1955 – “Tarantula” premieres

One of a spate of giant animal films produced by Hollywood during the Fifties, “Tarantula” is superior to most of them in two major respects. The first is the acting of Leo G. Carroll, as Professor Deemer, the mad scientist whose good intentions go tragically awry. (Who would have thought that randomly irradiating animals would be a bad idea?)

The second is the quality of its visual effects: the film used real animals shot against reasonably convincing mattes as much as possible. Compared to the giant ants of “Them!”, shot a year earlier, it was a quantum leap in effects quality. Jack Arnold, who directed this film, would use the same technique to even greater impact in “The Incredible Shrinking Man” two years later (although in that case, it would deal with shrinking rather than growing).

Referenced in:

Science Fiction Double Feature — Rocky Horror Picture Show original cast

1812 – French begin retreat from Moscow

It is possibly the most notorious defeat in military history, a textbook example of strategic and logistical errors: Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, in the chilly Winter in 1812. This day, December 14, marks the date upon which the French were finally expelled from Russian territory.

A combination of factors – worsening weather, an over-extended supply chain, the scorched-earth policy of the Russian peasantry and the guerilla tactics of the Russian military being the most well-known – came together to make the French position in Moscow untenable. When Napoleon left the army to shore up his political position in France, the already poor morale of the French army sank lower still, and the remaining commanders ordered a retreat, most likely in order to prevent a mutiny.

Thus began one of the most infamous and fatal retreats the world has ever seen. In addition, the defeat was the beginning of the end for Napoleon, whose fortunes declined over the next few years, finally culminating in his defeat in the battle of Waterloo in 1815

Referenced in:

Done With Bonaparte – Mark Knopfler