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160704 July 4, 2016


Earth vs The Spider 1958

The Spider 
Darla Gentry Steinberg
LHS '66

        I used to ride the bus on Saturday and meet friends at the movie downtown. I was about 10 or 11 and saw a movie that I believe was just called The Spider. (Can you imagine in today's world letting a kid get on the bus by herself to go downtown like that?) That movie terrified me and I avoid spiders to this day. I was already afraid of them but this movie certainly solidified that fear!

        Editor's Note: Here's what I found out about The Spider:

        Earth vs. the Spider (also known as The Spider and Earth vs. the Giant Spider) is a 1958 American black-and-white science fiction-horror film produced and directed by Bert I. Gordon, who also wrote the story.

        The film's original title was Earth vs. the Spider, but when The Fly, also released in 1958, became a blockbuster, the film company changed the name to The Spider on all advertising material. The original screen title, however, was never changed.

        Some cave interiors for the movie were filmed using stills from Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, with live action scenes filmed at Bronson Caves in Griffith Park near Los Angeles.


Tommy Towery
LHS '64

        Editor's Note: In researching Darla's movie trauma on Wikipedia, I first thought the movie she wrote about was actually titled Tarantula. But, based on her age and the release date of The Spider, I decided Tarantula was not the one.

        I remember seeing Tarantula  in the Lyric Theatre. Monster movies were my favorite genre in the Fifties, and I would not miss a "giant" anything movie. Only after a little research did I find the the Spider  had changed its name from Earth vs. the Spider to simply The Spider. Still, I think this movie ranks right up there with the scary "spider" movies.

        Tarantula is a 1955 American science fiction film from Universal-International, produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold, and starring John Agar, Mara Corday, and Leo G. Carroll. 

        The special effects showing the giant animals and the unfortunate scientist's deformity are fairly advanced for the time, with real animals (including a rabbit and a guinea pig in Professor Deemer's lab being used to represent the giant creatures. A real spider was also used for shots where the entire monster was shown. Shooting miniatures were reserved for close-ups and the final shots of the creature on fire, resulting in a rather more convincing monster than the giant ants seen in the earlier big-bug film Them! (1954). Of this and the entire film, Jack Arnold said, "We decided to do this film because, generally, people are very afraid of spiders".

        The film's theatrical release poster, featuring a spider with two eyes instead of the normal eight and carrying a woman in its fangs, does not represent any scene in the final film. This gaudy depiction of a woman-in-peril had become, by this time, a standard B-movie poster cliche that would continue being used for years.

        Trivia Question (Answer lower in this page): For which TV series is the co-star Leo G. Carroll best remembered? Hint: it was a TV series based upon a movie based upon a book. 


Barb Biggs Knott
LHS '66

        According to The New York Times, Breathless is both "a pop artifact and a daring work of art" and even at 50, "still cool, still new, still – after all this time! – a bulletin from the future of movies". Roger Ebert included it in his list of great movies and said: "No debut film since Citizen Kane in 1942 has been as influential", dismissing its jump cuts as the biggest breakthrough, and instead calling revolutionary its "headlong pacing, its cool detachment, its dismissal of authority, and the way its narcissistic young heroes are obsessed with themselves and oblivious to the larger society."

        Wow, that (Last week's info on the Hayes Movie Code) was enlightening! I can’t imagine such a strict code. 

        This brought a smile to my face though as I remembered seeing the Jean Paul Belmondo/Jean Seberg French film Breathless at the Lyric (I think it was that theatre) with several of my girlfriends. The movie was made in 1960 but not sure when it appeared at the theatre. I do remember that it was an adult film and we had to put on our big girl pants so we could pass muster if you get my meaning. 

        There was also a Swedish film which I saw during the 60’s (which shall remain nameless) and it was eye popping for someone of my age at the time…..had "yellow" in its title. Geeze, now that I think about it I can’t believe it was even shown.

        My taste in films has definitely changed….I can’t wait to see Finding Dory!

You can watch the entire movie on youtube by clicking on the poster below:

        Memphis, TN -  I am a little disappointed to get only two responses to my quest to find which age-inappropriate movie you dared to go see when you were young. Perhaps you are still too embarrassed to admit you actually did go see one you should not have gone to see. Of the two responses, only one (Barb's) was actually one of the forbidden ones, but Darla's response was about a movie I remember so well I could not bare not to comment on it.

        Come on classmates. The holiday is behind us and you have plenty of time to think back about the movies I am talking about. Which one did you "sneak" to go see that featured age-inappropriate subject matter, language, nudity, or whatever? Don't make me call you out by name.

My brother Don (back), my mother, and me and our TV on East Clinton Street.

The Vintage Television
Tommy Towery
LHS '64



        Topper is an American fantasy sitcom based on the 1937 film Topper, which was based on two novels Topper and Topper Takes a Trip by Thorne Smith. The series was broadcast on CBS from October 9, 1953 to July 15, 1955, and stars Leo G. Carroll in the title role. It finished at #24 in the Nielsen ratings for the 1954-1955 season. Topper also earned an Emmy nomination for Best Situation Comedy in 1954.

        Sophisticated but stuffy Cosmo Topper (Carroll) is the vice president of a bank, married to sweet (but rather clueless) Henrietta (Lee Patrick). They live in a Los Angeles house they bought from the estate of a young couple, George and Marion Kerby (real life husband and wife Robert Sterling and Anne Jeffreys), who died after being swept away by an avalanche. A St. Bernard, Neil, who attempted to rescue them also died with them. Topper discovers his new home is haunted by the former occupants as well as Neil. Strangely, he is the only one able to see or hear them. Neil, the St. Bernard, loves martinis and a running gag is the invisible dog lapping up the drink.

        The Kerbys try to bring some excitement and joy into the life of stodgy and conservative Topper. The ghosts cause strange (but humorous) events to happen, which an embarrassed Cosmo has to try to explain to others baffled—and even frightened—by them.


Click on  poster to get more information