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The Nutritional Aspects Of Expanding Populations

p037Although The Nutritional Aspects Of Expanding Populations sounds like a worthy subject for serious study in Biochemistry and Nutrition especially when considering the impact of the large spike in population growth during the post war period and its sociological implications on the  baby boom generation, it became the basis for a landmark 1955 cinematic classic  about the development of a growth serum and how it could be used to solve the problem of overpopulation and world hunger, a neglected subject in the mid fifties.

The elixir depicted in this film adaptation is so potent its promise is in providing the complete nutritional needs of any growing organism, a claim overshadowed only by the myopic scientific experimentation focused solely on animal rather than plant life which could have made it more palatable for vegetarians and provide a sound basis for reducing cardio-vascular disease when coupled by increased exercise and the cessation of smoking.

The film is titled Tarantula and was directed by Jack Arnold and stars John AgarLeo J. Carroll and Mara Corday with an uncredited appearance of twenty-five year old Clint Eastwood as a jet pilot dropping napalm at the films’ climax. Arnold went on to direct The Incredible Shrinking Man two years later in 1957 considered by many as his masterpiece and  Eastwood became a multiple Oscar winning director.

In this scenario,  Professor Gerald Deemer  is a scientist with a just motive, a hero trying to avert food shortages which are predicted as a result of the world’s expanding population of two billion in 1955, a role passionately played by veteran character actor Leo J Carroll. This is the premise that sets it apart from most giant bug movies featuring  mutations caused by either nuclear weapons or a demented scientist. In this case its a result of noble intentions gone wrong with a sound display of scientific methodology and  multi layered sub plots such as a budding love story and a rare medical condition known as acromegaly artistically shot in black and white featuring an arid desert with whistling tumbleweeds. It is here Professor Deemer invents a special nutrient on which animals can exclusively thrive causing them to enlarge many times their normal size to serve as a source of food.

Harvested in the professors’ home laboratory are several over-sized rodents and a tarantula that escapes somewhere  in the California, Nevada area, hungry and lurking for prey, growing and yet undetected despite  leaving pools of arachnid venom and skeletal remains whenever it fed.  Why spiders and rodents were used to experiment on instead of cattle or sheep is left unexplained, but  perhaps it  suggests that Deemer thought there may be a time when a high protein diet would be defined by how many legs are on the plate.

Unthinkable imagery created by very sophisticated  visual effects and score, the film has a sharp   witty script written by Robert Fresco and  Martin Berkele based on a story by Ray Bradbury, yet its science fiction basis never diminishes the credibility that advancing bio technology may one day lead to the discovery of such a nutrient with unanticipated consequences.

When a very bored hotel concierge  asks Corday, a 1954 Playboy centerfold who  arrives in town as a biology student working on her Masters dissertation, The Nutritional Aspects Of Expanding Populations and Agar who plays the town doctor, “Well ain’t you going to introduce yourselves?” as they leave the hotel for a ride in his car.

“No” they respond in unison, as the hotel manager scratches his head and  mutters,   “Yep, it can be an awfully fast world.”