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Sherlock Holmes in the Spider Woman
Sherlock Holmes in the Spider Woman
Actors: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Gale Sondergaard, Vernon Downing, Dennis Hoey
Genres: Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense
UR     2003     1hr 3min

The master detective Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and his faithful cohort Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) are back, preserved and digitally restored in 35mm to original condition by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Thi...  more »

     
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Movie Details

Actors: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Gale Sondergaard, Vernon Downing, Dennis Hoey
Genres: Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Drama, Drama, Classic TV, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 11/25/2003
Original Release Date: 01/21/1944
Theatrical Release Date: 01/21/1944
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 3min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

The slickest of the Universal Holmes series
Sarah Hadley | Murfreesboro, Tennessee USA | 02/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"With this film - the fifth entry, and the seventh to feature Rathbone and Bruce as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson - the Universal Holmes series reached its zenith. Although the time period is still obviously the 1940s - made overt by the finale in the shooting gallery - the film actually uses it to its advantage, presenting an engaging movie experience that goes down very smooth, seeming both cultured and modern (at least, for its time). Unlike so many of the Universal series, there's no attempt to make the proceedings pseudo-Gothic, nor to rely on a WWII setting - the basic plot is one that could work in any time period. That serves the story very well, because for once it feels like Holmes and Watson are up against a genuine, contemporary criminal. Just how ingenious can a villain be in the 1940s if he has to carry out his murders in an ancestral home without electricity or telephone service?

More than any of the other films, "Spider Woman" draws on a number of the original Conan Doyle series for bits and pieces of inspiration, chiefly "The Final Problem," "The Sign of Four," "The Speckled Band," and "The Devil's Foot." Bizarrely enough, it works quite well to take these individual little elements and weave them into an entirely new story. Sure, all that stuff about human-seeking deadly tarantulas is utter garbage, but it's made up for by the many twists and turns of the "howdunnit" (for, indeed, that's exactly what kind of mystery this is). Aside from the plot tricks, however, it's the characters that make the story. Gale Sondergaard is easily the most suave villain of the series, and her scenes with Basil Rathbone are a treat. His blackface Indian disguise may seem a bit offensive today, but at least it lets Holmes retain his dignity, unlike so many of the weird masks and outfits he dons throughout the series. Nigel Bruce also gets some nice moments, chiefly his surprise at seeing his friend Holmes alive. And as for the child - isn't that child eerie? It's his little skip that's so disturbing, I think. Perfectly done.

Ultimately, you have a taut little adventure mystery (unusual enough, in what's really a series of thrillers) with a solid cast and a fast-paced, surprising story that remains true to the Conan Doyle roots of the lead characters. What more can you ask for in 63 minutes? And as with most of the films, the restoration by UCLA yields excellent results - the picture is shockingly sharp and clean. I personally recommend getting this as part of MPI's "Sherlock Holmes Collection: Volume Two," but even if you're only interested in the one film, I don't think you'll be at all disappointed by "The Spider Woman.""
Creepy thriller is one of Holmes' best
B. W. Fairbanks | Lakewood, OH United States | 01/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"With this, the fifth film in Universal's Sherlock Holmes series starring Basil Rathbone, the studio dropped the great detective's name from the title, confident that other aspects of the production were powerful enough to attract audiences. "Spider Woman" was a perfect entry in which to deemphasize the appearance of Sherlock Holmes since Gale Sondergaard's performance as Andrea Spedding, aka the Spider Woman, would have been good enough to make this episode memorable even if she had matched wits with a less formidable opponent. Her character was so well received that it inspired an unofficial sequel, "The Spider Woman Strikes Back" (unofficial because she technically played another character and Holmes was not involved) in which another alumnus of the series, "Pearl of Death"'s Rondo Hatton, was also featured. For fans of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, it's fun to see how screenwriter Bertram Millhauser uses Doyle's "The Dying Detective" as a source for our first glimpse of Holmes here, and, as always, Roy William Neill creates a beautifully eerie atmosphere with scenes draped in shadows the likes of which can only be found in German Expressionism (and don't miss the scene in Ordway's lab, perhaps the most frightening moment in any of the 12 films). Neill deserves more acclaim than he's received, and the fact that he never rose above the assembly line of B movie making is a damning indictment of Hollywood's inability to properly utilize its talent.Rathbone is superb, as always, and Dennis Hoey as LaStrade also shines especially in the affecting moments early in the film when the Inspector believes his rival has died. And Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson, though bumbling as amusingly as ever, is given the opportunity to demonstrate his intelligence, even showing Holmes up for once. The only drawback to this creepy thriller is a disappointing climax. Otherwise, "Spider Woman" has bite to spare."
The Most Entertaining In the Series
Craig Connell | Lockport, NY USA | 04/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This might rate as the most entertaining of all the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films, which I still think are the best renditions on film of the famous detective.

