Web of the Spider
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(Oct 31, 2017)
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Edgar Allan Poe invites you to spend one night in the WEB OF THE SPIDER! An intrepid reporter by the name of Alan Foster (Anthony Franciosa, TENEBRE), accepts a wager from Edgar Allan Poe (Klaus Kinski, NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE) and his companion, Thomas Blackwood, to spend a single night in the reputedly haunted Blackwood Castle on All Souls Eve. Shortly after settling into the spooky abode, the reporter meets the beautiful Elisabeth Blackwood (Michele Mercier, BLACK SABBATH), and begins to witness ghostly phenomena and visitations from beyond the grave, as an assortment of specters relive the last moments before their ghastly murders. Soon, Foster realizes that the damned spirits of Blackwood Castle require human blood to continue their unnatural existence! One of the last Italian gothic horror films, WEB OF THE SPIDER is a color remake of 1964's CASTLE OF BLOOD, also directed by Antonio Margheriti, under the anglicized alias Anthony M. Dawson. Previously only available in the US in a cropped television master, Garagehouse Pictures is pleased to finally offer this Euro-horror classic in HD for the first time ever, fully restored and mastered from an uncut, domestic theatrical negative in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio! Special Features: Audio Commentary by George Reis & Keith Crocker, Audio Commentary by Stephen Romano, 2 German Super 8 movie digests, Antonio Margheriti trailer reel, Deleted scene, Uncut Italian version (standard def), Art Gallery, Garagehouse Pictures trailers, New artwork by Stephen Romano, All region Blu-ray disc. 1971 / 93 mins. / Color / Mono / 2.35:1 / Not Rated
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I think that director Marghetti wanted to revisit the castle he had envisioned in the brilliant 1964 film, but pay more attention to the mood and substance of a moment, than break new ground or worry about "innovation". And one of the most frequent comments by WEB OF THE SPIDER [or IN THE GRIP OF THE SPIDER, as it is known overseas] detractors is that it "doesn't hold up" to CASTLE OF BLOOD. Hogwash -- they are different movies made almost a decade apart.
The leading roles in SPIDER also define the film, where in CASTLE OF BLOOD the story kind of leads a cast of those who were [pardon my upstate NY ignorance] more or less unknowns into territory that horror hadn't charted before ... WEB OF THE SPIDER comes jam-packed with subtexts if only due to the presence of it's top billed star; Klaus Kinski's Edgar Allen Poe is onscreen for perhaps 8 to 12 minutes of screentime, during which he gets tanked, trashes a chess set, growls put-downs at Tony Fransciosa, then just sort of gloomily looks up at the sky and says "They'll never believe it" ... No wonder it's initial viewers were confused; by 1972 Klaus Kinski had a significant "cult" following, and his absence from the majority of the film speaks of a jumbled agenda, and the result is kind of a jumbled narrative. Kinski's role in the story is supposed to be that of the catalyst who spark's Alan's evening of horror, but instead he has kind of an Oscar the Grouch kind of quality, popping out of his can when needed to cue the closing score.
Tony Franciosa is properly confused and does seem genuinely frightened as the unlucky Alan, becoming more and more unhinged as the climax approaches, but has too much of an "everyman" quality to really stand out. Solid work, but who is this Alan he was playing? All we know is that he is a writer and an American.
Far more interesting is the presence of Helga Line, always a personal favorite of mine and here appearing in what must have been a pretty high profile international release, and her icy, sexy demeanor just drips from the screen along with her push-up 1970's wunderbra. Just seeing her in a film is a pleasure in itself, but although her dialogue was no doubt dubbed Helga actually does some genuine acting in this film and is very effective; it is unfortunate that she never got a chance to do more work like it. Rrowrr.
Helga's role was also apparently subject to some clipping that might have earned the film a more broader audience -- another qualified comment about WEB OF THE SPIDER is that a bit more sex & some additional spatterings of blood would have given the film a bit more punch, and as it is relies upon Maghetti's use of mood and suggestion to pull the story together.
And what a story it is ... WEB OF THE SPIDER, just like the earlier film, is one of the best "ghost story" films ever made. It's not just a haunted house or haunted castle movie, it is a film about these people who are forever condemned to relive their violent deaths and claim new lives -- truly a Poe like sense of utter macabre, with zero hope of ever seeing daylight.
My advice? Watch this movie alone, in the dark, and all the way through without stopping -- of help might be the CIRCUS OF DEATH 2 disc DVD set by Brentwood Media that also features the same version of the film sold here on VHS ... let the story take you where it will, and the effect of the film will hit you afterwards as you realize how the various storylines all fit together and lead to a conclusion that is just too inevitable to be anything other than Poe.
AND A WORD TO OUR GOOD FRIENDS AT ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT -- this would be a good one for you folks to look into ... a "restored", uncensored international version in a nice letterboxed format with proper color tinting would result in a movie that a whole generation of horror fans have been urged NOT to take too seriously might recognize as being the triumph of cinematic vision that WEB OF THE SPIDER really is.
I'd give it 5 stars but the transfer print on both the VHS and CIRCUS OF DEATH set is really atrocious ... Get busy, AB.
That is INNACURATE, folks; while I did not stopwatch time it or check the run time on my player, the Brentwood Media CIRCUS OF DEATH DVD with THE WEB OF THE SPIDER does contain material that had been excised from the same print used by Timeless Video for this release. They ARE made from equally dismal transfers, and perhaps even the same one, but bits have been sliced out of Timeless' release [i.e. Tony Franciosa wriggling on the bars of the gate after being spiked] that have been clipped off the VHS release ...
Of additional note is that I just noticed Amazon has an "R" rating and 94 minutes for their item description [as does the Timeless box], but Brentwood lists it's WEB OF THE SPIDER as "Not Rated" and provides a 102 minute running time ... I would then state that this tape is probably best suited for collectors, or those who still haven't figured out the benefits of DVD technology. Worth getting, but it is now documented that there is a better source available.
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(Amazon should at least publish one of my comments!)