The Spider's Web (1938)

Discussion in 'Movies' started by LaurenceGarvey, Feb 20, 2005.

  1. LaurenceGarvey

    LaurenceGarvey Second Unit

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    If more serials like THE SPIDER’S WEB were readily available for today’s fans of vintage action films, I suspect that movie serials would be held in higher regard than they are by casual film buffs. It’s 15 chapters of non-stop action, excitement, laughs, and thrills.

    A mysterious crime lord known as the Octopus has his treacherous tentacles in all facets of the city’s transportation department. Planes, trains, trucks: anything he can’t control, he destroys, and woe be to him that gets in the Octopus’s way. Until along comes the Spider, a masked vigilante who is wanted by the police and the underworld alike. Unbeknownst to either group, the Spider is actually Richard Wentworth, wealthy criminologist, who – with his fiancé, Nita Van Sloan, and his efficient assistants, Jackson and Ram Singh, battles the forces of evil from behind the façade of an arachnid.

    Although at first (and second) glance a close relative of fellow pulp fiction avenger the Shadow (whose exploits would grace the serial screen two years later), the Spider has a panache all his own. Wentworth tends to do the thinking; once he dons that Spider mask and cape, he’s all action, frequently entering a room with two guns a-blazing. And let me tell you, he’s the most accurate shot of any movie hero I’ve ever seen. If he leaps into a room and fires two shots, well, you’re going to require two henchman-sized body bags, that’s for sure. Wentworth has another disguise, too: he frequently infiltrates gangland in the get-up of a wharf rat named Blinky McQuade. Practically colorful enough in his own right to carry a film all by himself, Blinky’s appearances throughout the chapterplay are a particular delight. Warren Hull, who would also play serial heroes Mandrake the Magician and the Green Hornet, is excellent, one of my favorite cliffhanger heroes, and at the final fadeout he even gets that rarity of serial rarities, a big smooch from his lovely leading lady, Iris Meredith.

    As directed by Ray Taylor & James W. Horne, THE SPIDER’S WEB is one of the most exciting and fast-moving of all chapterplays and scores in the top ten of most serial lovers’ polls. A sequel, THE SPIDER RETURNS, followed in 1941. Never released commercially, THE SPIDER’S WEB can be ordered from Western Trails Video by emailing wtrails@hotmail.com. Tell ’em Gravy sent you.

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