Beach, a woman is tending to her baby in his stroller by the ocean when a friend pulls up nearby and calls out to her. The woman heads over to talk to her friend but after a few minutes, the friend notices the baby’s stroller is no longer by the water and the mother quickly runs over to see it out in the ocean. Elsewhere, a man is working on cleaning his boat while his deckhand is fixing lunch when the deckhand hears a loud splash and turns to see the man is missing and the bucket he was using to clean the boat is being dragged away into the ocean. Some time later, a teenage couple are arguing in a boat when the body of the man suddenly appears in the water by their boat. The authorities are called in but they have no idea as to what happened to the man and Sheriff Robards asks Ned Turner, a local journalist, not to write anything that could cause a panic; just to simply say that he died and the police are looking into it. The next day, Ned is talking with his sister Tillie, who is telling him he should consider trying to find someone to be with, but Ned is focused on trying to get some answers to a story he is writing about some underwater tests a company is conducting. Elsewhere, Mr. Whitehead, the owner of Trojan Construction, is reading the paper and sees the article that Turner wrote about his company and the tunnel they are constructing and questions his associate, John Corey, about why Turner wasn’t directed to him and if there is any truth to what Turner wrote but Corey said not to worry and that Turner was just some guy trying to make a name for himself. Turner sneaks into the morgue to listen in as the medical examiner and Robards discuss how the man and baby died and the examiner admits he has no idea. Robards tells Turner that the Oceanographic Institute is sending some divers to check the area in the morning and Turner is worried that it might not be soon enough but promises not to print anything without Robards approval. Turner heads over to the Institute and speaks with Will Gleason, the owner of the Institute. Turner asks why he didn’t go himself and Gleason says that he suffered the bends on a recent dive but sent two of his best men to check out the area. Out in the ocean, the two divers are discussing Corey trying to pay them off not to do the dive as they are being lowered to the ocean floor in a dive capsule. Once on the ocean’s floor, they start investigating the area and find some cables attached to some speakers near a rock outcropping. Suddenly, some of the rocks start to shift and as one of the divers goes to investigate, he is attacked and killed by a giant octopus. The other diver gets back into the capsule and yells at the men on the boat to bring him up but the octopus latches onto the capsule and crushes it. Some time later, Turner confronts Corey at a hotel bar and tries to ask him some questions but Corey refuses to talk to him. Gleason and his wife Vicky arrive in town to find out what happened to the divers and Turner greets them at the hotel and warns him about Corey. Later, Turner is talking with Robards about all of the deaths and realizes that the one thing they have in common is that a radio was in use close by each one. Meanwhile, Tillie signs up her son Tommy and his friend Jamie to be in a boat race and gets a pair of walkie talkies to use to keep in touch with them while they are out on the water. Vicky is worried about Gleason going diving, thinking he might be risking his life, and the next day, she voices her concerns to some friends, who try to get her to join them on a boat but she refuses. The three friends head out but their engine gives out and they call the coast guard for a help. While they wait for the coast guard, the two men go swimming while the woman chooses to sunbathe on the deck but they are all attacked and killed by the octopus. Gleason and his assistant Mike head down into the water and find several barrels as well as dozens of dead fish floating in the water, all of them facing towards the ocean’s floor. When they surface, Gleason says that Trojan Construction is using high pitched frequency’s way over the legal limit, which has killed most of the sea life in the area. When Mike asks what could have caused some of the damage they saw to the items on the ocean’s floor, Gleason says the only thing he can think of powerful enough to do that is a giant octopus. Some time later, Vicky hires a boat to take her out to search for her friends and when Gleason hears about this, he contacts Robards to help find them and bring them back in. Vicky and the men she hired find the wrecked boat but see no sign of the people so they leave an emergency buoy tethered to the ship so the coast guard can find it and then start to head back. As Vicky mourns her friends’s death, she sees a massive wave approaching them and screams as the wave hits the ship and capsizes them. Vicky survives and swims back to the wrecked boat only to see the octopus appear and attack her. As the coast guard brings recovers the bodies, Gleason is heart broken over his wife’s death. The next day, Whitehead chastises Corey for conducting tests in the waters without his approval, as they can be linked to the cause of what is happening. Meanwhile, Turner, Robards, and Gleason are discussing the octopus when Jamie’s mother shows up and asks Turner if he wants to go with her to catch the race. Realizing what might happen, Robards tells his deputy to contact the coast guard and get them to bring the boats back in while Turner tells Gleason that the octopus has to be destroyed before it hurts anyone else but Gleason says he only has one thing on his mind; getting vengeance for his wife. At the Jr. Regatta, Tillie is keeping in touch with Tommy and Jamie through the walkie talkie as a coast guard helicopter appears and tries to get them to turn back. As the boats start to turn around, the octopus appears and charges through them, causing several of the boats to capsize while the octopus heads straight for Tommy and Jamie’s boat. Turner and Jamie’s mother arrive and wait with Tillie as the coast guard rescues all of the people that were knocked into the water by the octopus and they learn that Jamie is the only one that didn’t survive. Turner comforts Jamie’s mother while Tillie hugs Tommy, feeling slightly guilty about the fact that her son lived while Jamie didn’t. Meanwhile, Gleason and Mike, towing a container with Gleason’s two killer whales Summer and Winter,  sail out to the outcropping where the octopus seems to have made it’s lair. As they wait for the octopus to return, Gleason discusses the two killer whales and how they have come to understand each other and he hopes they will be able to help him kill the octopus. Suddenly, the boat starts rocking violently and when they head out on deck, they find that the container has been destroyed. Mike sees the whales in the distance and Gleason starts to whistle for them but decides against it, choosing to let them go free. Gleason and Mike then suit up and head into the water to face the octopus. As they for looking for the octopus, Gleason gets caught in a rockslide and loses his regulator, just as the octopus moves forward to attack him. Suddenly, the two killer whales arrive and begin attacking the octopus, allowing Mike to swim over and rescue Gleason. Mike places his regulator in Gleason’s mouth and begins swimming them back to the surface as the killer whales proceed to rip the octopus to pieces. Gleason and Mike reach the ship and after radioing in that the octopus is dead, they start sailing off and discuss what they should do now. As they are sailing, Gleason thinks he hears the killer whales but figures it is just his imagination. When he continues hearing their calls, he looks behind them and sees Summer and Winter following along behind the boat and he and Mike laugh as they realize the killer whales wanted to stay with Gleason.

