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Not Rated
Copyright 1977 Alan Landsburg Productions
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 16 August 2010

The Characters:  

  • Bert Springer - Claude Akins! Of course, why shouldn't the heroic fire chief save the town from killer tarantulas?
  • Joe & Cindy - The young couple, and supposedly our main protagonists. Meh.
  • Matt - He shouldn't have tried to catch a highly poisonous spider with his bare hands. I only hope that they don't bury him in a pair of shorts with his striped, knee-high athletic tube socks pulled all the way up.
  • Chief Beasley - His wife cheats on him. This is plain stupidity on the part of the beau. Beasley carries a gun, handcuffs, and a baton wherever he goes, and he has a shotgun in his car. Is this the kind of man whose wife you should be playing with?
  • Gloria Beasley - She plumb dead, I reckon.
  • Fred & Buddy - Howard Hesseman & Tom Atkins! The pilots who accidentally import several hundred tarantulas to Southern California. They die early on. Oh well, I guess it was fun while it lasted.
  • Jack Douglas - Bert Remsen! Remember how the mayor in "Jaws" was worried about the shark scaring off the tourists? This is the same guy. Just substitute "tarantulas" for "shark" and "oranges" for "tourists," and...well I guess that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it?
  • Doc Hodgins - Pat Hingle! He hates it when his patients die. What's the fun in being a retired country doctor if you can't tell people (over and over) about delivering them in the back of an old Ford pickup during a snowstorm?
  • The Spiders - We are not tarantulas, we are highly dangerous banana spiders!

Buy It!

The Plot: 

In sunny Ecuador, a pair of irresponsible and fortune-seeking pilots somehow scrapes together enough cash to bribe the officials so that they can load their aging DC-3 cargo plane with thousands of pounds of prime coffee beans. Unfortunately, the sacks of coffee are infested with tarantulas (we see them crawling through the beans as the sacks are filled). Despite the fact that these spiders turn out to be incredibly dangerous to humans, none of the workers on the truck seem concerned about the arachnid infestation. The trouble starts after the plane takes off and encounters a severe thunderstorm. Then the sacks of coffee split open, spilling beans and tarantulas that are strung out on caffeine into the cargo hold. Three illegal immigrants, who paid the pilots to fly them to America, are trapped in the cargo hold with the tarantulas. They hold off the hairy horrors for a while with their shoes, but eventually all three men are overcome by the spiders.

In the cockpit, the pilots are oblivious to the eight-legged danger in the rear, because they are dealing with a mechanical problem that threatens to make the aircraft drop out of the sky. During their emergency approach to a small airport near the town of Finleyville, a tarantula bites one of the aviators. The emergency landing quickly turns into a crash landing.

Nothing this exciting has happened in Finleyville, ever! The town's entire emergency response system leaps into action and converges on the downed airplane. The rescue convoy consists of one fire truck, a van, a tow truck, two station wagons, and an El Camino! There is trouble, right here in Finleyville and...what an awful name for a town. It doesn't roll with any sentence I can put together at all. Whatever happened to picking an aesthetically pleasing nom de plume, like Grover's Mill or Omaha? Finleyville sounds like a lazy excuse for a name. Might as well call the place Baconwaddle.

Baconwaddle, heh. Anyway.

A fire breaks out at the crash site, and dozens of tarantulas scurry off into the nearby orange grove. Once the fire is under control, the victims are pulled from the airplane. The men on the plane were not killed or seriously injured by the crash, and they exhibit unusual symptoms. Doc Hodgins can't figure it out, but when one of the locals (bitten by a hidden spider) suddenly drops to the ground, everybody starts whispering about the plague.

Later, more victims of the mysterious ailment are brought to the county medical clinic. Piecing everything together, Doc finally realizes that the problem is not some rare South American disease, but a spider. One of the brightly-colored intruders is caught and examined by a specialist. The arachnologist calls it a banana spider. It's not a banana spider, it's a tarantula. Heck, if it is a banana spider, then why isn't the movie titled "Banana Spiders: The Deadly Cargo" or "Phoneutria nigriventer: The Deadly Cargo?"

Did you notice how the arachnologist refers to the spider as a Phoneutria nigriventer? Scientists love to do that sort of thing. Point out a bullfrog to a herpetologist and they will call it a Rana catesbeiana, before launching into a long discussion about its ecology and behavior. Gee, thanks Mr. Dweeb. How is your love life? A romantic desert? Really? Maybe you should stop making amplexis jokes on the first date.


Actually, I've never encountered a nerded-out herpetologist, but nearly every movie scientist is a complete geek who is unable to communicate in anything besides egghead Latin - even if the scientist is a female who looks like Marilyn Monroe with a white lab coat.

The banana spiders all congregate at the local orange co-op, which is a major problem for both Finleyville and its mayor. Without the orange crop, the town is going to suffer financial ruin. As a result, we are treated to a lot of idiocy involving the mayor trying to downplay the tarantula threat. "No, there aren't any spiders. Okay, fine there might be spiders. Stop, you can't use poison to kill the spiders because that will ruin the oranges and the whole town will go out of business." It's the often-copied formula from "Jaws" all over again.

