The IMDb allows users to tag movies for content, which results in handy but utterly untrustworthy information. Handy, because I merely have to type in “giant spider” to get a list of movies, but untrustworthy because some of the listed movies have only normally sized spiders, some have spider-like creature, and many movies are listed under different tags like “large spider” instead. But at least it provides a set of candidates from which to start.
One of the movies that popped up from such a search was “Las Tarantulas”, about which the IMDb only had that it was a Spanish-language film from 1973 and a cast list, which included a chimpanzee. I figured that it was unlikely to contain any giant spiders, but I’m always up for a tarantula swarm. Amazon actually had a listing for a cheap DVD print so I placed my order and waited.
When the DVD of “Las Tarantulas” came in, I noticed that the packaging was entirely in Spanish. This wasn’t completely a surprise, but I strained my high-school Spanish comprehension to find any mention of an English dub or subtitles. No such luck. The packaging had very little information, although the tarantulas in the artwork were somewhat reassuring. As was the chimp. Can’t go wrong with a chimp!1
The packaging for my copy of “Viy” (a Russian movie based on the story by Gogol) had been similarly mum in regards to language support. With some half-remembered college Russian and a lot of blind luck, I had managed to find a setting for English subtitles. (I have no good answer for why I didn’t simply try the “subtitles” button on my remote.) It was possible that “Las Tarantulas” might have unadvertised subtitles. If I didn’t actually check, I could believe that I hadn’t bought a movie I couldn’t actually understand.
When I explained this to my brother, he was dismissive of my reluctance. It was just a horror movie; how complex could it be? “Exposition, exposition, screaming,” he predicted. Put that way, it did seem pretty straightforward. I could figure out enough context from visual cues and settle in for the inevitable carnage.
I put in the movie.
Within five minutes I was hopelessly confused. People came on-screen, gesticulated wildly, wrestled animals, and left. After about an hour, two guys were tied to ground so a couple of tarantulas could crawl on them. Then, more running about. Throughout all of this, the chimpanzee jumped around excitedly.
I honestly think I’m better off not knowing what anyone said. If I understood the dialog, it might make sense — and that wouldn’t be fun at all!
1. You’ve probably gone horribly wrong if there’s a chimp in your movie.