Tentacles was completely panned by the critics, holding a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most of the critics felt that it was a a poor excuse for a Jaws rip-off that wasted the talents of the stars they used. The production spent nearly $1 million on a life-sized replica of a giant octopus which promptly sank when they put it in the water. Despite the bad reviews, the movie was a box office hit, as it made $3 million off of a $750,000 budget, though you have to wonder how much of that budget included the replica octopus.

This is one of several movies that came out to try and capitalize on the success of Jaws and unfortunately, fell flat. I don’t know if it was because it was an Italian film but the acting just felt off. I did like John Huston (Turner) and thought he had some great chemistry with Claude Akins (Robards) and Shelly Winters (Tillie), but Bo Hopkins (Gleason) felt a little wooden while several of the others just seemed weird. The story was kind of weak, as they never really did a good job of explaining how the octopus came to be. While they tried to explain the link between the octopus and radios, they really only laid out the framework and left the audience to piece together that it was attacking radios because of the high frequency sonic tests that Corey had been doing in the area. The special effects were not the best, as some of the close ups of the octopus’ head on the surface of the water looked really plastic, though the end scene with the killer whales attacking the octopus looked better, though that was because the studio used an actual octopus, albeit a dead one. It’s good for some laughs at how bad it is, and maybe a bit of nostalgia, but it really isn’t that good of a movie.

Rating: 2 out of 5