With the warehouse infested with tarantulas, the only hope of rescuing the crop without destroying the oranges is to use the sound of the deadly tarantula wasp to put the spiders to sleep. Unfortunately, nobody in Finleyville has a pet tarantula wasp. (Who does?) So they use a hive of bees filtered through a sound mixer and amplifier to mimic the sound of a tarantula wasp. While the spiders are paralyzed with fear, Bert and his cohorts can pick them up and put them in buckets. Genius! The problem with this plan is that they don't have any equipment to record the buzzing bees. Somebody has to shake the bees in front of a microphone the whole time that the spider removal operation is going on.

Look, just get everybody from the town to put on leather gloves. One person unloads a pallet of oranges while another stands ready with a large metal spatula. If a spider appears, whack it! Repack the pallet, unspidered, and ship it out. To state it as simply as possible: Taranspatulla!

Instead of playing whack-a-spider, we get to watch Bert and the others slowly shovel inert spiders. This goes on for at least five minutes. Five minutes! Then the electricity gets interrupted by some dolt who tries to burn down the warehouse, but instead falls off the roof and hits the power lines. The loud buzzing stops, the lights flick off, and the rolling bay doors slam shut. Now the characters are trapped in a dark warehouse full of creepy crawlies. Don't worry, they make it out alive. Of course they survive. There wouldn't have been anyone left to appear in "The Rockford Files," "Charlie's Angels" or "Fantasy Island" if all of them died. 1970s television would have been a barren wasteland, much like what reality TV is now.

Remember when "Quincy M.E." was the best TV program ever? For those of you too young to know what I am talking about, Quincy was like Columbo, but he was a doctor. Surely you know who Columbo is. Surely.


Join the B-Masters as we try to survive some of the worst 1970s Movies of the Week. Click on the banner for more reviews.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • Coffee is worth more than gold in San Francisco.
  • It is called "teleworking" because telephone switchboard operators pioneered the idea of working at home in pajamas.
  • Confucius say, "Where big hairy, arachnid go, shoe soon follow."
  • Having a pilot for a girlfriend means never having to hitchhike.
  • Tarantulas must take in at least 50 mg of Vitamin C every day.
  • Spider fangs cannot penetrate flannel.
  • Both cowboy boots and line dancing owe their existence to the tarantula.
  • Electric bay doors automatically shut and lock when the power is turned off.
  • Jimmy Page barely escaped from a warehouse full of tarantulas, and "Stairway to Heaven" is the proof.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 11 mins - Shouldn't you be, you know, higher?
  • 16 mins - I am worried about the possibility that that was a euphemism.
  • 20 mins - Bart Savagewood would land his crippled airplane on top of that truck full of oranges, and he wouldn't even bruise one of them.
  • 21 mins - Bow down before the man magnificence that is Bart Savagewood!
  • 33 mins - They just put out an aircraft fuel fire with water.
  • 52 mins - This looks just like the set of Space Mutiny, except with oranges.
  • 58 mins - Busy street...
  • 70 mins - Movie, why are you wasting my time?
  • 77 mins - Answer me, damn you!
  • 88 mins - I'm on the edge of my seat right now. Not because I am excited, because I'm not, but because, as soon as this is over, I am going to turn off the television and go to bed.

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note tdeadlycargo1.wav Mayor: "We've got to get these people back to picking oranges. How much longer is it going to take?"
Bert: "I don't know. I don't know if there's anybody left in that airplane."
Mayor: "Oh, this is a Hell of a mess Bert. Especially when you figure that one of your firemen on a bike started the fire."
Bert: "Jack, why don't you just go back and pick your oranges, and take your constituents with you."
Green Music Note tdeadlycargo2.wav Doc Hodgins: "Were you with Mrs. Beasely when she had the accident?"
Beasely's Beau: "I had nothing to do with this!"
Doc Hodgins: "Rich, was there a snake anywhere nearby?"
Beasely's Beau: "Snake? I dunno. I don't think so."
Doc Hodgins: "There's a small wound on her foot. I don't know what the connection is."
Green Music Note tdeadlycargo3.wav Joe: "Hey Doc, we got something here, looks like a snakebite. Looks like somebody did some first aid on it, too."
Paramedic: "This one's got some small holes on his leg. Could be a bite."
Doc Hodgins: "Is the skin around the puncture gray?"
Paramedic: "Yeah, it's burned - kinda gray."
Joe: "That's the same thing. What kinda snake is it?"
Doc Hodgins: "It's a spider, some kind of tarantula, I've got one right here."
Green Music Note tdeadlycargo4.wav Bees: "We are not honeybees, we are tarantula wasps!"

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Cliptdeadlycargo1.mpg - 8.5m
Spider Geek tells Joe and Cindy that they have a very big Phoneutria nigriventer problem on their hands.

Remember ladies: Spider Geek is single and ready to mingle. If you play your cards right, he could be yours to keep.

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