The Spiders 1919-1920
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With this exotic adventure film, director Fritz Lang established himself as a master of epic storytelling, a talent that would reach its pinnacle in such monumental films as Metropolis and Die Nibelungen. Influenced by the French serials of Louis Feuillade (Fantômas) and infused with Lang s own fascination with Asian culture, THE SPIDERS follows international adventurer Kay Hoog (Carl de Vogt) in his quest for Incan gold and the precious Buddha s head diamond. Along the way, he must contend with an organization of criminal spies known as The Spiders, who will employ any form of treachery, including murder, to snatch the artifacts from his possession.
Features: Original German Intertitles with Optional English Subtitles
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Exotic sets and designs from the Ethnological Museum of Hamburg, in cooperation with Heinrich Umlauff.
A man looking under the weather looks like he is escaping on an island. If his desperate attempt for help he sends a message written in blood, in a bottle in to the sea. As he tosses it he is dispatched by an Inca arrow.
The message comes into the possession of Kay Hoog (Carl de Vogt) rich sportsman and adventurer. The message tells of Inca gold in a remote location. Overhearing this is Lio Sha (Ressel Orla). That night the note is pilfered by a mysterious organization "The Spiders". Now the race is on to see whom gets the gold.
The journey will take us over many exotic lands and introduce us to sun loving, blood thirsty Incas. There may even be a chance for romance.
As with many serials the end may just be the beginning. See part two "The Diamond Ship".
In part two Kay Hoog who previously captured the secret of the Diamond Ship from the mysterious cabal "The spiders" has sworn revenge on Lio Sha for transgressions made in part one.
While the Spiders seek a diamond shaped while the head of Buddha for their own nefarious purposes. Kay seeks to spoil their plot. Again we get to go to exotic places leading to the Falkland Islands. Fortunately this time enough loose ends are sufficiently wrapped up so we do not have to wait for part three (which will never come.)
The biggest knock against the old version was that the print was not in great shape. Shepard explained that we were lucky to have the film at all and that it took a lot of work to put it back together from materials found in Czech archives. The new version appears to use the same Czech materials but has the advantage of new restoration techniques developed in the last 10 years. Nevertheless those expecting a complete restoration are bound to be disappointed as compared to NOSFERATU, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA or the 2003 version of METROPOLIS, this still looks pretty rough. It is longer (173 minutes -vs- 137 minutes) and, as much as I love Gaylord Carter organ scores, the new Ben Model score will be more audience friendly as will the print improvement and new title cards.
For those unfamiliar with the scenario, it involves intrepid adventurer Kay Hoog (pronounced HOAG - Carl de Vogt) and his confrontations with the international criminal organization The Spiders headed up by the remarkably intense femme fatale Lio Sha (Ressel Orla). Separately they seek to recover Incan treasure and later a priceless diamond known as the "Buddha's Head". Murders, betrayals, escapes, exotic locales are all there in the mix along with Lang's eye for striking visual composition which is what separates THE SPIDERS from the serials of Feuillade. The sets are fabulous, the costumes elaborate, and the performances (most notably Ressel Orla's) are deliriously intense. This more complete version is a welcome addition to the Fritz Lang filmography just don't expect M or METROPOLIS or for it to look like it was shot yesterday.