(director: Chris Munger; screenwriters: story by Dan Cady/Warren Hamilton/Cady; cinematographer: Henning Schellerup; editor: Warren Hamilton; music: Phillan Bishop; cast: Eric Mason (Walter Bradley), Suzanna Ling(Susan Bradley), Herman Wallner (John Bradley), Patricia Landon (Nancy), Beverly Eddins(Martha Bradley), Rebecca Eddins (Susan at 10Linda Spatz (Tracy), Stratton Leopold (Eric),Mark Smith (Joe Penny), Jay Scott(Bo), Rita French(Joan), John Suhr (Funeral preacher), Ron Prather (Bob Havens), Mary Tyres (Nurse Hamilton); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Dan Cady; Cinema-Vu; 1976)

Tawdry drive-in horror flick that was made on the cheap for $60,000.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tawdry drive-in horror flick that was made on the cheap for $60,000. Chris Munger (“Black Starlet”/”Specialty House”) directs this cheapie with no special effects, no thrills or scares. It’s based on the dumb revenge story by Dan Cady, who co-writes the screenplay with Walter Hamilton.

The small-town Georgia-dwelling mortician, John Bradley (Herman Wallner), lives with his shrill, spider hating, uptight wife Martha (Beverly Eddins) and troubled loner daughter Susan (Susan Eddins at 3, Rebecca Eddins at 10 and Suzanna Ling as a teen), who connects only with spiders and her gentle dad. When Susan at ten (Rebecca Eddins) overhears on the phone her police chief sleazy Uncle Walter (Eric Mason) is having an affair with her mom and plans to soon kill her dad, Susan sics her pet tarantula on mom while she sleeps alone and mom dies from fright. Years later Susan (Suzanna Ling) is now a shy high school student, who raises tarantulas in the basement of her house, where the mortuary is also located. During Halloween an obnoxious trio of drunken teen boys come over to steal a coffin from the mortuary as a prank and when discovered harass Susan. While at a drive-in, Susan sics a few of her tarantulas on the bully Eric (Stratton Leopold), who stomped to death one of her pets, and on his date Joan (Rita French). It results in the death of Eric and Joan hospitalized in a catatonic state. On a hospital visit, Nancy (Patricia Landon) overhears Susan apologizing to the unconscious Joan, and gets her bully boyfriend Bo (Jay Scott) to go after Susan. But he’s done in when Susan gets her tarantulas to leave him dead from shock as he’s stuck in a ventilation duct doing house repairs and dies from suffocation. Nancy reports her suspicions of Susan to the police chief, but receives no satisfaction that he will investigate. Walter that night goes to Susan to express how much he desires her and will protect her from Nancy’s accusations, but is rebuffed. When Walter catches Nancy snooping around Susan’s house he chases her across a field and strangles her to death.

Things get resolved for Susan when she finds a unique way to kill Walter after he becomes paralyzed falling down the stairs when she refuses his sexual advances in her bedroom and she drags the sleaze to the mortuary and uses a mechanical lift to remove Nancy’s body out of her coffin. She then manages to place Walter under Nancy’s corpse in the coffin and seals it after putting everything back in place. Walter dies, as the amoral story leaves us perhaps bemused or bummed out with its morbid ending and its cheekiness about all the killings.

The film owes a debt mostly to Willard (1971) and his use of rats to kill his foes. “Tarantula” had a poor theater release, but has since drawn a small cult following from fans of the spider movies that became abundant in the ’70s after this flick appeared highlighting the eight-legged insects.