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HISTORY

This film was originally made by Pergor Productions under the title Tarantula and, according to documents in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, was viewed and granted a PCA seal in Oct 1951. However, it appears that the producers had difficulty in securing a distributor and when Howco eventually bought the film some time in the spring of 1952, that company assigned Ron Ormond to direct additional footage for the film, which was to be retitled Lost Women of Zarpa . A LAT news item of 4 Jul 1952 reported that Jackie Coogan had been signed to appear in the film, now titled Mesa of Lost Women . The revised film was viewed and granted a PCA seal in mid-Aug 1952. The film was reviewed in Exh in Jun 1953 but did not open in Los Angeles until Oct 1956.
       There are several differences between the opening cast credits and the cast list at the film's conclusion. At the beginning, after Coogan, Allan Nixon and Richard Travis' names, there appears the statement: "Narrated by Lyle Talbot." After Mary Hill and Robert Knapp's names, the following credit appears: "Introducing Tandra Quinn." Samuel Wu's name does not appear in the opening credits. Actor George Barrows' surname is misspelled "Burrows" in the onscreen credits.
       A HR production chart of 3 Jul 1952 lists William Nolte as assistant director, Harry Smith as sound recordist and adds June McCall to the cast of the additional scenes. Only Gil Warrenton is listed as director of photography on the chart, and it is probable that Karl Struss shot the earlier footage. McCall's appearance in ... More Less

This film was originally made by Pergor Productions under the title Tarantula and, according to documents in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, was viewed and granted a PCA seal in Oct 1951. However, it appears that the producers had difficulty in securing a distributor and when Howco eventually bought the film some time in the spring of 1952, that company assigned Ron Ormond to direct additional footage for the film, which was to be retitled Lost Women of Zarpa . A LAT news item of 4 Jul 1952 reported that Jackie Coogan had been signed to appear in the film, now titled Mesa of Lost Women . The revised film was viewed and granted a PCA seal in mid-Aug 1952. The film was reviewed in Exh in Jun 1953 but did not open in Los Angeles until Oct 1956.
       There are several differences between the opening cast credits and the cast list at the film's conclusion. At the beginning, after Coogan, Allan Nixon and Richard Travis' names, there appears the statement: "Narrated by Lyle Talbot." After Mary Hill and Robert Knapp's names, the following credit appears: "Introducing Tandra Quinn." Samuel Wu's name does not appear in the opening credits. Actor George Barrows' surname is misspelled "Burrows" in the onscreen credits.
       A HR production chart of 3 Jul 1952 lists William Nolte as assistant director, Harry Smith as sound recordist and adds June McCall to the cast of the additional scenes. Only Gil Warrenton is listed as director of photography on the chart, and it is probable that Karl Struss shot the earlier footage. McCall's appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
2 Jul 1952.
---
Daily Variety
11 Oct 1956
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jul 1952
p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
4 Jul 1952.
---
The Exhibitor
17 Jun 1953
p. 3541.
Variety
17 Oct 1956
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Ron Ormond Production
A Ron Ormond Production
A Ron Ormond Production; A J. Frances White--Joy N. Houck Presentation
A Ron Ormond Production; A J. Francis White--Joy N. Houck Presentation
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
WRITER
Wrt for the screen by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
FILM EDITORS
Supv ed
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Master of props
Master of props
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Dial supv
Scr supv
Transportation
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Lost Women of Zarpa
Tarantula
Release Date:
June 1953
Production Date:
1951
addl scenes began late June 1952 at KTTV Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Howco Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
1 January 1953
Copyright Number:
LP2439
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
69-70
Length(in feet):
6,290
Length(in reels):
7
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15557
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After pilot Grant Phillips and Doreen Culverson are found wandering in Mexico’s Death Desert, they are taken to a small hospital to recover. Grant tells physician Dr. Tucker, oil man Dan Mulcahey and local resident Pepe that he was hired to fly financier Van Croft and his girl friend Doreen to Mexico City to get married. Grant says that his plane developed engine trouble, forcing him to land on a mesa overrun by giant insects, which he says must be destroyed immediately. As Grant relates his story, he is unaware of a previous event: A year earlier, noted researcher Dr. Leland Masterson drives to the Zarpa Mesa to meet with Dr. Aranya, author of several theoretical papers he has admired. Aranya’s laboratory is hidden within the mesa and when Masterson finally meets Aranya, he is horrified to learn that his studies on the use of the growth hormone of the interior pituitary gland are not theoretical and that Aranya has been experimenting on human beings as well as creatures. This has resulted in the development of giant tarantulas, the size of humans. Aranya has also reversed the process, removing the hormone from the spiders and injecting it into women workers in his laboratory. Aranya introduces Masterston to one of the strange women, Tarantella, who he claims can regenerate organs and thus will live for hundreds of years. Aranya is also experimenting on a giant spider, with a reasoning brain, with which he expects to control the world. Masterson is aghast when Aranya invites him to work with him and rejects all that Aranya is doing. After Aranya tells Masterson that he now cannot permit him to leave, Tarantella ... +


