The Spider Woman Strikes Back


Drama / Horror / Thriller

IMDb Rating 5.9 10 228

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Milburn Stone as Mr. Moore
Gale Sondergaard as Zenobia Dollard
Rondo Hatton as Mario the Monster Man

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by mark.waltz 5 / 10

Hokey fun with the darkest of all dark ladies.

A decade before this film, the exotically beautiful Gale Sondergaard had won an Oscar for being the not quite noble servant Faith in "Anthony Adverse", and followed this up with a decade of equally sinister characters. Her role as the villain in a Sherlock Holmes film was her most silky smooth spider woman to date, so Universal followed that up, giving her real spiders as co-stars as well as the deformed Rondo Hatton who speaks not a word but presents a gentle demeanor underneath his imposing figure.

The lovely heroine in danger at their hands as the newly hired secretary/companion to the allegedly blind Sondergaard who has a mysterious and evil agenda concerning each of her secretaries, becoming wonderfully evil in the scene where she reveals her plans. You can't take these B movies as anything but fun camp, and Sondergaard gives it her all. No matter her distaste for the story or quality considering her talent, she never lets it show. At only an hour, this is harmless, wonderful watchable fun, a perfect addition to any double bill.

Reviewed by BandSAboutMovies 5 / 10

Kinda sequel

There was a second Universal horror cycle after the Karloff and Lugosi monsters, even if they never get discussed any longer. And so much of it was based around one man, Rondo Hatton.

Well, Sherlock Holmes too. We'll get to that.

Hatton was once a sportswriter for The Tampa Tribune and a World War I veteran, but then cromegaly distorted the shape of his head, face and extremities, giving him a unique look that made him a livings special effect. In fact, the studio system tried to play his looks up as an even worse defomity, sating that he'd received elephantiasisafter xposure German mustard gas attack during the war.

After playing the Hoxton Creeper in the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes film The Pearl of Death, a series of Creeper films was planned. Sadly, House of Horrors and The Brute Man were released after his death, the result of shis acromegalic condition.

Back to the master detective.

The second character spun off from a Holmes film was The Spider Woman, who originally appeared in Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman. Again, like Hatton, Gale Sondergaard didn't need much makeup to achieve her fame as a dangerous and evil woman.

In fact, after the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, MGM considered having the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz played as a glamorous villainess, much like Snow White's evil stepmother. They did two screentests with Sondergaard in the traditional witch look and the more out there sexy style. After the decision was made to go with the ugly wicked witch, Sondergaard was reluctant to wear the disfiguring makeup, so she stepped away from the role which went to Margaret Hamilton.

Sondergaard also played the evi humanized cat Tylette in The Blue Bird - 20th Century Fox's answer to Oz - as well as the sinister wife in The Letter.

So yes, back once again to Holmes. After playing the villain in one of the long series of Sherlock movies, Sondergaard would play the sinister Spider Woman again in an unrelated sequel. In the first movie, she was known as Adrea Spedding but now she's the wealthy, blind and mysterious Zenobia Dollard.

Jean (Brenda Joyce, who played Jane in several Tarzan films) is hired as Zenobia's caretaker, a job with a definite shelf life as all of the previous caretakers have vanished. Perhaps that's because at night, Zeonbia's severant (yep, Rondo Hatton) harvests her blood while she sleeps a drugged sleep, mixing her plasma with that of her ancestors and a little bit of spider venom - sounds like one of my cocktails - to make a death serum. Oh yeah - he has blood drinking plants to help him with his experiment!

At just 59 minutes and with direction by non-horror fan Arthur Lubin, this film couldn't catch on the same way Universal's past horror successes did. Yet it's still astounding that they attempted to start a new series, much less one with a female antaognist. That said, this did run quite often on TV, as it was part of the original Universal Shock Theater package.

Reviewed by dbborroughs 6 / 10

Good but nothing special

In name only sequel to the film Sherlock Holmes movie Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman. The plot here has a young woman staying at a house with a strange woman named Zenobia (played by Gale Sondergaard from the Holmes film)as a house keeper/companion. Unknown to the young woman is the fact that Zenobia is draining her of some blood every night to feed to her plants. Standard but somewhat awkward thriller isn't bad, but isn't anything special. The film feels like a program horror film where they just sort of threw elements together and hoped that they stuck. Is it a horror film or a pseudo-Holmes film? Its never really clear and the film suffers for it. The producers even went so far as to put another connection to the Holmes series by having Rondo Hatton as a mute Handyman, but he isn't given much to do other then look menacing.. Its good but nothing special.

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