This has a surprising amount of action and is simply a fun story to watch. Packed into just one hour are such scenes as Holmes faking his death, a near-poisoning of he and Dr. Watson by gas, a strange little boy who hops around a room, tarantulas on the loose, on and on.

Nigel Bruce is his normally funny Dr. Watson and Gale Sondergaard makes an excellent villain. Credibility is stretched in the beginning and ending scenes but it's an enjoyable ride all the way through.

This DVD looks super, too. What a great "restoration" job was done on this."
You'd better take a shot of anti-spider venom if Andrea Sped
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 01/29/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)

"If you are drawn to beautiful and intelligent adventuresses, but have a thing about spiders with excruciatingly painful venom, The Spider Woman may cause emotional conflict.

The woman in question is Andrea Spedding (Gale Sondergaard), sophisticated, alluring; a woman who knows what wealthy, powerful men, in this case high-style gamblers down on their luck, long for...not sex (at least in the movies of the Forties) but validation (as in real life). Andrea maintains her life of luxury and style by separating men from their life insurance polices, and then separating the men from their lives. They all commit suicide, to the bluff puzzlement of Inspector Lestrade. (Those who might worry about what could be spoilers may want to avoid the next few sentences.) Andrea Spedding's clever technique involves her affection for spiders, the little ones who bite and scamper off, leaving pain so intense even leaping out of a window in your pajamas is welcome relief.

Only Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) is sure these bizarre and unexpected series of suicides is actually the fiendish workings of a master criminal, and a female master criminal at that.

We're off on one of the better movies in the series. Not as good as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes or The Hound of the Baskervilles, but solidly in the middle amongst the others. In its favor is a clever plot that centers on Andrea Spedding, played with great allure and conscienceless glee by that wonderful actress, Gale Sondergaard. There's Basil Rathbone, one of the great Holmes actors, and Nigel Bruce as Watson. There are some effective set pieces and a lengthy, first-class conclusion in a crowded arcade filled with jostling, happy people, with the fat lady chortling, a mysterious fortune-telling gypsy, a small person in a box, a shooting booth with .22 rifles and moving targets that look like Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo...a deadly arcade, as it turns out.

Rathbone as Holmes in various disguises, however, for me is a bit much, especially when he's all gussied up as a high class gambler from India, complete with gown, turban and enough dark makeup to qualify for a minstrel show in the States. The Spider Woman lurches, sometimes slowly, from one bit of plot exposition to another. Still, the good-natured nostalgia for this series kicks in. I enjoyed the movie.

Says Holmes to Watson as they stroll through that arcade. "Remarkable woman. As audacious and deadly as one of her spiders."

"Audacious?" huffs Watson. "Stupid, I call it. Fancy trying to commit a murder in a place like this with all these people about!"

"That's where you're wrong, old boy," says Holmes. "In an isolated place, a cry for help or a single shot might very well arouse the curiosity of at least one casual witness. But in an arcade like this, people are bent only on pleasure and will instinctively disregard anything from the normal that doesn't immediately concern them. Yes, Watson, Miss Spedding deserves credit for picking the most logical spot in the world for committing my murder."

Be sure to buy the MPI release, which has an excellent restoration by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. There are no extras."