After pilot Grant Phillips and Doreen Culverson are found wandering in Mexico’s Death Desert, they are taken to a small hospital to recover. Grant tells physician Dr. Tucker, oil man Dan Mulcahey and local resident Pepe that he was hired to fly financier Van Croft and his girl friend Doreen to Mexico City to get married. Grant says that his plane developed engine trouble, forcing him to land on a mesa overrun by giant insects, which he says must be destroyed immediately. As Grant relates his story, he is unaware of a previous event: A year earlier, noted researcher Dr. Leland Masterson drives to the Zarpa Mesa to meet with Dr. Aranya, author of several theoretical papers he has admired. Aranya’s laboratory is hidden within the mesa and when Masterson finally meets Aranya, he is horrified to learn that his studies on the use of the growth hormone of the interior pituitary gland are not theoretical and that Aranya has been experimenting on human beings as well as creatures. This has resulted in the development of giant tarantulas, the size of humans. Aranya has also reversed the process, removing the hormone from the spiders and injecting it into women workers in his laboratory. Aranya introduces Masterston to one of the strange women, Tarantella, who he claims can regenerate organs and thus will live for hundreds of years. Aranya is also experimenting on a giant spider, with a reasoning brain, with which he expects to control the world. Masterson is aghast when Aranya invites him to work with him and rejects all that Aranya is doing. After Aranya tells Masterson that he now cannot permit him to leave, Tarantella injects him with a liquid that causes him to collapse. A year later, Masterson escapes from the Mexican asylum in which he has been committed and is pursued by George, a male nurse. The delusional Masterson goes to a local cantina where he meets Van Croft and Doreen who are waiting for Grant to repair their plane. Wu, Van Croft’s manservant, becomes a slave of Tarantella, who works at the cantina as a dancer. During one of Tarantella's exotic dances, Masterson pulls out a revolver and kills her. Masterson then takes Van Croft, Doreen and George hostage and they drive to the plane. After they leave, a fully restored Tarantella rises from the dead. At gunpoint, Masterson insists that Grant take off, although the plane has not been completely repaired. After take off, the compass and one of the engines fail, forcing the plane to crash-land on Zarpa Mesa. As Grant and George plan to disarm Masterson, they are watched from the bushes by some of Aranya’s strange women and dwarves. At night, after Grant sets off an alarm flare and they build a fire, George leaves the area to look around. His scream prompts the others to look for him and they find him dead with two large puncture wounds in his neck. While the others try to sleep, Grant stands watch, but is romanced by Doreen who admits she is marrying Van Croft only for his money. When Van Croft awakens he discovers that Doreen has lost a very valuable comb that he gave her and orders Wu to look for it. Suddenly, Masterson hands his gun to the still mesmerized Wu. Wu then heads to Aranya’s laboratory and tells him that he has brought Masterson. However, the women attack Wu and, later, Grant finds his corpse and the comb, which he returns to Van Croft. Van Croft panics, runs into the brush and is killed by a giant tarantula as Grant, Doreen and Masterson are taken prisoner by Aranya. In the laboratory, Aranya injects Masterson with a drug he claims will make him regain his sanity. Doreen is stunned to see that Tarantella is still alive. After Masterson recovers, Aranya again seeks his cooperation and, again, Masterson refuses. When Tarantella attempts to reinject Masterson, Doreen intervenes and the two women struggle while Masterson quickly concocts a flask of explosive chemicals. After telling Grant and Doreen to escape, he hurls the flask, causing a huge explosion that destroys the laboratory and all in it. After Grant finishes telling his story, Doreen begins to recover. Although Tucker and Mulcahey have doubts about Grant’s tale, Pepe believes that there are elements of truth in their story and, back on Zarpa Mesa, one of Aranya’s women has survived. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.