Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo

Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo
Genre Drama
Written by John Groves
Guerdon Trueblood
Directed by Stuart Hagmann
Starring Claude Akins
Charles Frank
Deborah Winters
Matthew Laborteaux
Sandy McPeak
Theme music composer Mundell Lowe
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Executive producer(s) Alan Landsburg
Producer(s) Paul Freeman
Cinematography Robert L. Morrison
Editor(s) Corky Ehlers
Running time 100 minutes
Production company(s) Alan Landsburg Productions
Distributor CBS
Original network CBS
Original release
  • December 28, 1977 (1977-12-28)

Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo is a 1977 American made-for-television horror film directed by Stuart Hagmann and starring Claude Akins, Charles Frank, Deborah Winters, Matthew Laborteaux and Pat Hingle. The film was produced by Alan Landsburg Productions and broadcast on CBS on December 28, 1977.[1]


In Guatemala, two reckless fortune-hunting pilots bribe officials in order to fly a load of coffee beans from South America into the United States. To increase their profits, they take aboard three passengers whom they agree to smuggle into the U.S.

Problems arise when sacks of the beans containing deadly tarantulas are loaded into the cargo bay. During the flight, the poisonous arachnids irritated by the plane’s vibration and high altitude escape from the sacks during a fierce thunderstorm. As the plane wobbles under the torrential rains, the sacks split open spilling the beans and the noxious spiders. The three illegal immigrants, also in the hold are trapped in the cargo hold with the spiders. They vainly attempt to hold off the spiders with their shoes or whatever swat-material they can find. The lethal spiders eventually overcome all three.

Meanwhile, in the cockpit, the pilots work to overcome a developing mechanical problem that endangers the aircraft. They realize they must make an emergency landing as they pass over the orange-producing town of Finleyville, California. Unbeknownst to the pilots, the arachnids have escaped and begin to swarm the cockpit, attacking the pilots. The plane crash-lands near Finleyville.

The city’s emergency response system moves to aid the downed aircraft and pilots. A fire breaks out at the crash site and the deadly tarantulas scurry from the location toward a nearby orange grove. The fire is brought under control and the pilots and passengers are pulled from the airplane. Those not killed begin to exhibit strange symptoms. The town’s physician, Dr. Hodgins (Pat Hingle), is baffled until a local citizen who has been bitten, suddenly drops to the ground.

Cindy Beck (Deborah Winters) and her brother Matthew (Matthew Laborteaux) investigate the site but fail to see the spiders. Cindy’s fiance (Charles Frank) aids with the investigation.

A family of aviators, the Beck family attempts to solve the puzzle of why the plane crashed. In the meantime, the tarantulas continue their attacks, and more people are brought into Dr. Hodgins’ clinic. The doctor finally figures it out, but by this time, the spiders have spread out. The city’s mayor is fearful that any news of the problem infesting the city’s oranges will bring the township financial ruin.

Bert Springer (Claude Akins), one of the city’s responsible citizens, helps the Beck family investigate. Cindy’s brother is bitten and incapacitated by the spider and dies. Bert organizes the town citizens, and they risk their lives trying to save the town as the food-seeking spiders converge on the orange packaging plant.

The plan to get rid of the spiders involves exposing the deadly arachnids to the buzzing sounds of their enemy: bees. Using a recording of bees buzzing, the tarantulas are rendered motionless with the bee sounds. This allows everyone to collect the spiders in jars. During the process, the electrical system switches off, and Cindy finds herself suddenly surrounded by the deadly spiders.

At the last minute, the electricity is switched back on, Cindy is saved, and the remainder of spiders are eliminated.


Awards and nominations

Emmy Award


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