‘The Spider Woman’ (Film)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock and Nigel Bruce’s Watson vs. the Spider Woman

Sadly it’s not Spider-Woman as you might know her from the Spider-Man universe. That Spider-Woman hadn’t been invented in the 1940s. Though it would have been nice to see her in this film! 🙂

‘The Spider Woman’ is the seventh film of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce series of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ film. I would like to think that these ‘Sherlock Holmes’ films have become better under Universal Pictures.

It’s amazing how many ‘Sherlock Holmes’ films Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce made together from 1939 to 1946! They must have had a lot of momentum to keep these films made during the war years.

In ‘The Spider Woman’, Sherlock Holmes fakes his own death when he and Watson are holidaying in Scotland. It turns out Holmes is engaged in a battle of wits that concern the suicides of wealthy men.

‘Pyjama suicides’ as they’re called in the film. But Sherlock is convinced that the suicides are actually murders. With Watson’s help, Sherlock Holmes comes up against the very beautiful Adrea Spedding.

She’s responsible for the murders of wealthy men which involve planting deadly spiders into their rooms. Will Holmes and Watson uncover the mystery on how and why Adrea Spedding is doing this?

Apparently, this film is based on certain elements from certain works by Conan Doyle. They include the 1890 novel ‘The Sign of the Four’ and certain short tales like ‘The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot’.

‘The Final Problem’, ‘The Adventure of the Empty House’ and ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’ are also involved. They help to suit the contemporary tale happening in this ‘Sherlock Holmes’ film. 🙂

I like how Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock comes back from the dead in a disguise to fool Watson. Again, I don’t believe Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock does disguises the same way as Basil Rathbone does.

It was very funny when Nigel Bruce’s Dr. Watson assumed Arthur Hohl as Adam Gilflower was Sherlock Holmes in disguise and he turned out to be wrong. That’s a favourite moment of mine here.

Fun fact: in ‘Sherlock’ with Benedict Cumberbatch, the episode ‘The Empty Hearse’ paid homage to ‘The Spider Woman’ when Watson mistook a genuine client for Holmes. I’ve yet to see that episode.

Gales Sondergaard stars as Adrea Spedding, the titular ‘Spider Woman’ and the villainess of the film. In many ways, she’s like a female version of Moriarty and can be quite intimidating and threatening.

I argue she’s better than Missy from ‘Doctor Who’. 😀 Dennis Hoey also returns to play Inspector Lestrade in the film. Lestrade becomes helpful to Holmes and Watson when they are investigating. 🙂

Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce continue to deliver amazing performances as their characters. Basil’s Sherlock seems to have pre-planned everything out whilst Nigel Bruce’s Watson is kept in the dark. 🙂

The film also features Vernon Downing as Norman Locke, Alec Craig as Radlik, Mary Gordon as Mrs. Hudson, Teddy Infuhr as Larry and Angelo Rossitto as the Pygmy. All the cast are amazing in the film.

There are also uncredited actors in the film like Harry Cording as Fred Garvin and Robert Milasch as Carnival Barker. Why these people should be uncredited in the cast list at the end, I’m not very sure.

It did get tense when Sherlock was trapped in a rotating shooting gallery and Watson and Lestrade were about to open fire with .22 rifles. This does remind me of a 1960s ‘Batman’ story that I watched.

Incidentally, the moving targets in the shooting gallery are Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito cartoons. This was to indicate that these films were made during World War II, like previous films did before. 🙂

As indicated, there are many allusions to the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ canon regarding these films. I can’t claim to be a ‘Sherlock Holmes’ expert, but the filmmakers seem to acknowledge the original books.

Apparently, Gale Sondergaard went on to appear in a similar role in the misleadingly-titled ‘The Spider Woman Strikes Back’. Sadly, Sherlock Holmes didn’t return and she had a different name in it.

‘Spider Woman’ has been an engaging and gripping ‘Sherlock Holmes’ film to watch. I like how Basil’s Sherlock and Nigel’s Watson tackled the villainous Spider Woman and solved the mysterious deaths.

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the ‘Restoring Sherlock Holmes’ featurette, production notes by Richard Valley, a photo gallery and an original theatrical trailer.

‘The Spider Woman’ rating – 8/10

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